Symbolism in Fahrenheit 451 Novel

Subject: Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2946
Topics: Book, Fahrenheit 451, Human Nature, Realism, Symbolism, Utopia
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Fahrenheit 451 is a story set in the 24th century and depicts how overpopulation, censorship as well as mass media, has taken control over the masses. The individual faces a lot of disregard and the intellectuals have no space. The common perception of family has also been replaced by the television. A fire man now seen more as a destroyer of books and not an insurer against fire. The world they live in has no reminders of the past and the present is dictated by what happens on the television. Through the character Montag, the story is told which introduces the new world. This paper discusses the Fahrenheit 451 novel through analyzing the great deal of symbolism used; how realism play into the meaning of the novel, how change in setting affect the development of the plot, and further discussing standard fiction elements such used in the novel like theme, symbolism, realism, as well as settings.

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Use of symbolism in Fahrenheit 451

Symbols are objects or characters as well as figures that the author uses to represent abstract ideas to the audience so as to communicate effectively. The Novel, Fahrenheit 451 employs the use of symbolism in various ways across the story. They include the following:


Throughout the novel Fahrenheit, blood appears throughout the story. Blood is used as to symbolize the repressed human soul or the primal and instinctive self. In his story, Montag feels his thoughts circulating in his blood. “…the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing…” (Bradbury, 1) On the other end, Mildred has his primal self irretrievably lost and is remaining completely unchanged even after his poisoned blood is replaced with a fresh one from the electric-eyed snake machine.  Bradbury reveals how Mildred’s inside is corrupted through using an electronic device. She finds out the thick sediments of delusion and misery as well as self-hatred within Mildred. Similarly, when giving the accounts of the snake, blood is used symbolically to show their inner-self. The snake explores “the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water,” yet the replacement of her blood still could not revitalize her soul. Her blood is poisoned and is irreplaceable. It thus signifies the empty lifelessness that Mildred suffers as well as the countless other characters like Mildred and the rest. Blood therefore symbolize the primal or repressed part in a person.

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The Hearth and the Salamander

The second symbol is of the hearth and the Salamander. The conjunction of images are used as the title of the first part of the novel. The hearth traditionally symbolizes home. The salamander on the other end is one of the symbols for the firemen. “…looking out of the front of the great salamander as they turned a corner and went silently on…” (Bradbury, 19) It is also a name given to the fire tracks. A clean scrutiny shows that both of these two symbols relate to fire which is a dominant image in the story by Montag, Fahrenheit 451. The hearth implies to the fire that heats their homes while the salamander since it was traditionally believed that they lived in fire and were not affected by it.

 The Sieve and the Sand

The third symbolism id that of the sieve and the sand. This also happens to be the title to the second part of the Novel. It is a statement taken from the childhood memory of Montage when they try to fill the sieve with sand while at the beach an exercise that was very futile and would make them cry at the mischievous cousins’ herculean task. “…trying to fill a sieve with sand, because some cruel cousin had said…” (Bradbury ,36)This is a memory that he compares to his attempt to read the bible very fast. He needs to read the bible as quick as possible as he crosses the subway in the hope that the content may be retained in this memory. The sand therefore, symbolizes the plain truth about reality that Montag seeks. The sieve on the other end is symbolizing the human mind that persistently seeks the truth which is elusive. In general the metaphor depicts an impossible mission in any permanent way.

The Phoenix

The symbol of the phoenix is much evident after the bombing of the city. One character, Granger makes a comparison of mankind to a phoenix that goes through the cycle of burning itself up and rising from the ashes to become intact. “There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up” (Bradbury, 76) The symbol depicts the ability that man has to recognize that in deed he has made a mistake whenever he does so that he can learn to avoid making the mistake again. As such, Granger and his friend put themselves to the task of remembering their past mistakes so that they do not make them again. They tend to believe that the collective mass of history and culture are way much important than the individual (Rabkin, 73). Therefore, the rebirth of the phoenix not only symbolizes the cyclical nature of history but also, the collective rebirth of mankind and the spiritual resurrection that Montag undergoes.


In the last chapter of the novel, Granger wants to build a mirror factory so that they can take a long look at themselves. The point Granger makes recalls how Montag describes Clarisse as a mirror in “How like a mirror, too, her face.” (Bradbury, 4) In this case, the symbol of mirror is quite important for symbolizing the self-understanding. It shows that one is able to clearly understand themselves (McGiveron, 284).

How realism play into the meaning of the novel

The novel could be viewed as fictitious and futuristic. The characters mostly extreme rather than realistic. The events narrated in the story too are apocalyptic. It does for sure look unrealistic. However, the novel in that it is futuristic in nature. The novel is a realistic extrapolation of present problems that humanity id faced with. The setting is in the 24th century, three more centuries ahead of our time. As such, the novel attempts to warn against the dire consequence so the mistakes that mankind is making today in the near future. The author shows of the present’s problems among them media consumption in a futuristic world highlighting how it is becoming an arbiter of the truth and therefore dictates what is right or appropriate (Roberts, 34). It realistically extrapolate the contemporary problems affecting humanity into the future such as the destruction of nature and little regard for human life shown by vehicles veering to kill pedestrians. The author describes a materialistic world that is filled with extremely radicalized people by the media. The likes of Montag’s wife, Mildred believes in a government by the society and does not realize the results of total control behaving in a superficial manner towards her husband. Such is an illusion that presents how people are separated from one another. Gut Montag fights within himself, a show of internal conflict when a man who seems well convinced about doing that which is right changes when he meets a lady, Clarisse. This is quite typical of what happens in the current world. A perfect depiction of how the external environment affects what humanity believes in and their actions. Montage transforms from a superficial fireman engaged in burning books to a reflecting personality. The censorship and public manhunt depicts of the happening in various countries today. For instance, in Russia, such are the witnessed situation of the recent past. Surface to say the novel sounds a warning to humanity as it gives a foresight of how the future would be. It identifies the particular control points for which humanity would lose their self-control and the dire consequences of such actions.

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How change in setting affect the development of the plot

At the initial Situation, Montag is a fireman. He enjoys his job as fireman and everything for him is hunky dory. The plot is majorly of a good moment until the setting changes. With a change of setting, comes Clarisse McClellan. On the other end, Mildred is attempting to kill herself. At the same time there is also Mechanical Hound threat, too. A number of changes in the setting of the story takes place. However as the changes occur, they introduce affect the development in the plot in various ways, the first change in the setting introduces conflict in the story as the development of the plot.  Clarisse starts asking questions to Montag. This setting makes Montag begin to doubt himself a situation that sets in an identity crisis on Montag. In this setting the plot changes as she wakes up a latent dissatisfaction in Montag.

Secondly, the change in the plot brings about complications. The plot setting changes again with Faber coming into the mix. On the other end, Montag is reading loud a Dover Beach. The change in setting at this point brings in a complication into the plot.  Montage becomes more renegade and seeks accomplices. The complication comes when Mildren does not work out as an accomplice for Montag because she is vapid and television-obsessed. The conflict stage increasingly witness more of identity crisis as Montag adds a two-way radio in his ear. Additionally, when he ends up reading the poem out so loud, the plot changes since he makes his private rebellion more public. The effect is that more trouble looms for him in such a policed society.

Thirdly, the change in setting affects the plot by bringing about the climax of the plot. Mildred experiences a growing fear of Montag’s (her husband) renegade actions and turns him in. Beatty also gets more suspicious of his underling surface. Similarly, Montag is overwhelmed by his own guilt and Beatty who is his nemesis. Amidst all this chaos, the Mechanical Hound shows up at last and it all turns out to be a big flaming climax in the plot.

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The fourth is that the change in the setting affects the plot by bringing in suspense. In the chase scene, there is a classical suspense. Montag is almost run over by a car twice and there is a hot pursuit by some maniacal Mechanical Hound, at the same time a televised helicopter search is ongoing. All this creates some level of suspense to the reader.

Fifthly, the change in setting affects the plot by generating denouncements in the story. A poor scapegoat is murdered by a Mechanical Hound. On one end Granger gives an explanation of how intellectual rebellion works. The poor schmuck gets killed and for Montag it’s a time to relax because everything is over. Granger goes ahead to tell Montag how things are giving an explanatory piece that perfectly indicates of the denouncement stage.

Finally, change in the setting brings a conclusion in the plot. The conclusion to the story is quite an optimistic one despite the bombings that have seen almost everyone dead. Montag makes peace with himself to think not about the past but rather his future, that of those he could help and how he can build a new life using the knowledge he has gained from his experience.

Themes addressed in the Novel Fahrenheit 451

The novel Fahrenheit 451 addresses the theme of censorship. Although it fails to provide a specific reason for the burning of books, the novel suggest a number of factors that combined would want to have books burned. The factors contributing towards burning of the books can be seen in to aspects. The first could be the lack of interest in book reading while the second could the general hostility by individuals towards book reading. Nonetheless the novel does not distinctively make a clarification about the same. However, the two reasons support one another. The first point, lack of interest in book reading could be as a result of the competing entertainment sources like the television media and radio (Feneja, 13). To a broader extent, Bradbury believes that the presence of loud music and fast cars have created a lifestyle characterized by much stimulation and no one really has time for concentration. The hype is way too much and everyone is trying to join in. additionally, the huge mass of materials published seem to be too overwhelming for individuals to even imagine using. The society in the story reads books condensed as they are more popular than the ordinary bulky books. There is also the second group of factors as mentioned before, thy make people hostile towards book reading. Among them is envy. People generally would not want to feel inferior to individuals who have read more than them (Feneja, 13). However, the objections by the special groups seems to be the factor pointed towards by the novel as the leading cause for censorship (Fox, 3). The minorities feel offended by the books. Although the novel is careful not to point out at the specific racial minorities, Beatty can be seen mentioning them when he talks about the dog lovers as well as the cat eaters.

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The second theme of significance is that of Knowledge versus ignorance. Farber, Montag and their fellow Beatty all have their struggles revolving around tension between ignorance and knowledge, (Roberts, 29). The fireman has a duty which is to destroy knowledge thereby promoting ignorance. That is why they burn books. They do that with the intension to equalize the society.  When Montag encounters the old woman named Clarisse and the other friend Farber, they make him have doubts about his approach. However he gets more curious to search for knowledge which frees him from the unquestioning ignorance he had before.  As a result, he is able to battle the beliefs they once shared as a community.

The third themes is of violence. The community described in the novel witness excessive violence throughout the most part of the story. The violence is of high scale as teenagers go about taking one another’s lives. The television on the other end id filled with violence in proportions. The fast cars too are on craze and veer off the road with speeds of destruction. The general population is majorly dissatisfied and violence is a means to let out the feelings (LaBrie, 17). For those filling unfulfilled, they consider violent reactions as the most reasonable action to do. A resounding grim picture of the future told in the novel Fahrenheit 451. Indeed it can get scary.

Additionally there is the theme of identity crisis. It is a core theme in the novel and with the character Montag as perfect manifestation of the identity crisis. Montag is learning from his teachers as well as mentors a thing that makes him see his own identity meld with his instructor’s. It can also be viewed as a means of scapegoating. When one’s identity is not their own then they cannot also be entirely blamed for their actions. Ironically, it happens as Montag learns to take his time and think of himself as a person. With the theme of identity crisis, Bradbury address the issue of self for which he does find an answer.

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Fahrenheit 451, a story set in the 24th century depicts how overpopulation, censorship as well as mass media, are shaping the futuristic world. Although fictitious, the story extrapolates the problems of the contemporary world to the future generation. It paints a future where characterized with utter disregard for knowledge and reading becomes abhorred. Television as a media takes over the masses and shapes what is ideal influencing every aspect of life. This paper discussed Fahrenheit 451 novel analyzing symbolism and how they are used in the story. Among the symbols identified include, blood, phoenix, fire as well as sieve and sand. Also, the paper has discussed the symbol of the hearth and salamander and the symbol of mirrors and how they are used in the story. Additionally, the paper has highlighted how realism plays into the story showing how the story extrapolated the contemporary problems affecting making in ton the futuristic world. Thirdly the paper discussed how change in the setting affects the plot of the story which includes bringing a conflict, bringing about the climax, generating suspense and bringing the story into conclusion.  The paper further discussed the themes highlighted in the novel which include the theme of Knowledge versus ignorance, theme of identity crisis, theme of violence among others that characterize the point of the story. All the discussed points from symbolism used; how realism play into the meaning of the novel, how change in setting affect the development of the plot, and elements such used in the novel like theme, symbolism, realism, constitute the core of the discussion which helps in the understanding g of the novel.

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  1. Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Del Rey, 1996.
  2. Feneja, Fernanda Luísa. “PROMETHEAN REBELLION IN RAY BRADBURY’S FAHRENHEIT 451: THE PROTAGONIST’S QUEST.” Amaltea. Revista de mitocrítica 4 (2012): 1.
  3. Fox, David. Fahrenheit 451: The Burning of American Culture. Diss. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 2011.
  4. LaBrie, Michael R. “Now Was Then, Then Is Now: The Paradoxical World of Fahrenheit 451.” (2010).
  5. McGiveron, Rafeeq O. ““To Build a Mirror Factory”: The Mirror and Self-Examination in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 39.3 (1998): 282-287.
  6. Roberts, Garyn G. “Some Social and Cultural Context for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” Critical Insights: 27-36.
  7. Rabkin, Eric. “Is Mars Heaven? The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Ray Bradbury’s Landscape of Longing.” Visions of Mars (2011): 95-104.
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