- Symbols in the Novel Fahrenheit 451
- The Hearth and the Salamander
- The Sieve and the Sand
- Water and Nature
The novel of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury contains numerous symbols that provide a deeper meaning to the novel’s plot. These symbols are essential to the understanding of the novel events, which splendidly adds to the plot development. Indeed, symbols have clouded the entire novel and helped in drawing the attention of the reader. The author heavily uses symbols to convey deeper meaning and provide a dystopia nature to the storyline. Furthermore, the symbols are used to build and expand on the themes of the novel and have significantly played an important role in the actions that happen and the conflicts that arise in the book. The symbolism used by Ray Bradbury in his book Fahrenheit 451 is discussed further.
Symbols in Fahrenheit 451
The fire in the novel represents a symbol of warmth, destruction, and renewal. Montag, the protagonist of the story, lives in a society where individuals have given up the importance of the books, and fire is used to destroy them. Fire serves as a means to destroy the houses of people and even burning down people. On the other hand, the idea of Montag and other men at the end of the book enjoying the burning fire symbolizes renewal. Fire is also used to physically mean cleansing the world around Montag. Beatty says, “Fire’s real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it… Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical” (Bradbury 115). Therefore, the fire is dualistic, which represents its two-sided force. The reader is able to quickly judge the responsibility of the fire in the novel as a tool of destruction; nevertheless, it also symbolizes unity (Duncan and Colleen 38). This is particularly evident when Montag flees and comes across men who are warming themselves beside the fire. Montag realizes that fire is able to bring people together and not separate them. The Hearth and the Salamander
Bradbury utilizes the hearth and the salamander for the title of the first part of Fahrenheit 451. The hearth represents a traditional household while the salamander “shows one of the official symbols of the firemen and also the name that was given to the fire trucks” (Bright Summaries 30). All the symbols relate to the fire, which is central to the life of Montag. The hearth is seen to have a fire, which heats a home, while the salamander depicts the ancient belief that it resides in the fire and it is not affected by the flames. However, the use of these symbols is ironic as Montag life is wounded by the fire and burning the books has ruined his society (Truffaut et al. 17).
Moreover, the title makes a suggestion that the fire used at hearth is a source of warmth and goodness, which implicates the non-destructive positive side of the fire. Notably, the salamander signifies Montag, who works with fire and has an endurance for it and also holds that he can escape the fire and still survive just like the way salamanders usually do.
The Sieve and the Sand
This is the title used for the novel’s second part. This title is based on the childhood memory of Montag; he tried to fill sand on the sieve while at the beach in order to find a dime from his wicked cousin. Montag cries due to the pointlessness of the task (Connor 14). Montag does make a comparison of the story with his attempts to read quickly the entire Bible while on the subway and having hopes that some of the materials he reads will stay in his memory. Undoubtedly, the sand signifies the solid truth that Montag tries to find whilst the sieve signifies the people that seek the truth, which remains to be elusive (Connor 16). Metaphorically, the two symbols suggest the impossibility of grasping the idea in a permanent way. The sieve and the sand are the clear symbols that represent the effort that Montag opts to learn and read. Symbolically, the sand could represent the knowledge that escapes Montag while the sieve represents his mind that strives in making a permanent knowledge.
Granger makes a comparison of the mankind to a phoenix in the aftermath of the burning city. The phoenix burns up and eventually rises from the ashes time after time (Bright Summaries 20). This symbolizes the human beings’ advantage and capability to recognize a mistake made and to learn from it. Granger and his friends have set themselves in remembering the past mistakes and have a belief that people are not as significant as the representation of the collective mass in the cultural history (Truffaut et al. 27). The rebirth of the phoenix implies the rebirth of the human kind, the cyclical nature of the history, and the spiritual resurrection of Montag (Bright Summaries 45).
Blood is used to symbolize the suppressed soul of the human beings. Montag frequently feels that his thoughts of revolution are circulating in his blood. On the other hand, Mildred’s primal self is permanently lost, she continues to be unchangeable even when her blood is substituted through the mechanical “Electric-Eyed Snake machine” (Emrah 29). The sign of blood relates to the “snake machine”, and the author uses the electric devices to demonstrate the corruption of Mildred along with the thick sediment of misery, delusion and hatred. The snake makes an exploration of “the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water” (Duncan and Colleen 32). Nevertheless, the act of replacing her blood did not work towards rejuvenating Mildred’s soul. Mildred’s poisoning and replacement of blood symbolizes the emptiness of her life together with the many people who lead a life similar to her.
In the ending of the novel, Granger indicates that they have to build a factory mirror in which they will see themselves. The symbol of the mirror, in this case, shows the self-understanding and seeing oneself in a clear way after a rediscovery. The mirrors are utilized to represent the aspect of coming to know oneself and understanding who people are. This represents a reflection of oneself and the ability to remember. Montag did not see himself as being clear at the start of the novel. Montag saw a reflection of his image in a shiny piece of glass. Montag clearly understood that when he returns to the firehouse, he could see himself to be a burnt soul in the mirror. Certainly, Montag was arrogant concerning himself, particularly concerning being a fireman. Montag later comes to see himself in a clear manner. The suggestion of Granger to build a mirror and take a look at themselves translates to the importance of seeing and understanding oneself.
The books used in the novel have been one of the major symbols cherished by the reader. The primary objective of the firemen is to cause the destruction of the books along with the properties that are contained in them. The questions that are more threatening the reader is what could be lying in the books and the reason for their destruction. Undeniably, the books represent the ideas, knowledge and the power that lies in the knowledge. The firemen are responsible for ensuring that no one gains knowledge. Captain Beatty states, “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again” (Bradbury 102). This is used to mean that when a person begins to learn, they become thirsty for getting more knowledge. The firemen are a representation of the interest of the government who the way things are currently done. Therefore, it is simply beneficial to the government to have the destruction of the vital items that could further knowledge.
Montag believes that the future of the world lies in the idea of saving the books from the act of burning. Faber states, “the books are to remind us what asses and fools we are … The things you’re looking for, Montag, are ninety-nine per cent in a book” (Bradbury 86). The quote demonstrates that the books are a strong symbol of knowledge and that they spread ideas along with giving individuals the power of deciding their course of life.
Water and Nature
The water is used to symbolize the distinction that exists between nature and the world of technology. The water signifies the thought process, which needs to be adopted when one goes into bridging the gap between knowledge and facts. Facts represent the city while knowledge represents the nature. The book that is hidden in the forest away from the city embodies nature in its purest manner. The mechanical hound is also another symbol in the novel. The author depicts the mechanical hound in a mockery nature. He writes “the dead beast, the living beast” (Bradbury 24). The mechanical hound symbolizes the lack of human nature in people and society.
Certainly, the use of symbolism in the book achieves the purpose of developing the story. For example, fire is used to represent pain and destruction along with renewal. The numerous symbols have given the novel its enigmatic nature and attracted the reader. Indeed, Bradbury has significantly shown the importance of incorporating symbols in any literary writing.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Recorded Books, 1982.
Bright Summaries, Book Analysis: Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury. Primento Digital, 2015.
Connor, George. “Spelunking with Ray Bradbury: The Allegory of the Cave in Fahrenheit 451”. Extrapolation, vol. 45, no. 4, 2004, pp. 408-418.
Duncan, Meriah and Colleen M. Madden. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. Teacher’s Discovery, 2006.
Emrah, Atasoy. “Impediment to Knowledge and Imagination in Ray Bradbury’s Dystopian Novel, Fahrenheit 451”. Ankara Üniversitesi Dil Ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 55, no. 1, 2015, pp. 399-414.
Truffaut, François et al. Fahrenheit 451. Süddeutsc