Symbolism Portrayed in the Novel

to Ray Bradbury's

Fahrenheit 451


Steven Johnson

English 11 Honors

Mrs. Karen Rose

April 3, 1998

THESIS: The use of symbolism changes through the three sections of Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.
I. Part I: The Hearth and The Salamander
A. The use of symbolism
B. Comparison with other work
II. Part II: The Sieve and The Sand
A. The use of symbolism
B. Comparison with other work
III. Part III: Burning Bright
A. The use of symbolism
B. Comparison with other work

Bradbury's constant and well through out choice of symbolism used in the novel illustrates the setting, mood, and agonizing struggle that the characters endure. Each chapter uses a great deal of symbolism which is constructed differently and derived from different sources (Magill 90). The use of symbolism changes through the three sections of Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.
The first part of the novel which is, The Hearth and the Salamander, is loaded with symbolism. It appears that Bradbury tries to use symbolism as much as possible through this chapter to try to make it more interesting as the book progresses. In the novel, Bradbury mentions "this great python" that Montag is holding to 'start' the fire (3). This is talking about the fire hose that Montag holds and that it resembles a great serpent that spits venom, kerosene that is. The title of the novel, Fahrenheit 451, which is also used as text throughout the story, is the number that Montag wears on his sleeve (3). The number is significant to the story, for it is the temperature at which paper ignites and burns. The importance of this number is pertinent to the plot and underlined meaning of the story involving censorship. Bradbury describes the books being thrown into the fire as "pigeon-winged books" (3). When these books are thrown they come alive and they spread their 'wings' as though they are flying. The fire-fighters wear helmets which are described as a"black beetle-colored helmet" (4). This description comes from the fact that the beetle, with its black horns is connected in literature with Satan (Nicholls 45). What it means is when the firefighters wear these helmets and are starting these fires, they are portrayed as evil figures under Satan's control (Nolan 121). On Montag's arm, Bradbury describes this "salamander" that Clarisse see's (6). The salamander is a visual representation of fire, and in mythology it is said that it endures flames without burning. What a fitting tattoo for someone who is constantly around fire. On his chest there is a "phoenix" which has some symbolic meaning to it (6). In mythology, the phoenix is a multicolored bird of Arabia. At the end of its 500 year existence, it perches on its nest of spices and sings until sunlight ignites the mass. After the body is consumed in flames, a worm emerges from the ashes and develops into the next Phoenix (Wolheim 99). It does not say whether or not the phoenix disc is a tattoo or some other kind of marking put on Montag's chest for his occupation. In the novel, Montag first comes across a girl by the name of "Clarisse" (6). She is a girl of so many questions and great intelligence, which fits her because her name derives from Latin meaning "brightest" (Wolheim 101). Bradbury's main character, "Guy Montag", has a name that suggests at least two significant meanings (6). One of which comes from Guy Fawkes, the instigator of a plot to blow up the English House of Parliament in 1605, known as the Gunpowder plot. The other comes from Montag, a trademark of Mead - an American paper company, which makes stationary, and also of a company that makes furnaces (Nolan 127). In the novel, Clarisse mentions something about "the man in the moon" (9). This illusion that the contours of the moon's surface are a face, which peers down is perceived through the eyes of children. "The image reflects the oppressive nature of a society that burns books" (Bradbury 47). The two "moonstones" that look up to him from the creek has a symbolic meaning to it (13). "The moonstone is connected with Mercury, the mythical guide who leads souls to the underworld. This could be interpreter that later on in the novel Montag might