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Symbolism of Fire in Fahrenheit 451

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Shriya Shah

on 24 September 2015

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Transcript of Symbolism of Fire in Fahrenheit 451

By: Merisa, Shriya, and Aaron
Fahrenheit 451 Literary Development-Symbolism of Fire
"Always at night the alarm comes. Never by day! Is it because the fire is prettier at night? More of a show?" (Bradbury 37).
Light the first page,light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page, from the second and so on, chain-smoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean..." (Bradbury 74).
"Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames." (Bradbury 3).
"Those who don't build must burn. It's as old as history and juvenile delinquents." (Bradbury 42).
"Now Montag, you're a burden. And fire will lift you off my shoulders, clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later." (Bradbury 53).
"And as before, it was good to burn, he felt himself gush out in the fire, snatch, rend, rip in half with flame and put away the senseless problem. If there was no solution, well then now there was no problem either. Fire was the best for everything!" (Bradbury 152).
"That small motion, the white and red color, a strange fire because it meant a different thing to him. It was not burning, it was warming." (Bradbury 188-189).
"It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see this eaten, to see things blackened and changed." (Bradbury 1).
"He [Captain Beatty] examined his eternal matchbox, the lid of which said 'GUARANTEED: ONE MILLION LIGHTS IN THIS IGNITER', and began to strike the chemical match abstractedly, blow out, strike, speak a few words, blow out." (Bradbury 51).
Symbolism of Fire
Positive
"One drop of rain. Clarisse. Another drop. Mildred. A third. The uncle. A fourth. The fire tonight. One, Clarisse. Two, Mildred. Three, uncle. Four, fire."
(Bradbury 15).
Negative
Connotation
Progression of Novel
Beginning
End
In this quote, Montag repeats current things that are on his mind. After he thought this, He kept repeating the word "fire" in his head. Montag is starting into a paranoia of sorts; fire is the main thing on his mind. Fire is used with a destructive connotation in this section of the novel. This is the first spark of Montag's curiosity in Fahrenheit 451.
Throughout the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Bradbury uses fire to symbolize a variety of things throughout the story. Towards the beginning of the novel fire symbolizes destruction, while towards the end of the novel fire begins to symbolize rebirth. The symbols in the beginning of the novel have a negative connotation, while the symbols towards the end have more of a positive connotation.
Claim
Montag thinks to himself the reality of the fires. He starts to notice that fires are never at daytime. The fires are usually at night to create a spectacle. In this instance, fire is used to warn the people that having books is illegal. Montag is starting to question why certain events & occurrences happen when they do.
The purpose and meaning behind firemen and fire has changed throughout time and has become increasingly negative. Towards the beginning of the novel, as Clarisse said, firemen used to put out fires, however, now firemen are the reason these fires happen in the first place. In the past firemen would go to a home or building hoping to put out a fire and save lives, but now the society in which Montag lives in has changed the purpose of becoming a fireman. Before, fires used to be an "enemy" of mankind however in the novel, the society views fire as a way of saving themselves from the evil found in books. The quote shows how much the meaning of being a fireman has changed, firemen along with fire itself are the cause of destruction and are used to destroy the knowledge that is found in books. Previously, firemen used to symbolize safety and repair, but the symbolism has changed to where firemen are the destroyers along with fire and create a feeling of danger and destruction. The meaning behind fire towards the beginning of the novel was primarily negative because their society used fire to burn books and destroy the belongings of others.
In this quote, Beatty is comparing burning pages to a butterfly. In Beatty's eyes, fire is beautiful and powerful. Seemingly, Beatty thinks that the words in the books are meaningless, even though he is well-read himself. There is a negative connotation of fire in this selection.
According to this quote, the society in Fahrenheit 451 consists of people who will benefit society and others who will only cause destruction and despair. As Faber said, their society consists of people like Clarisse or himself, who enjoy learning and thinking. On the other hand, their society also consists of people like Mildred, Beatty, and other firemen, who find thinking and learning to be a waste of time and believe that books and their words will corrupt the minds of their society. Fire is the "weapon" used to prevent the corruption of their minds from books. Firemen used fire to destroy books that people had been secretly holding in their homes. Fire represents the idea that in their society if someone doesn't read or gain knowledge they are contributing to the destruction of knowledge that others may already have or are hoping to earn. In their society people who don't care for benefiting society are the people who find it in themselves to burn and cause destruction.
On the very first page of the novel, Bradbury introduces the symbol of fire. The way fire is used on this page symbolizes the way the firemen react to the fire, including Montag, the main character who promotes the shift in connotation of the symbol. Montag explicitly states that he enjoys watching things "blackened and changed" by fire. Therefore, it symbolizes darkness and destruction, which has a highly negative connotation.
Captain Beatty, the fire chief and antagonist in the novel absentmindedly uses the matchbox while he is explaining the "uselessness" of novels. Given Beatty's personality, which tends to be the kind of person that likes to be in charge, and the fact that he was trying to stay in control during his encounter with Montag, Beatty uses the matchbox to demonstrate power and control. Also, since Beatty is absentmindedly blowing out and striking the match, the fire symbolizes needing something (Beatty needs fire). Therefore, the connotation of fire is still negative, but it is approaching a neutral connotation.
At this point in the novel - the end, the connotation of fire as a symbol is finally positive. Fire is being used as a symbol for rebirth and renewal. At this point in the novel, Montag exits the river and the first thing he sees is the fire, meaning that the fire resembles rebirth. Also, fire is used in the sense that it was warming, which shows that this is the point in the novel where the connotation fully shifts over to positive. Therefore, the symbolism of fire gradually shifts from having a negative connotation to a positive connotation.
According to this quote fire is being used as a method of destroying problems and choosing to avoid reality. Since the people of their society are full of ignorance and are very close-minded, rather than facing their responsibilities and problems, they choose to destroy them with fire. Their society has decided that taking the easy way out of a problem is the best way to deal with something. In this quote, fire symbolizes the idea that an individual doesn't have to face any consequences or deal with their responsibilities, they can just burn and destroy them. For example, in the novel, firemen believe that books are a problem and need to be dealt with, rather than finding reasons and proving why books are a cause of corruption they choose to burn them and act as if they never even existed. In this situation fire symbolizes the laziness of society, and shows that their society would rather destroy what comes in their way rather than fight it off and prove its negative influence.
In this quote, the connotation of fire's symbolism shifts to a more neutral approach. Montag actually appreciates the use of fire, like he did in the beginning of the novel. However, the meaning of the symbol changes. This time, fire represents a solution, or a way of staying in control. Therefore, the connotation of the symbol is beginning to turn towards the positive end of the spectrum, and continues to do so until the end of the novel.
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