Any author can tell how difficult it is to attract the attention of readers and make them want to read more of their books. At the same time, the prominent author knows how easy it is to capture their audience’s attention and make them crave for their work. Ray Bradbury is one of these prominent authors whose work has been felt and appreciated all over the world. An aspiring or a young author in the industry would be astonished to hear the secret. If Bradbury is asked today, he would explain it in two words; stylistic devices! That’s all! It is not just stylistic devices, however, but meaningful stylistic devices.
The fame and glory that Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 got was due to the choice of words and stylistic devices employed in his work. Among the stylistic devices is symbolism. The symbolism of fire in Fahrenheit 451 is the most prominent and has caught the attention of this article. Bradbury uses fire to symbolize three things in his work; destruction, knowledge, and rebirth. The three meanings are illustrated by the author through a character by the name Montag. Montag is a fireman who is an expert in burning books.
Destruction comes from the effect of Montag’s culture on his mentality. The culture perceives burning as enjoyment. Taking to this, Montag derived pleasure in burning; he enjoyed seeing things blackened and consumed. Little did his understanding made him aware that he was destroying knowledge and personality. The burning of books here symbolizes the destruction of knowledge and personality. The fire burned books permanently, and so was the destruction of knowledge. The government had a strong desire to do away with the knowledge and ideas that the books held. Montag complied with this great desire. This is a common phenomenon in the society in that the people have a phobia of unhappiness and ignorance becomes bliss to them. They believe that destroying what could threaten their happiness is clean and bright.
Knowledge, as symbolized by fire in the novel, is seen with the ideological progression of Montag. Professor Faber once discouraged Montag over burning book. He told him that burning books meant doing away with the content-knowledge. Professor Faber’s wisdom bore no fruit at first, till the encounter of Montag with a woman who burned herself with the books in her house. Montag’s ideologies of paraffin smelling like perfume and seeing burning as good were discarded immediately. The incidence of the old woman disgusted him, and in his mind, he had tried to put the fire out all night. This was when awareness and self-realization downed him.
Rebirth is seen when Montag in the realization of the destructive part of the fire, quits his job and seeks guidance from Professor Faber. It is not the books themselves that could help people to live happily but the content they had. They were valuable. That was the advice from Professor Faber. The advice together with the encounter with the old woman, made him realize his mistakes turned his motives around. His views as on fire as a form of destruction and entertainment were turned into seeing fire as a form of renewal and cleansing. He said that he wanted to burn his house and everything in it to change everything and turn to new life. Beaty had advised Montag that burning could cleanse him of all his problems. Beaty being one of his problems, Montag got rid of him through fire. All his problems were settled.
Fire is a form of destruction, knowledge, and rebirth according to Fahrenheit 451. Fire in the novel is a representation of the society. Instead of using it to destroy knowledge, it could be useful to get rid of the problems the society is facing.