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In chapter one: The Hearth and the Salamander. Who or what is the Hearth and the...

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omgkenny | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 24, 2010 at 2:17 AM via web

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In chapter one: The Hearth and the Salamander. Who or what is the Hearth and the Salamnder?

I'm in need of knowing what became the hearth and who became the salamander in chapter 1. If possible can someone explain how this is ironic  in the society? Thank you

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 24, 2010 at 2:26 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that the word "hearth" is meant to refer ironically to the Montag home and the parlour walls.  This word is traditionally associated with a home -- people come back to hearth and home, as the saying goes.  But Mildred and Guy essentially don't have a home -- they have no life together as a family.

The salamander is Montag, in my opinion.  Salamanders are, in legends, creatures who live in fires.  At the beginning of the story, Montag's life has been in the fires as well -- setting fires and destroying books.  But for him to be the salamander is ironic because the fire is starting to destroy him too.  After meeting Clarisse, and after the old lady's death, the idea of the fire and its effects is eating away at Montag's sanity and conscience.

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englishteacher72 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted January 24, 2010 at 2:28 AM (Answer #2)

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The hearth and the salamader are symbols of the duality in Guy Montag's life.  Montag is a fireman in charge of burning books.  On his uniform, there is "451", which is the temperature at which books burn, and has a salamander on the arm.  The salamander is a symbol of all of the firemen in the novel, and it is also what they call their fire trucks.  It is believed that salamanders are actually capable of living in fire and cannot be killed by it.  The hearth has always been a symbol of a home, since it's basically a fireplace, which conjures up images of a family gathered around it, keeping warm.  In the beginning of the novel, Guy Montag is like a salamander in that he thrives in fire.  He loves his job and does not think twice about the consequences of burning books.  This all changes, however, with the introduction of the character, Clarisse.

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