Choose five images that are found in the novel Fahrenheit 451. How they are used and why are they important to understanding the novel?
Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 is suffused with vivid and meaningful imagery. Much of it is strange animal and nature imagery used as a motif to support the theme that living disconnected from nature causes us to lose touch with our own human nature. For example, our first glimpse of Montag’s wife Mildred is more about the snake-like machine used to pump her stomach after her sleeping pill overdose than it is about her. Montag likens the machine to a “black cobra,” and he wonders, “Did it suck out all the poisons accumulated with the years?” The imagery of the cobra with its blindly seeing eye shows just how black and empty Mildred is inside from living this shell of a life.
Next we meet the Mechanical Hound, made of brass, copper and steel. Montag nervously passes it in the firehouse and observes the killing machine at rest. “Lights flickered on bits of ruby glass and on sensitive capillary hairs in the nylon-brushed nostrils of the creature that quivered gently, gently, its eight legs spidered under it on rubber-padded paws.” The Hound is a grotesque and violent imitation of man’s best friend, ironically used to keep people detached from nature as it punishes them for possession of books.
The next vivid example of imagery is more about sound than sight. After a stressful day of work, Montag returns home only to be assaulted by Mildred’s loud television walls. “A great thunderstorm of sound...bombarded him [so] that his bones were almost shaken from their tendons...He was a victim of concussion.” Mildred is insulted any time Montag asks her to turn the walls down, arguing that the characters in them are her “family.” The walls demonstrate the disconnectedness in their marriage, which is clearly epidemic in this future America. People are so attached to their TV screens and material things that they can no longer understand each other or their own humanity.
The artificial nature imagery continues until Montag finally escapes the Hound, the helicopter with its cameras, and that entire way of life. As he floats down the cocooning river to the countryside, he looks at the stars and the moon overhead and feels his heart slow and his thoughts calm. “For the first time in a dozen years the stars were coming out above him, in great processions of wheeling fire.” He contemplates how the sun represents the passage of time and he finally realizes that he must stop supporting this destructive way of life, since time burns it all away as it is. Humans need to store their knowledge up, not erase it.
And for the first time in the novel, we have real nature imagery. Montag daydreams of sleeping in a sweet-smelling hayloft, a pastoral image that illustrates how humans can live in synchrony with nature. He imagines a kind girl leaving him milk and pears in the morning—a heartwarming bit of human connection that he longs for. When he finally comes to the edge of the river, he is greeted by a deer. All this soft nature imagery signifies that Montag is finally on the right path. He is in touch with his true inner nature.