In Fahrenheit 451, why does Granger compare society to a phoenix?

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The classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury tells of a dystopian society in which firemen burn books instead of putting out fires. Books have been officially made obsolete and declared illegal. A fireman named Guy Montag questions his role and secretly begins to hoard books saved from...

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The classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury tells of a dystopian society in which firemen burn books instead of putting out fires. Books have been officially made obsolete and declared illegal. A fireman named Guy Montag questions his role and secretly begins to hoard books saved from the fires. After he is found out and forced to flee into the wilderness, he locates an exiled group of drifters led by Granger.

The drifters have all memorized books that are particularly meaningful to them with the vision of safeguarding the literature of the past. As the drifters move downriver, bombers appear and wipe out the city from which Montag has just fled.

Granger tells them the story of the phoenix that burns itself up and then resurrects from its own ashes as a comparison to the society that has just been destroyed. He says that "it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over. . . ." In other words, society continues to destroy itself and then rebuild. However, Granger then adds that humankind has "one damn thing the phoenix never had." Humanity can remember what it has done and hopefully someday "stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them." So Granger is hopeful that the books they are memorizing will help them remember humanity's mistakes and somehow prevent them in the future. This would stop the endless cycle of destruction symbolized by the phoenix.

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At the end of the book, after the city has been destroyed by a detonation, Granger says that the "city looks like a heap of baking-powder. It's gone." He then compares the society to a phoenix, who "built a pyre and burned himself up . . . But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again." Granger believes society is like the phoenix because it contains the seeds of its own destruction, just as the bird does. The society just destroyed itself by sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

However, Granger believes that the society is different from the phoenix because it can get itself out of the cycle of death and rebirth into which it has put itself. Granger says, "We know the damn silly thing we just did," meaning those who remain are aware of the mistakes of the past. He believes that by having access to books, the people who remain after the blast can rebuild society along better lines. He also believes that if people remember the experiences of who people who came before them and are reflective about the mistakes of the past, the society has a chance to improve itself.

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Granger compares society to the phoenix, the legendary bird that destroys itself in a fire only to be reborn from the ashes. His point is that human society keeps becoming wilfully self-destructive, and even afterwards it continues along the same pathways:

"...every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

However, Granger believes that since humans are capable of learning from their mistakes, society is destined to become stronger and more intelligent in the future, instead of regressing as the current generation has. He believes that it his role, and that of men like him, to remember and teach the mistakes of the past, so that future generations won't forget them. Without the framework of prior mistakes, society will continue to destroy itself; with books to remind people of the past, society should be able to become stronger than before.

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