How is the poem "burning bright" and the dark ages allusions to Fahrenheit 451? What is the effect of these allusions on the novel?
How do allusions to these (and other) pieces of literature affect the reader's perception of Bradbury's message?
In one thing everyone who reads Fahrenheit 451 must agree: Ray Bradbury knew literature! From the Bible to British poetry to modern American books, Bradbury carefully chose to highlight texts that supported his message in an unobtrusive and clever way.
William Blake, who wrote "The Tyger", was considered insane during his lifetime, yet his poetry endures as imaginative, creative, and memorable in its word pictures. Interestingly, Bradbury uses many of the same types of word pictures throughout Fahrenheit 451. The Mechanical Hound and the Tyger share a "fearful symmetry" and a terrifying aspect in creating terror.
Blake's poem opens:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night...
By just knowing these two lines of the poem, Bradbury's intent is clear. Firemen burn at night. No one knows who the next target may be, but the result of the attack is devastating. Fire burns brightly in the dark, so fear escalates with the stark contrast of a dark, cool night and the flash of the orange fire that burns.
As far as the Dark Ages are concerned, that reference is perfectly in tune with Bradbury's message that censorship of any kind decimates a society. The Dark Ages were a time of widespread illiteracy (up to 95% of the population) and only a few select people determined what the public knew. It was also a time of chaos and famine and poverty. While illiteracy cannot cause famine or disease, an uneducated populace is less capable of dealing with natural disasters. Literature is one of the keys to education. If books are removed from the populace, the society will follow soon after.