Montag compares himself to a conductor. What does this symbol mean?

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The classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury tells of a fireman whose job, instead of putting out fires, is burning books. During the course of the story, Montag's conscience begins to bother him until he realizes that what he has been doing is wrong. In the beginning,...

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The classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury tells of a fireman whose job, instead of putting out fires, is burning books. During the course of the story, Montag's conscience begins to bother him until he realizes that what he has been doing is wrong. In the beginning, however, he is fully committed to book burning. In the second paragraph, Bradbury writes:

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.

A conductor is a person who directs a musical performance. Montag uses this symbol as justification for the horrible destruction he is causing. By imagining himself as an artist, he attempts to block out of his consciousness the negative aspects of his work, and instead he deludes himself that what he is doing is important, necessary, and even profound. That this symbolism doesn't work in salving his conscience is evident later on when he regrets what he has done and attempts to make amends by stealing books, reading them, and eventually joining the exiled drifters who have memorized books.

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In the first chapter of Fahrenheit 451, as Montag holds the brass nozzle of a hose and spurts kerosene onto books that he is burning, Bradbury compares Montag to a conductor. Montag uses the hose to ignite books and to create "symphonies of blazing and burning." The author compares burning books to creating the sound and effects of a symphony, in which many instruments come together to create an explosion of sound and music. In the same way, the kerosene and the books come together to create a blazing fire. Montag holds the brass nozzle that begins the blaze, much as the conductor of a symphony holds a baton that cues the musicians to start playing. However, while a symphony is an act of creation, a fire is an act of destruction.

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