Referring to the novel Fahrenheit 451... In the opening scene, why are the books compared to birds?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the opening scene of Fahrenheit 451, Montag is in the process of burning a house full of books.  Montag notes that the burning books are “flapping pigeon-winged books [that] died on the porch and lawn of the house.  While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.”

To understand this metaphor, you need to picture what a pile of burning books would look like.  The pages are like the wings of a bird flapping in a burning pile.  Picture the pages of a book blowing in the wind and burning as if you opened the book’s spine and spread out the pages.  The ashes and burning pages take off to the sky like a flock of birds lifted off by the wind of the fire.  The remains of the books blow away with the wind much like birds would disappear into a dark sky.  Once the pages are burned, the books are just dead shells scattered around the house’s lawn. 

It is a powerful use of personification that Bradbury uses in the opening scene of the book.  He also describes the fire hose as a “python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world.”  The literary device of personification gives these inanimate objects life, and therefore, makes the visual image more powerful by painting a picture of the scene for the reader.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Are you a teacher? Sign up now