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.