Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover
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Select one allusion used by Bradbury in the novel that you found to be particularly important and discuss its significance to one of the major themes in Fahrenheit 451. 

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One of the most important allusions to my mind in this book is the words that the lady who chooses to burn herself with the books rather than be taken from them at the beginning of the novel. She quotes words said by Latimer and Ridley, who were burnt alive for heresy because of their refusal to agree with Catholicism during the rule of Mary Tudor, or Bloody Queen Mary, as she was known. Note what the woman says, deliberately drawing a parallel between her own situation and that of Latimer and Ridley:

Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.

Ultimately, of course, Latimer was right, as their sacrifice helped to raise public discontent with Catholicism and with Mary's reign, so that after her death, her much more moderate sister, Elizabeth I, adopted Protestantism and some of the reforms that Latimer and Ridley believed were necessary. The woman in this novel by quoting these words therefore hopes that her sacrifice will be a catalyst towards a change that will take place in her society. She is right, as it is her suicide that prompts Montag to do some serious soul searching about what is so important about books:

"You weren't there, you didn't see," he said. "There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing."

This shows how the memory of this woman burning herself for books impacted Montag so deeply that he begins to think about what must be so important about books, and whether books are worth risking your life for. It is this act of suicide that ultimately leads Montag to defy the state and to run away himself to be part of a rebel movement that hopes to continue the printed word, albeit in another form.

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