What are some examples of allusions in the book Fahrenheit 451?

An example of an allusion in Fahrenheit 451 is in section 1, when Captain Beatty alludes to the Bible. When the firemen prepare to burn down a woman's home because of her books, Beatty announces, "You’ve been locked up in here with a regular damned Tower of Babel," which is a reference to the Book of Genesis.

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The eNotes Guide to Literary Terms includes a definition of allusion along with several examples. One important feature to keep in mind is that allusion operates through the implicit associations it calls up. This...

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Please note: page numbers vary widely among editions so context is provided to aid your search.

The eNotes Guide to Literary Terms includes a definition of allusion along with several examples. One important feature to keep in mind is that allusion operates through the implicit associations it calls up. This distinguishes allusion from a direct, explicit reference. Allusions may include brief quotations, but are usually words or phrases that bring to mind an an event, person, place, thing, or idea—but without explicit mention of the source.

Around the middle of Section I, “The Hearth and the Salamander,” the firemen prepare to burn an elderly woman’s home, but she refuses to leave. In speaking of her books as containing totally contradictory ideas, Captain Beatty suggests they are multiple languages that are not mutually intelligible: “‘You’ve been locked up in here with a regular damned Tower of Babel.’” The tower is mentioned in the Bible, Genesis 11:1–9.

An allusion that is frequently used in everyday speech may become an idiom. An example spoken by Beatty occurs a few pages before the end of Section I, when he is railing against the excessive simplification of culture for popular consumption. He uses a water metaphor to compare the firemen’s efforts to stemming a “tide,” saying: “‘We have our fingers in the dike.’” This is an allusion to the story “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates,” in which a Dutch boy saves his community by holding his finger in a hole in the dike so it will not break and flood them. It has entered general English-language usage as a metaphor for any valiant, but probably futile effort.

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An allusion is a casual reference to something that should be well-known by the reader.  It is generally meant to support an explanation, to give an example. An allusion can be about the Bible, history, mythology, or literature.  Bradbury uses all of these in his book. 

Some historical allusions are:

1. When the woman comes out of her house and says,

"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." (pg 36)

Later, on page 40, Beatty explains to Montag that those words  were spoken by a man named Latimer to Nicholas Ridley as they were being burnt alive at Oxford for heresy on October 16, 1555. The woman said it just before she ignited and killed herself in the flames.

2. Another historical allusion is 

"....when Mildred ran from the parlor like a native fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius" (pg 93)

Vesuvius was a famous volcano that erupted in AD79 destroying the city of Pompeii and all of its residents. 

Another kind of allusion in the book is the literary allusion.  Many of these are done when Beatty is speaking. 

1. One such allusion is

"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo.  Burn it.  White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it." (pg 59)

These are allusions to two famous books.  Little Black Sambo was criticized for racism toward black children. Uncle Tom's Cabin is an antislavery book written by Harriet Beecher Stowe that would upset white people.

2. Another literary allusion is,

"Montag stopped eating.  ..., he saw their Cheshire cat smiles burning through the walls of the house...." (pg 93)

This is an allusion to the Cheshire cat character in Alice in Wonderland.

3. On pages 105-106 in my copy of the book, Beatty recites quotes from Sir Philip Sydney and Alexander Pope, both famous poets.  He uses their quotes to make a point to Montag that a person can find support for both sides of an argument in literature.

Another kind of allusion or casual reference in the book is concerning the Bible.

1.  When Montag is on the train on his way to visit Faber, he tries to memorize portions of the Bible but is interrupted by the advertisement blaring in the train. Montag thinks,

"Shut up, thought Montag.  Consider the lilies of the field." (pg 78)

This is an allusion to the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus told the people not to worry about their worldly goods.

2. Another Biblical allusion is at the end of the book when Montag recites Revelation 22:2

"And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruites and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (pg 165)

He decides he will share this with the men when they reach the city.

Another kind of allusion Bradbury uses is mythological allusions.  These reference famous stories of the Greek and Roman myths.

1. When Faber is talking with Montag he says,

"Do you know the legend of Hercules and Aneaeus, the giant wrestler, whose strength was incredible so long as he stood firmly on the earth?  But when he was held, rootless, in midair by Hercules, he perished easily." (pg 83)

2. There is the famous reference to the phoenix, the bird that burned himself every few hundred years but

"....every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again." (pg 163)

The phoenix was a symbol on his fireman's shirt.

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An allusion is when an author makes a reference to an outside source that the reader might know about. Allusions can be historical, mythical, political, etc. This helps the reader make a mental connection from the outside world to a message that the author wants to send. In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, many different types of allusions can be found. One allusion that Captain Beatty uses is about the Pierian spring, which is known as a fountain of knowledge. Beatty actually quotes Alexander Pope by saying the following:

"A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again" (106).

The above passage shows Beatty making an allusion to Pope, who makes an allusion to the Pierian spring. If readers follow the line of thinking in the quote, then they will understand the connection between the spring of knowledge and what is going on with Montag in the story.

Another allusion is when Captain Beatty reacts to Montag returning to the firehouse after taking a day or two off to explore books. Beatty says, "Well... the crisis is past and all is well, the sheep returns to the fold. We're all sheep who have strayed at times" (105). When Beatty mentions sheep, he is alluding to the Bible and the parable that mentions returning a sheep to its fold. Readers who know this would make the connection that Beatty sees Montag as a sheep returning to his fold—the firemen at the firehouse.

One final example of an allusion is the one Granger mentions about a phoenix. The city Montag escapes from is blown up by an atomic bomb. Granger hopes humanity will recover from this catastrophe like a phoenix who is reborn from the ashes of fire. Granger explains as follows:

"There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. . . But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing" (163).

After an atomic bomb levels the city, that city is probably smoldering with coals and ashes. This helps to provide a mental image for the reader about what Montag and the other men see in the aftermath. The allusion to the phoenix also gives readers hope that maybe humanity will be reborn and be able to rebuild a better society than what Montag lived in.

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