In Fahrenheit 451, what do the numerals "451" represent?

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The numerals 451 represent the temperature at which paper burns. Whether this number is accurate or not, it has become one of the symbols of being a fireman in this society. In Bradbury's dystopia, a fireman is not one who puts out fires but a person whose job it is to burn books.

We learn that Montag has the numbers 451 emblazoned on his helmet. The numbers are also stitched on the sleeve of his uniform and are emblazoned on the kerosene tanks the firemen wear strapped to their shoulders to burn books.

These symbols, along with the salamander and the phoenix, both animals that, in myth, can withstand fire, are part of the regalia of the firemen and are supposed to intimidate ordinary people.

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When Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, he allegedly chose the title for the temperature that paper, particularly book paper, catches fire. The idea was that the firemen use flamethrowers to burn books, and the fire needed to be at least 451 degrees Fahrenheit to properly burn the paper. However, proper scientific testing shows that paper ignites in a much broader range, anywhere from 4-800 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the quality and thickness of the paper. In fact, some papers don't ignite until 450 degrees Celsius, almost double 451 degrees Fahrenheit. It is more likely that Bradbury chose the title because it sounded good than based on research of paper temperatures; of course, because of the popularity of the novel, many sources reference that temperature as accurate without further research.

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