Personification In Fahrenheit 451

What is an example of personification in Fahrenheit 451?

An example of personification in Fahrenheit 451 is provided in the sentence "The firehouse trembled as a great flight of jet planes whistled a single note across the black morning sky." Whistling is a human ability that is typically used to intentionally gain someone's attention. In much the same way, the jets refocus Montag's attention on an important conversation with Beatty.

Expert Answers

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

After Clarisse disappears, Montag's conscience begins to weigh heavily on him. As he sits at the firehouse playing cards, he is surrounded by a feeling of emotional and physical coldness. This introspection is suddenly interrupted:

The firehouse trembled as a great flight of jet planes whistled a single note across the black morning sky.

Whistling is a human ability, yet it has been ascribed to jets. This personification makes the action seem more intentional, seizing Montag's attention and forcing him to pay attention to the conversation with Beatty. Montag blinks in response to the sound, his thoughts seemingly coming into a more clear focus.

Later, Faber tries to explain to Montag why he believes books are so hated:

Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion.

The personification in this section of the text gives a lifelike quality to books. Pores are crucial to humans, reaching through the superficial layers of skin and allowing toxins to escape the body. Faber examines the properties of good literature using this analogy. He asserts that books have this same sense of depth, going beyond the superficial and reminding humans of the reality underneath the surface of life. Books allow toxins to escape the mind and root humans to something more substantial than the pretty and comfortable parts of the human experience. Pores are not often revered for their role, but their function is crucial to human existence. Through this example of personification, books are connected to this same sense of undervalued purpose.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Personification attributes human characteristics to non-human objects or animals.

Throughout the novel, Montag associates malevolent human characteristics with the Mechanical Hound. The Hound, as the word "mechanical" implies, is a machine shaped to look like a hound. It aids the firemen with their book burning. As a mechanical object, it can have no real emotions and is neither good nor evil. However, from the start of the novel, Montag relates to it as if it is alive. For example, he watches it "sleeping the evil out of itself." 

It's not difficult to see how Montag could connect the Hound with human evil. The Hound's job is to pounce on enemies, rodent, human, and otherwise. It injects them with a hypodermic needle full of morphine or procaine. We associate the act of giving injections with human beings. 

Montag states that the Hound "doesn't like [him]," as if it had human feelings. 

Later on, after Montag shoots the attacking Hound, he continues to personify it as an entity that hates him on a personal level:

Montag lay watching the dead-alive thing fiddle the air and die. Even now it seemed to want to get back at him and finish the injection which was now working through the flesh of his leg.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The books leapt and danced like roasted birds, their wings ablaze with red and yellow feathers." (Bradbury 110)

This quote is written while Montag is in the process of burning his home and all of its contents. After spraying his bedroom, Beatty tells him to burn the books. Montag then describes what the books look like as they burn. Ray Bradbury uses personification to describe the flaming pages of the books being burnt. Books are inanimate objects that cannot "leap" or "dance" like birds. Personification is a literary technique used to attach living characteristics to non-living objects. Writers often incorporate personification into their writing to add imagery and convey textual meaning to their audiences. One can visualize the movement of the burning pages by associating it with the image of birds flapping their red and yellow wings up and down. This image is closely connected to the Phoenix, which is mentioned later on in the novel.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Personification is the attribution of human or living elements to something inhuman or non-living. One good example comes in the first paragraph, when Montag is burning a house:

With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head...
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

The fire-hose, in this new world, sprays kerosene onto a fire, instead of water, and so the personification is of a dangerous snake spitting poison. The personification is not entirely accurate -- pythons do not have venom, but kill by constriction. However, the comparison works because a venomous snake is dangerous, just as the act of feeding a house fire. By applying a living metaphor to the fire-hose, it becomes less a tool used by Montag and more of a force in itself, a living thing that seems to destroy without reason.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, personification is the "attribution of personal qualities; especially: representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form." In literature, it is a figure of speech in which an inanimate object is given human qualities. There are several examples of personification in the first part of the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

One of the first examples of personification occurs when the fireman Montag enters his house after walking and having a conversation with his teenage neighbor Clarisse. Although the reference is brief, it has intense significance. The conversation with Clarisse has caused Montag to question some of his core beliefs, but even before he speaks with her, he has been stealing books and hiding them in a ventilator shaft in his home. He looks up at the ventilator grill, and something seems "to peer down at him." Bradbury here is referring to the hidden books. Montag's feeling of guilt for having stolen and hidden them causes him to imagine that they are humanlike and can look down on him.

When Montag finds his wife Mildred dying in their bedroom from an overdose of sleeping pills, Bradbury refers to the hose that is put down her throat to draw out the poison a "black cobra." However, he then attributes more humanlike qualities to it as it drinks up the poison, drinks up the darkness (here referring to Mildred's mental darkness), and feeds in silence.

Bradbury uses another instance of personification as he describes the invasion of the old woman's house by the firemen. The house is given humanlike qualities as "the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt." According to Bradbury, the presence of the old woman in her house causes her indignation and sense of righteousness to give metaphorical life to the house as it is being destroyed.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on