Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover
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What are some examples of symbolism in the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?

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sarahc418 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are many important symbols in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Fire and books both play important roles to the plot and conflict of the literary piece, but they are also important symbols that relate to theme. 

Books are not just a cover with pages in between. Rather books represent an idea. When Montag believes that the future of the world rests on the idea of saving books from burning, Faber says "the books are to remind us what asses and fools we are" and then further argues that

"Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone know all the cities in the world, we haven't time money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book" (86). 

Therefore this illustrates that books are symbols of knowledge. They spread ideas and give people the power to decide whether or not they are happy. Happiness is something the government and figures in power do not want people to think about too often. 

Books are obviously the central most important image in the book, but fire plays an undeniably important role as well. The symbol of fire progresses throughout the piece with several different nuances. 

At the beginning of the novel, fire symbolizes destruction of knowledge and hope. The firefighters do the opposite of their intended purpose; they start fires to burn books. On the first page, the first line reads "it was a pleasure to burn" and it further portrays the fire as a living breathing organism that then lives to kill the "pigeon-winged books" (3). Fire is the destruction of the contemporary world that we know. 

At the end of the novel, the scholars that sit around the fire use fire to sustain their life - warmth, food etc. Their fire at their campsite gives them life and helps to sustain them. Fire changes its connotations and begins to symbolize promise and hope. The bombs that destroy the city are harmful and terrifying, but as the city burns, the men that survive see this as an opportunity to be reborn - like a phoenix rising from the ashes. 


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tpisano eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ray Bradbury uses this book as a symbol of censorship. It originally started out as a short story, "The Fireman" and he later published it as a novel. 

It speaks about what was going on around him at the time. It was the early 1950's and it was the heydey of McCafrthyism. The government was oppresive, creativity was stiffiled, and many believe that the book was his protest against these issues.