In Fahrenheit 451, what is an example of syntax and diction?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury.

Syntax and diction are very important in writing; syntax is the structure of a sentence, while diction is the deliberate use of words and synonyms. Ray Bradbury, as a classic author of sci-fi and fantasy, used words and sentence structure in very specific ways. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury used many grammatical devices to evoke important themes, such as isolation and dehumanization. When Montag's wife Mildrid attempts suicide, two men arrive to pump her stomach and change her blood. Montag is struck by their casual attitude.

And the men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths, the men with the eyes of puff-adders, took up their load of machine and tube, their case of liquid melancholy and the slow dark sludge of nameless stuff, and strolled out the door.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451)

For syntax, Bradbury uses a type of sentence called "run-on." The sentence is broken by commas, but with no other dividing punctuation. The sentence is breathless, not impersonal, and so draws the reader in with a presumed familiarity.

For diction, the use of non-medical terms acts to create an emotional distance between the patient and the treatment. Mildrid's blood is "liquid melancholy," not the stuff of life but instead of misery and isolation. Her stomach contents are a "slow dark sludge of nameless stuff" instead of simply poisoned material. The operators consider this a simple procedure, not even needing medical expertise, but Bradbury's writing creates the sense that even if the procedure is successful, the patient is still isolated from humanity, without ambition or purpose.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Syntax refers to the way in which words and phrases are arranged in a sentence. Bradbury often uses inventive syntax, such as in the following sentence:

With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.

The sentence begins with two long prepositional phrases (each of which begin with "with"), and the subject of the sentence is "blood" and "hands," rather than Montag himself. By making Montag's body parts the subject of the sentence, Bradbury implies that Montag is overcome by bodily sensations and that Montag is not in control of his body. 

The diction or word choice in this sentence is also interesting and helps convey the meaning of the sentence. Bradbury repeats the words "with" and "hands" to emphasize these words. He chooses words related to a poisonous snake to create a metaphor comparing the nozzle of the hose to a python. He also uses words related to music, such as "conductor" and "symphonies," to create a metaphor in which Montag's action of burning books is compared to the act of leading a symphony. In addition, he chooses words that begin with the same sound, such as "blazing" and "burning," to create alliteration, a musical quality formed when words that are close together start with the same sound. He chooses words such as "tatters" and "charcoal ruins" at the end of the sentence to suggest the idea of destruction. By choosing these words, he creates a vivid and imaginative sentence with a number of symbols.