What are some metaphors in Fahrenheit 451?

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Some metaphors in the book Fahrenheit 451 include comparing society to a "cave" (34), comparing the pages of a burning book to butterflies, and comparing a cold expression to a "mask of ice" (17).

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A metaphor is a figure of speech which compares two unlike things to one another. This is not to be confused with the similar but different simile, which also compares unlike things but does so via the use of the words "like" or "as."

Ray Bradbury uses metaphors many...

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times throughout his novelFahrenheit 451.

One of the earliest examples of metaphor in the novel can be seen in Bradbury's description of Clarisse: "Her face was slender and milk-white." Bradbury uses a metaphor to compare Clarisse's pale skin to the whiteness of milk. He later uses a metaphor once again to describe Clarisse, this time comparing her pale face to a white crystal: "Her face, turned to him now, was fragile milk crystal."

Bradbury uses a metaphor to describe a giant hose filled with kerosene: "With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world." He compares the hose itself to a python and the kerosene in the hose to venom. This is an interesting comparison, given that pythons are non-venomous snakes. They are constrictors that kill their prey by squeezing them.

Bradbury uses a metaphor to describe burned book pages by likening them to black butterflies: "Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly."

To communicate the ability of books to illuminate the dark side of society, Bradbury compares life to a face and negativity to pores: "[Books] show the pores in the face of life."

One of Bradbury's most powerful and memorable metaphors is seen near the end of the novel. In communicating the need for people to rise from destruction and rebuild society, he compares humankind to the phoenix. The phoenix is a mythological bird known for bursting into flames and being reborn from its own ashes. Bradbury says humans, like the phoenix, must be reborn and begin anew in order to rebuild their destroyed society:

There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. 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, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did.

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Metaphors are comparisons between two seemingly opposite things that have some common trait or relation. Bradbury utilizes numerous metaphors throughout his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 in order to express nuances, emotions, and images in an entertaining way.

Montag uses a metaphor during a conversation with his wife by saying, "Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave" (34). Montag's metaphor describes the superficial, ignorant society by comparing Bradbury's dystopian civilization to a cave. Bradbury uses a metaphor when Montag hears Captain Beatty's voice in his head saying,

Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies (36).

Bradbury is metaphorically comparing the burning pages of a book to black butterflies. When Montag is attempting to comprehend the information that he is reading on the train, he is continually interrupted by the loud Denham's Dentifrice commercial blasting through the train's speakers. Montag begins to remember a time at the beach when he unsuccessfully attempted to put sand into a sieve. Bradbury uses a metaphor by equating the words Montag is reading to sand and his brain to a sieve. Bradbury writes,

There were people in the suction train but he held the book in his hands and the silly thought came to him, if you read fast and read all,  maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve (36).

During Montag's conversation about the significance of literature, Faber uses a metaphor by saying,

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 (Bradbury, 39).

Faber metaphorically compares the minute details and important information hidden throughout novels to the pores on a human face.

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A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike objects NOT using the words like or as.  Although they are frequent, they are not on every page.  Here are some.

1. Pg 3: " With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upone the world, the blood pounded in his head, ....."

This compares the brass nozzle to a great python snake.

2. pg. 17: "But instead he stood there, very cold, his face a mask of ice....."

This compares his face to a mask of ice.

3. pg 27: "Beatty snorted gently, "Hell! It's a fine bit of craftmanship, a good rifle that can fetch its own target and guarantees the bull's-eye every time."

This compares the Hound to a good rifle.

Here are some extras:

4. pg 58: A book is a loaded gun in the house next door."

This compares a book to a loaded gun.

5. pg 90: I'm the Queen Bee, safe in the hive.  You will be the drone, the traveling ear."

This is an interesting sentence because a number of metaphors are located in this one sentence. .  Faber is the Queen Bee, the hive is his home, Montag is the drone, the drone is an ear.

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Another metaphor in the novel is the phoenix. Firemen wear the sign of the phoenix on their uniforms. The mythological phoenix is said to burn and then rise from its own ashes. One might consider this fitting since the bird burns but it is also ironic for the firemen to wear this sign because the phoenix also symbolizes renewal. Near the end of the novel, Granger compares human society and its history to the mythological phoenix: 

There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. 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, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. 

Granger remarks that the Phoenix unknowingly burns and is reborn because that is its nature. Humans could simply continue to develop and evolve; but Granger surmises that humans knowingly destroy themselves (in war and/or by burning books and their history) but eventually find a way to be reborn. It is comforting that humans always find a way to come back but it is also ridiculous that humans would destroy themselves in the first place. Granger dreams of a day when this cycle will stop. 

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An example of a metaphor is the machine that pumps people’s stomachs is called a snake.

A metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things where one thing is called by the other thing’s name.  In other words, if I say, “her hair was straw,” I am comparing her hair to straw.  I did not say it was “like straw,” I said that it “was straw.”  That is the difference between a simile (“like”) and a metaphor.

One of the most powerful metaphors in the book is the “snake” that pumps people’s stomachs when the commit suicide.  Suicide is very common in Montag’s world, because people are generally unhappy.  When his wife commits suicide, he compares the machine that tries to save her to a snake.

He tried to count how many times she swallowed and he thought of the visit from the two zinc-oxide-faced men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths and the electronic-eyed snake winding down into the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water … (Part 1)

His wife, like most of the people in his society, is “empty.”  She does not do much but watch television.  Even when she has friends over, they watch television.  She considers the family on the screen more important than her own life, and her husband.  It is this lonely, empty life that makes suicide so common in Montag’s world.

In addition to helping us picture the machine, the metaphor also helps create a mood.  Montag compares the machine to something most of us fear or dislike.  It helps create the impression that the machine is not a good thing, and it leaves the reader feeling more and more unsettled.  Montag himself seems to fear the machine, and the reader does too.

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What are some similes in part three ("Burning Bright") of Fahrenheit 451?

You can find a number of similes in the third part of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 if you know how to spot them.

Similes are a specific literary device that draw direct comparisons using “like” or “as.” This differentiates them from metaphors, which eliminate the use of a preposition and directly compare two items by equating them. A simile would say a plane is like a bird; a metaphor would say a plane is a bird. Or the metaphor would bypass stating that a plane is a bird, and just name the plane “bird,” as in, “The metal bird full of people glided beneath the clouds.” Both of these forms of comparison are used often and sometimes together in literature, so make sure you find “like” or “as” in any comparison you identify as a simile.

In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses metaphor and simile in combination. For example, in this passage that begins on page 117 and continues on page 118, Bradbury compares a highway to a river using simile, and then to a stage using metaphor.

“He ran steadily for six blocks in the alley and then the alley opened out onto a wide empty thoroughfare ten lanes wide. It seemed like a boatless river frozen there in the raw light of the high white arc lamps; you could drown trying to cross it, he felt; it was too wide, it was too open. It was a vast stage without scenery, inviting him to run across, easily seen in the blazing illumination, easily caught, easily shot down.”

On page 119, Bradbury’s character Montag returns to the boulevard and again contemplates it using metaphor:

“There it lay, a game for him to win, a vast bowling alley in the cool morning. The boulevard was as clean as the surface of an arena two minutes before the appearance of certain unnamed victims and certain unknown killers.”

He metaphorically refers to the street as a game and a bowling alley in the first sentence. But the second sentence, despite offering a comparison with the word "as," does NOT contain a simile. The sentence certainly performs the function of a simile, helping the reader see the street as perhaps an ancient Roman gladiator theatre, but does not DIRECTLY compare the street to an arena. Instead of stating “The boulevard was as an arena,” Bradbury only says it is as clean as one, keeping the comparison just a smidge too indirect to be considered a proper simile. So once you have spotted a “like” or “as,” make sure there is a direct comparison before you identify a simile.

Some additional examples of similes from part three of Fahrenheit 451 are listed below:

  • (p. 108) "There was a crash like the falling parts of a dream fashioned out of warped glass, mirrors, and crystal prisms."
  • (p. 114) "It was half across the lawn, coming from the shadows, moving with such drifting ease that it was like a single solid cloud of black-grey smoke blown at him in silence."
  • (p. 115) "The other was like a chunk of burnt pine log he was carrying along for penance for some obscure sin."

For additional help identifying similes, visit the Purdue University OWL tutoring site via the link listed below.  And for more on Fahrenheit 451, please explore the enotes literature guide, also linked to below.

All page numbers given in this answer refer to the paperback 60th anniversary edition of the novel printed in 2013.

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What is an example of simile in Fahrenheit 451?

In part 1, Mildred tells Guy that she thinks Clarisse is dead. Guy is in shock as his wife quickly says goodnight, and then he hears a sound:

It was like a breath exhaled upon the window. It was like a faint drift of greenish luminescent smoke, the motion of a single huge October leaf blowing across the lawn and away.

The simile here reinforces the transparency of the constant surveillance that Guy faces. It is always there—almost. Never quite sure when he is being overheard or monitored directly, Guy grows suspicious that the Hound is just outside his window. He is so frightened that he doesn't open the window to check.

Later, Beatty visits Guy, and as they talk, this description is given:

Beatty knocked his pipe into the palm of his pink hand, studied the ashes as if they were a symbol to be diagnosed and searched for meaning.

This action occurs just before Beatty tells Guy that people really don't want the truth; they simply want to be happy. This simile shows the ominous meaning behind his words. He analyzes the ashes in much the same way literary students once analyzed symbols in books.

Just before Guy goes home to face his wife and her friends, he provides this reflection:

You could feel the war getting ready in the sky that night. The way the clouds moved aside and came back, and the way the stars looked, a million of them swimming between the clouds, like the enemy disks, and the feeling that the sky might all up on the city and turn it to chalk dust, and the moon go up in red fire; that was how the night felt.

This comparison of the stars to something evil shows how Guy feels utterly surrounded by forces larger than himself at this point, forces beyond his control. Like the stars on this night, they have the power to illuminate the truth: Guy Montag no longer believes in the work of firemen.

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What is an example of simile in Fahrenheit 451?

A simile is a literary device that makes a direct comparison between two things using the words "like" or "as." Bradbury uses a litany of similes throughout his classic novel Fahrenheit 451, which allow the reader to imagine and experience what the author is saying.

While Montag is visiting Faber before he leaves the dystopian city, Faber turns on a small television, which shows a helicopter lowering a new Mechanical Hound to search for Montag. Bradbury utilizes a simile by writing,

And there on the small screen was the burnt house, and the crowd, and something with a sheet over it and out of the sky, fluttering, came the helicopter like a grotesque flower.

Bradbury is comparing the image of the helicopter blades spinning at a fast speed to a "grotesque flower."

When Montag initially meets Granger and is introduced to the traveling group of intellectuals, Granger utilizes a simile when he tells Montag, "You'll stink like a bobcat." After fleeing the authorities and traveling throughout the wilderness, Montag is extremely dirty and smelly, which is why Granger compares his scent to that of a wild bobcat.

Towards the end of the story, an atomic bomb is dropped on the dystopian city, and Bradbury uses a simile to describe the bomb's impact on the human population by writing,

The concussion knocked the air across and down the river, turned the men over like dominoes in a line, blew the water in lifting sprays.

Bradbury's simile compares the men falling and turning over to dominoes during the enormous blast.

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What is an example of simile in Fahrenheit 451?

The preface ("In The Beginning"), to the novel Fahrenheit 451, offers an example of both personification and a simile:

A book landed, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering.

Here, the book is personified by being given the ability (or an allusion to the ability) to be obedient. Given that personification is the giving of human qualities or characteristics to nonhuman and/or nonliving things, this obedience shown by the book is personification. At the same time, the book is likened to a pigeon. This comparison, given it includes the word "like," is an example of a simile.

Another example of a simile can be found later in the same paragraph.

In the dim, wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words delicately painted thereon.

Here, the page is compared to a feather.

In the next paragraph, another simile can be found. Here, a comparison is made between Montag's hand and a mouth.

And then Montag's hand closed like a mouth.

Another example of personification can be found towards the end of "In The Beginning."

His hand had done it all, his hand with a brain of its own, with a conscience and a curiosity in each trembling finger, had turned thief.

Here, the hand is given the ability to turn into a thief. hands cannot do this, only people can. 

Later, in part one (page three depending upon the copy used--this is found on the first page of the first chapter), a metaphor is found.

With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world.

The metaphor is the comparison between the fire hose (or brass nozzle) to a python.

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