Fahrenheit 451 is a book that was published by Ray Bradbury in 1953. This book tells the story in which intellectual thought and books are illegal. According to the book, the futuristic firemen have the responsibility of setting fire to the books and any place that they reside. Numerous significant symbols occur in this book. In my opinion, fire, the Hearth and the Salamander, and the Phoenix are three of the most important symbols.
The title of the book is an important symbol in and of itself. Ray Bradbury titled the book Fahrenheit 451 because 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns. Fire is a symbol of destruction. It’s significant because the main character, Guy Montag, and the rest of the firemen burn books because they are illegal. When seventeen-year-old Clarisse McClellan asks if Montag ever reads any of the books he burns, he laughs and replies “That’s against the law!” When Clarisse and Montag begin to talk more, Montag is taken aback by the different knowledge that Clarisse expresses to him. She tells him that firemen used to be sent out to stop fires, not start them. Montag couldn’t fight the sudden burning curiosity that over took all of his past beliefs. He began to collect books from each book burning and read them.
The Hearth and the Salamander is the title of the first section of the book. Hearths are fireplaces that are traditionally placed in the center of the home and are a source of warmth. They represent the constructive use of fire, which Clarisse unintentionally shows Montag. After walking and talking with Clarisse, he realizes that he is not happy. The book states, “He felt his smile slide away, melt, fold over and down on itself like a tallow skin, like the stuff of a fantastic candle burning too long and now collapsing and now blown out. Darkness. He was not happy.” The salamander on the other hand was once believed to be able to live in fire without being consumed by it. This represents the destructive side of fire. Salamanders are the names given to the fire trucks and are the official symbols of the firemen. When Clarisse meets Montag for the first time the book describes her as being, “hypnotized by the salamander on his arm.”
The Phoenix is a huge symbol that is mentioned in the novel. Toward the end of the story, the city is completely destroyed. The Phoenix was a mystical bird that would burn itself up and then rise again. Granger explains the legend of the Phoenix to Montag when they are watching the fire. It’s used to symbolize the renewal of mankind. Like the Phoenix, they have the ability to rise from the ashes, and rebuild their society.
These extremely significant symbols are what make the novel a fantastic story. Fire, the Hearth and the Salamander, and the Phoenix are three symbols that I chose to go into detail about. They each express a different meaning of the book. The thought of firemen starting fires is something that could possibly change when rebuilding the city. At the end of the book they have one thing in mind and that is to change people’s minds about books.