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The opening scene in the novel begins with the words “It was a pleasure to burn.” This phrase is used to show how at the beginning of the book Montag loves to burn books and how he thinks books have no help in society to the end of the book where he loves books and is living with people who adore books and idolize them. The opening scene acquaints us to our protagonist, Guy Montag. The author, Ray Bradbury, uses words that portray images of snakes and danger such as ‘great python,’ ‘grinned a fierce grin,’ and ‘disaster seemed positive (Bradbury 1-2).
. The mood of the writing tells the reader about the protagonist, Guy Montag. It gives the reader the feeling that he adores burning and that he thinks burning is the solution to all things. It foreshadows events of him burning houses of books and how his inner thoughts will be brought out even though it is illegal to think.
Guy Montag is a firefighter in a futuristic town where firefighters start fires instead of putting them out. Guy Montag is the protagonist of Fahrenheit 451. During the start of the novel, Guy likes to burn books and finds pleasure in burning things. He normally burns the homes of people who have hoarded books, and he burns the books as well. But after he meets a strange girl named Clarisse, he realizes he does not truly love his job or his life. Later on in the book, he begins to hoard books illegally but does not read them.
When Clarisse dies, he begins to read the books and discovers the goodness of the books. Reading books allows him to realize that his reality is a false one, and he escapes to a civilization in the wilderness where the people there idealize books.
Professor Faber is a former English professor and one of Montag’s mentors. He is an old man. He teaches Montag about books and how books are the story of people’s lives. He contradicts Captain Beatty’s viewpoint on literature because he believes that books are the backbone of society and teach us how to interact and how to learn. Professor Faber is a coward in that he does not act upon anything himself. Whenever he needs something done he sends Montag out with a radio so that he can talk to Montag. He does not have the courage to act upon anything himself.
Mildred Montag is Guy Montag’s wife. She has white skin and chemically burnt hair. She has a hollow personality in which she does not have any personal connection to anyone in her life. She takes sleeping pills all the time to relieve her depression and her hatred of life. By taking these sleeping pills she expresses her unhappiness. She betrays Montag’s trust and turns him into the authorities for reading poetry to her and her friends.
Beatty is Montag’s boss at the fire station. He has dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, thin eyes, and intense eyes. He has memorized many quotes from books that are controversial to their lives. When Montag becomes interested in books Beatty talks to him and says that he was once interested in books as well but he abandoned them realizing they were harmful to society. Bradbury puts Beatty to use to explain how this society is the downfall of America.
When Guy has fled from the city into the forest he meets a man whose name is Granger. This is when Montag is assigned to read the book of Ecclesiastes from the Bible. Granger wants Guy to think about the book and its meaning. Granger does not think that he and his followers are the smartest people in the world. He thinks that the books will help people’s lives and make them smarter because of the minds of the great people that wrote them. This is where Montag can truly think freely and not be held down by society’s restrictions. Granger teaches him that he can be free here and not be trapped in his former society where many people are egotists and only think about themselves. Whereas, here they are free to think, and they are kind to each other.
Guy Montag’s neighbor Clarisse asks him the question, but before he can answer she runs inside and leaves him to think to himself about the question. His reaction to these questions tells the reader that pondering in this society is against the norm and wondering if you are happy is against society’s morals. This question really makes him wonder if he is happy, and when he realizes he is not, he begins to rebel against society. This question sparks his whole journey to read books and abandon the society he knows. He wonders if reading books will answer some of his questions, and when he begins to read books he begins to get in trouble. He says that he will turn in the books but he does not. When his wife reports him to the authorities he escapes into the wilderness leaving his whole world in the past.
Identify two symbols used in the story and explain what each one represents. Remember that a symbol is a person, place, thing, or event that represents a significant idea.
The Phoenix is a bird where it is burnt down to ashes but then rises up from the ashes. After the city is bombed by the government, Granger says that humans are almost exactly like the Phoenix. They both become destroyed in a fire and start from ashes. The sole difference between them is that man can remember what he did wrong and make the choice not do it again. Granger believes that if people keep books that society will be able to be preserved because books have saved societies before. Granger and his followers have books that will be able to reshape society and help people understand their lives. Their group thinks that one person is not as important as a whole group. The Phoenix also symbolizes Montag’s emotional change. He used to love burning books and did not think they were good. At this point, he was the Phoenix in bird form at the beginning. Then when he discovers books and gets punished for owning and reading the books he burns down literally because his house is being burnt which means his world is being burnt to the ground. Then when he is able to escape and learn more and understand the significance of books, he is reborn again and knows more and understands more.
Fire at the beginning of the novel symbolizes destruction but at the end of the novel, fire symbolizes rebirth. Firemen at the beginning of the novel love fire and think fire is the answer to everything in life. Montag notices that fire is never during the day and only during the night. He thinks this is because fire is a symbol to the people of something illegal. But as he escapes to the wilderness with the people who idealize books, he learns that fire is a symbol of regrowth. Granger talks about how men are like the Phoenix. They can be reborn through fire and learn things through fire.
The Power of Books is continually mentioned in the novel of Fahrenheit 451, they have many influential and transformative powers included inside of their words. In the novel, it is illegal to own books because books have individuality and they provide an escape from total control. When Montag begins to read he goes from listening and following orders on everything he should do to a rebellious person who thinks on his own and makes his own decisions. This rebellious behavior makes him lose everything in his life. Books provide deep emotions for him. Books have a power where they can provide a deep connection between humans. Books also symbolize the ability to imagine things and the ability to rebuild communities and societies.
In the society, Montag lives in the people around him adore thrill-seeking activities. The society around him does not like any type of individualism. Entertainment of technology are the norms in his society. When people begin to express in individuality in his society they become threats to others. They ask deep questions that the society around them have purposely hidden from them. Clarisse is the main example of someone who expresses individuality and she asks questions that make people think including her asking Montag if he is truly happy.
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