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Fahrenheit 451 specifically Christianity and the Bible, serves as the guideline to Montag’s enlightenment, is reflected in many characters and other symbols, and is emphasized as being important to society’s happiness. The church of the 50’s was experiencing a golden age; the economy was doing outstanding, new homes and cars were being bought, and church was considered a safe place to for people seeking an ordinary life after the war.
The world of Fahrenheit is almost the same, minus the chapel.
In Fahrenheit 451, the citizens seek a commonplace in their television rooms, where they worship the ‘family’, and spend hours upon hours interacting with their screens instead of communicating with real people. This new media has replaced books, and religion has transformed into a mere mockery of Christ, appearing in their commercials for gum or candy aimed toward ‘worshippers’. Despite all of this, the book that falls into Montag’s hands as he raids the woman’s house is the Bible, an ancient artifact of what had once been.
It seems almost like destiny, as he throws the first one out of his fingers before he can even read the second line. After the mysterious woman burns herself and her books, he travels on the subway to Faber’s home, trying to understand the Bible, but is distracted by an advertisement for Denham’s Dentifrice, a toothpaste of some sort. He, in turn, continues to repeat “Lilies of the field,”, a reference to Jesus’ sermon on the Mount, where he preaches against material objects, like clothing.
Or toothpaste. This reflection demonstrates Montag’s loss of interest in material things that the rest of society is driven by.
When he finally arrives at Faber’s residence, his mind a screaming, hot mess, unable to grasp any knowledge from the Bible. Faber refers to the holy book; “It’s just as good as I remember”. This shows a shared interest in the Bible and Christianity among all intellectuals, especially with the group of enlightened firemen in Burning Bright. The Bible has served others before Montag as a precept towards knowledge. Characters who have not experienced Christianity, like Beatty, lack mental stability and struggle with finding internal security, a result of not having religion to depend on. The same goes for Mildred, who is seemingly very depressed and has attempted suicide in the past. Mildred’s friends are almost the same, showing hatred and even horrification towards the poetry book Montag pulls out on them; “You’re nasty, Mr. Montag, you’re nasty!”. (Here’s an interesting fact that I can’t really put in the essay because it’s not about religion: The poem Montag reads to the women is Dover Beach, a melancholic poem meant to instill guilt and sadness in others, or a feeling of ‘pathos’. This is why Ms. Phelps cries, even though she doesn’t know why.) Montag, before he reads the poem, compares the three women to saints he once saw in a chapel: “Though he talked to them and stood in that church for a long time, trying to be of that religion, trying to know what religion was, trying to get enough of the raw incense and special dust of the place into his lungs and thus into his blood to feel touched and concerned by the meaning of the colorful men and women with the porcelain eyes and the blood-ruby lips. But there was nothing…..his passion cold, even when he touched the wood and plaster and clay”. This is a direct reflection of his relationship with Mildred and the rest of society’s lifestyle.
Ever since he was a child, he couldn’t understand the importance of belonging to something everyone else belonged to, no matter how hard he tried. In his present life, Montag tries and tries to pursue a normal, suburban, fairytale life; go to work, burn books, watch TV, love his wife. But he can’t. It’s like he’s in a foreign country and he doesn’t speak the language. This may have stemmed a bit off of my original topic, but it still goes to show that Montag has been an intellectual since birth, hiding behind society’s normality, despite not being able to fit in. In Fahrenheit 451, Christianity is symbolized in more ways than just characters. The Burning Bush, described in the Bible as “On fire, but was not consumed by the flames…”. The bush was the location at which Moses was appointed by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into Canaan. This is a parallel to the motif of fire, and they both symbolize everything from divine presence to obvious heresy. In the first part of the book, fire is a repressive figure, and by the end Montag manipulates it to win his freedom and burn Beatty. Another symbol is the Phoenix, which, spiritually, highlights the promise of a better life; life after death as a reason to live. In the story of the Bible, the phoenix gained immortality by being the only being to not eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
Granger compares the phoenix to mankind in Burning Bright; “There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. He must have been the first cousin to Man. But everytime 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”. This statement shows the only difference between man and the phoenix: their society is aware of what they’re doing, but they know they can always rebuild city after city. Christ is clearly reflected unto Clarisse in the novel, from how she appears out of the blue to her mysterious disappearance when Montag needed more. To Montag, Clarisse is the most captivating and provocative person he’s ever met, and he’s only confused because she’s like him. She has no need for society and it’s normality. She prefers to taste the rain or go on long walks, just to enjoy nature. Down to the way she moves, Montag sees her as ethereal; ”The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward…Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity”. This is seemingly similar to the description of Jesus in the Bible; ‘His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass [other translations: ‘burnished bronze’], as if they burned in a furnace…’.
Unlike everyone else in his suburb, Clarisse has a constant stream of conscious thought. It also seems like she has all the answers, but no clear conclusions come from her teachings, leaving Montag with questions like ‘What does her family discuss?’ ‘Who is her uncle?’. From the moment he meets McClellan, he is profoundly impacted by her pious air. Clarisse asks him questions he has no answer to, and gives incredible, eye-opening answers in response, like Luke 2:47 describes Jesus’ answers; And all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. All of this evidence shows a clear connection to Clarisse McClellan and Jesus Christ, no matter how different in stature they may be. In conclusion, we must ask ourselves; why is Ray Bradbury obsessed with the aspect of religion?! But, in all seriousness, there are clear ties to Christianity in Fahrenheit 451, no matter how small.
In Fahrenheit 451, religion, specifically Christianity and the Bible, serves as the guideline to Montag’s enlightenment, is reflected in many characters and other symbols, and is emphasized as being important to society’s happiness.
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