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Fahrenheit 451

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A common theme across many authors is individualism. They all try to demonstrate the importance of this one common theme. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury portrays an excellent story that tells the reader all the many reasons why one must think for himself. The dystopian novel tells the story of Guy Montag and his journey of discovery of  finding himself and breaking out of the monotonous ways of the society forced upon him and those around him. Bradbury uses symbolism, structure, and imagery to drive home the idea that in order to have any happiness, fulfillment of life, or innovation for the future, we must be individuals and create our own ideas.

The most prominent strategy Bradbury uses is symbolism. Everything in Fahrenheit 451 has a purpose. For example, each character in the book represents a different part of society and how it has impacted them. Clarisse represents the people who are “different”- she is an example of an individual amongst a hoard of collectivism. Faber represents the society that existed before they began burning books, and Mildred represents the opposite- the society of today filled with sadness, suicide, and mind-sucking technology. Bradbury did this to show how society has transformed and what it is like now through the personalities of the characters. He never directly states any of this because he wants the reader to try and think individually as to why each character acts the way they do. Another example of symbolism in the book are the different titles of each part. They present a purpose to each section, but they also contribute a great deal to the structure of the book.

The structure of the book is written in three parts; however, the real importance of the structure lies in the titles of each part. The three parts labeled “The Salamander and the Hearth,” “The Sieve and the Sand,” and “Burning Bright” all show the theme of the book. I believe these titles are important because they show character development in Montag, the protagonist. The first part means he is the salamander “surviving” in the hearth. He is not happy- he is just living in a complacent state. Clarisse is the character that breaks Montag out of hus repetitive, unsatisfactory life. The second part tells us that Montag is now trying to change his life and gain information from books, but like a sieve and sand he cannot hold on to the information he is accessing. Finally, the last part “Burning Bright” shows Montag’s release. He has finally broken through and become the individual that Bradbury is trying to get the reader to be. Bradbury labeled the the book this way to show the main character develop from a person unhappy and in sameness with everyone else into an individual burning with ideas, individual thoughts, and creativity. We know even he is developing through the book by his actions. He tries to create plans to take down the government, he uses unique ways to get Faber to help him, and he thinks of smart ways to escape lethal situations. All of these examples are shown through imagery as well.

The imagery in Fahrenheit 451 is outrageous. I will never forget the famous line “It was good to burn.” This line gives the reader an excellent idea of Montag’s character twice in the book. Once before his character development and once after he changed for the better. The imagery all throughout this novel helps Bradbury demonstrate to the reader the impactful moments that change Montag into an individual. For example, when the old woman burns with her books, this could easily be qualified as one of the most climatic moments in the entire book. Imagery like this gives the reader excellent images of the intensity Montag is experiencing and the individualism he obtains from it.

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Lewis Cass High School, Walton, Indiana,
Fahrenheit 451