Fahrenheit 451 AP Symbolism Analysis Essay
Symbols play a very important role in the message and meaning of the novel Fahrenheit 451. Symbolism adds a new depth and meaning to a seemingly basic story and plot. When one realizes or uncovers the symbolism, a new perspective can be gained from the work. Three key symbols in the novel are the temperature Fahrenheit 451, the phoenix, and mirrors.
The first symbol addressed in the novel, which is also the title, is Fahrenheit 451. On the first page of the book, Bradbury writes, “With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned to evening sky red and yellow and black.” Even the author identifies the number “451” as symbolic.
The temperature Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper catches fire and therefore, the temperature at which books burn. In the society described in the novel, Fahrenheit 451 is not only the temperature at which books burn, but also the temperature at which society begins to burn as well. The destruction of books is the destruction of society. The burning of books leads to the burning of knowledge and wisdom and the burning of knowledge and wisdom leads to the burning of society. When Montag is burning books, he felt as though he was doing society a favor and helping to rid the world of the evil that came from knowledge, but in reality what he was really doing was reducing society to ashes.
Later in the novel, the symbol the Phoenix appears. A Phoenix is a mythological bird that would burst into flames at the time of its death and then rises from the ashes as a new creature. After the bombing of the city by enemy jets, the “Book People” rise up from the ground and the ashes of what used to be and they were alive and they were new. Granger, one of the “Book People” says “… bird called a Phoenix back before Christ… He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time her 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…” (page 156). The characters themselves recognized their faults, but not until the end of the novel. Time and time again society would essentially destroy itself and would have to rise from the ashes of what it once was and had to begin again as a new creation.
The third symbol, the mirrors, is made known at the end of the novel. During the bombing of the city, Montag imagines Mildred seeing not only her reflection in a mirror for the first time, but her true character and being. The author writes, “Montag falling flat, going down, saw or felt or imagined he saw or felt the walls go dark in Millie’s face, heard her screaming, because in the millionth part of time left she saw her worn face reflected there, in a mirror instead of a crystal ball, and it was such a wildly empty face, all by itself in the room, touching nothing, staved and eating of itself, that at last she recognized it as her own…” As the “Book People” are beginning their journey to what is left of the city they are discussing what they will do first to help the survivors. Granger says “Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them.” (page 157). In this statement, Granger is suggesting that they show people their true being and not the superficial object of society that they seem to be.
There are many symbols in the novel Fahrenheit 451 including the temperature Fahrenheit 451, the phoenix, and mirrors. All symbols add depth to the work and can give one a new perspective on the novel, the world, and even their self. Though the story and plot can appear as basic and uncomplicated, the deeper one looks, the more wealth of knowledge and wisdom there is to be uncovered, understood, and used.