AP English 4
21 March 2006
Analysis of Metaphors and Symbols in Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury takes the reader to a time where firemen do not put out fires; they start them in order to burn books, because books and intelligent thinking is outlawed. By using a combination of metaphors and symbols in this novel, Bradbury deepens the intricacy of his central them that censorship and too much government control is dangerous, and men should be able to think and come up with their own ideas and opinions.
The story of the fireman Guy Montag first appears in a short story by Bradbury called “The Fireman” in 1951. Two years later, he expanded the story, which became Fahrenheit 451. The novel is often classified as a science fiction novel, but first and foremost it is a social criticism warning about the dangers of censorship and government control. Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 after World War II and not only criticizes the lack of intellectualism of the German Nazis, but also the oppressive atmosphere of the early 1950s, when McCarthyism was at its peak. Bradbury used this novel to protest against the strict control of the books the editors would print, because he believed that it distorted the writers’ originality. Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury’s most popular work, and the theme of the
dangers of censorship and government control is as relevant today as the day he wrote it, even though while he wrote the novel “he was attempting to prevent the world from heading in the downhill direction it seemed to be going” (Hoskins 134). Richard Windman backs up that idea:
By drawing comparisons between the firemen’s actions in Fahrenheit 451 and attacks on contemporary real world authors and publishers of controversial subject matter, the fictional world that Bradbury portrayed is now real- the types of dangers Bradbury’s novel warned about- already threaten today’s supposedly democratic society. (149)
Metaphors in Fahrenheit 451 deepen the major theme and make this novel so fascinating. Some of the human metaphors of novel are Montag, Faber, and Beatty. The metaphor of the name Montag is that it is also the name of a paper manufacturing company, and in many ways Guy Montag is just that; a blank piece of paper. He is “written on” by many different characters and experiences throughout the novel. Donald Watt agrees with that because he says “his meeting with Clarisse teaches him to be aware of life or the lack of it - around him, and his wife’s brush with death, and the way she is saved, exposes for Montag the pitiable state of individual existence in their society” (“The Use of Fire as a Multifaceted Symbol” 47). After Montags meeting Clarisse he goes back to his home where he “quickly realizes that he is not happy with his sterile and fully automatic house” (Zipes 128). Granger and Faber also influence Montag, as well as the old woman. Watt says “the stunning experience with the old woman at
11 North Elm demonstrates for Montag the possibility of defiance and the power of books” (“The Use of Fire as a Multifaceted Symbol” 47). This experience with the woman causes Montag to bring a book home and question what is so powerful about books that make a woman want to stay in her burning house. Faber’s name is also the name of a pencil manufacturing company. So Faber, who instructs Montag and guides him in his search for the truth, “writes” on Montag, the “paper”. In this way Faber is metaphorically the instrument of knowledge. Another human metaphor in this novel is the man in charge of the firemen, Captain Beatty. He is a metaphor for the brains behind government censorship. All the other firemen are ignorant to what they are doing, as are the people who live in the city, but Beatty is well aware of the truth and still goes on with the instructions to burn and destroy knowledge.
Three metaphors in the novel are a form of government or control. The government uses the seashells, or ear radios, to further its plan. Using these shells causes the people to lose sight of reality. The parlor family, otherwise known as a television, is used by the government to distract the people and keep them satisfied. Like the seashells, the parlor family is just another one of the governments distractions to occupy a mans mind. The last example of the government metaphors is the mechanical hound. The government uses the hound to enforce the laws and to punish whoever breaks them. The