Fire in 451

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Jordan Exum
Mrs. Goulding
AP English Language P.2
August 20, 2013

Fahrenheit 451 Essay

Bradbury creates multiple meanings for the symbolism of fire. In the novel, Fahrenheit 451 fire is described as a cycle of destruction, purification and new life. In Beatty’s opinion, fire is a destroyer of not only the physical, but it has the power to eviscerate the intellectual process as well. For example Captain Beatty states "Forget them. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean" (Bradbury 60). According to Beatty, knowledge is unevenly distributed, which creates an unstable equilibrium and discord in society. He even mentions that people should be cremated instead of buried. Bradbury uses fire as a method or metaphor for purification. For instance, Montag decides to set Beatty on fire because it will cleanse his society of evil. Cleansing seems to be a type of purification. Montag is also cleansing himself, by taking Beatty out of his life so he can take the final step in his own character development. After Beatty dies, Montag turns to Beatty's corpse and says, “you always said, don't face a problem, burn it. Well, now I've done both” (116). After Beatty’s death, the meaning of fire changes in the story. It seems that fire now has positive attributes and is needed to sustain new life. When Montag reaches Granger’s camp with the book people, they are sitting around a campfire. The fire is the only thing keeping them alive. The fire them keeps them warm and heats their food. In Fahrenheit 451, the symbol of fire can be viewed as good, evil, or even both at the same time. People in their society think that if things are burned then the problems disappear but at the same time there are still people who are against this by keeping books so there is hope to rebuild a new society. This is why fire is a major symbol in the novel.
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