Repetitive symbolism is rampant throughout Fahrenheit 451 and contributes passionately to its iconic status today. There are three specific symbols that Ray Bradbury uses to show the religious essence of his novel and to enhance the meaning of Fahrenheit 451. The main religious symbols are sprinkled throughout the novel and contribute to Guy Montag’s growth as an intellectual and as a member of the corrupt society. The symbols of the snake, the phoenix and the fire, are used in the text to aid Montag’s character development and the overall theme of Fahrenheit 451.
Bradbury stresses the importance of intellectual thought and the ability to act spontaneously throughout the novel. Books are the access points to the intellectual freedom that guy Montag craves. Literature significantly bothers the reader and confronts them with contrasting ideas and opinions. Montag yearns for these contrasting literary ideas and for the ability to think for himself. During the course of Fahrenheit 451, Guy is confronted with problematic threats to himself developing as an intellectual. Society emphasizes the importance of technology in the nation, but Guy strays away from mechanization and attempts to abandon the overdependence on technology. He is forced to withstand the relentless “Mechanical Hound,” but escapes its wrath. This shows Montag’s superiority towards advanced technology. Guy’s elevated intellectual knowledge overcomes even the best machinery in the domain. Intellect is far more essential than technical electronic machinery. This helps promote Guy’s growth and development as an intellectual individual. The force is strong with this one, and Montag proves his force by showing that knowledge overcomes ignorance.
“They had two machines really. One of them slid down into your stomach like a black cobra.” In this instance, the snake is being compared to a devilish figure in society. The color black, distinguishing the cobra, is a representation of its dark nature and evil behavior. The black cobra is reaching into Mildred’s stomach drinking of the darkness within her. The cobra is preventing her from relinquishing her life, and forcing Mildred to endure a horrendous existence. The reptile eats away at her body, forcing Mildred to become increasingly inhuman. This shows the attitude of the reptile and the danger it presents to the population. The community is not necessarily involved with the reptile and the nature it resides within, but it poses a threat to the daily lives of the civilians.
The Garden of Eden is a utopian paradise that is profoundly disrupted by the sinister snake of temptation. In Genesis, Eve is presented with the task of providing provisions for herself and Adam. The snake of temptation confronts Eve and persuades her to pick the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve gives Adam the fruit from the sacred tree and they both ingest it. Soon Adam and Eve are entirely aware of their bare bodies and the world around them. The Lord gains knowledge through his all seeing eyes about their sin. He banishes them from the utopian paradise.
Unlike Genesis, Fahrenheit 451 has an underlying hope for the fraudulent society. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, but in Ray Bradbury’s novel, the remaining intellectuals are presented with the hope for a desirable future. Initially, the intellectuals were banished from the society, but they were once again introduced to the bombed community to rebuild the staircase to a successful future.
And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Ray Bradbury alluded to the section in Genesis for Fahrenheit 451. He uses the sacred tree from Genesis to show great power and strength, but with great power comes great responsibility. The society can be easily manipulated into causing the downfall of the community. The snake of temptation has the ability to control the populace, destroy all productivity, and eradicate life. Both pieces of literature use the sadistic snake as a threat to society, which leads to the belief that Ray Bradbury utilized the idea of the barbarous snake from the Bible.
There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up…. But every time 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. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we’ll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them.
Granger is describing the relationship between the phoenix and the public. The phoenix lives a long existence, experiencing trials and tribulations along the course of his life. The phoenix burns up into thick, black ashes and is reincarnated. The phoenix does not have the ability to remember his past struggles and involvements. Since the godly bird is incapable of learning from his past, he cannot connect them to his experiences in his current life. The public is much like the phoenix that Granger is explaining. For example, in the Hearth and the Salamander, Mildred attempts to commit suicide by indulging in numerous pill capsules. After the paramedic men and their mechanical devices unwillingly revive her, she is unable to remember ever trying to commit suicide. In this instance, Mildred acts much like the phoenix, filled to the brim with ignorance and incapable of remembrance.
Unlike the celestial phoenix, the greater part of the society is exceedingly adept to remembering their past experiences and or past lives. Unfortunately the community tends to create the same mistakes countless numbers of times, creating years of stagnation and underdevelopment. Just as the phoenix lives through a continuous cycle of life and then destroys itself, the society of man does likewise. Similar to the society, Montag’s soul seems to have been burned and reincarnated many times throughout his existence. Near the end of Fahrenheit 451, Montag expresses the interest in the rebirth of himself. He finally breaks free from the cycle of the phoenix.
Fire has a dual image in Fahrenheit 451, a symbol of destruction as well as a symbol of comfort and warmth. For Montag, fire is a wonderful image that has the ability to solve all of his problems as well as the worldly issues. Montag has a “ If you can’t solve it… burn it!” type of attitude and this same approach to life can be found throughout Beatty and the rest of the firemen. They continue through life, burning homes, people and literature. Not only do the firemen burn pieces of important literature, but they also burn the voices of the intellectuals who wrote them. With the eradication of all books, the society becomes increasingly ignorant and only capable of understanding what the Government poses for them. The populace described in Fahrenheit 451 can be compared to that of Hitler’s society, only capable of apprehending the information that the Government hands straight to the people.
It is not until the section, Burning Bright, that Montag associates fire with pleasure and hospitality. As Montag reaches the camping ground of the fugitive intellectuals he notices that they are surrounding a campfire, discussing and forming ideas. Montag realizes that fire can no longer be described as just a destruction producer, but as a comforter to the masses. The intellectuals are still cauterizing important sections of literature, but they plan on passing along their memorized information by word of mouth. The escapees are protecting the books from the antagonistic firemen. Montag joins them and provides the information for the book of Ecclesiastes.
The symbolism in Fahrenheit 451 strengthens the meaning and the understanding of Ray Bradbury’s work. Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in order to bring caution to the world and about where our future in technology might lead us. He provides a sense of underlying hope to show that the earth can reincarnate from its dystopia and still has the opportunity to flourish. The symbols of the snake, the phoenix and the fire all point to his robust point of view and help provide images about how the world may cease. His strong use of symbolism is also used to establish Montag’s character development as an intellectual hinting at his predictions. This is used to create a symbolic novel that alerts the community of what might happen if a dysfunctional society were to exterminate intellectual thinking and knowledge. Bradbury alludes to the Bible countless times throughout the course of the novel, proving his sense of symbolism and the religious qualities of Fahrenheit 451. “When we reach the city,” describes the symbolic alliance between the symbolism in Fahrenheit 451 and the Bible.