The book Fahrenheit 451 is written by Ray Bradbury and is about a futuristic community which does not tolerate books. In this community, the firemen are sent out to burn buildings that are believed to contain books. Guy Montag’s understanding of fire changes throughout the novel. At first, it is a pleasure to burn; a pleasure to see things blackened and changed, but it becomes a comforting symbol of warmth.
“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed” (p.1). The book starts with these words. Guy Montag is a fireman; his job is to burn all books and the houses they were found in, after someone put in an alarm. Montag describes fire as a destructive force. He lives in a futuristic society, a dystopia. In this world, firemen start fire rather than putting them out. In fact, people believe that it is a myth that firemen once used to put out fires. Instead of reading books, going outside and enjoy nature, spending time by themselves, think independently, the citizens in this society drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size TVs, they need nonstop entertainment to believe they are happy. People, who are different, like the young Clarisse, have to be silenced or killed. They are considered to be a danger for the society and its people by believing they make the people unhappy due to too much thinking. The fire is destructive. It symbolizes cleanliness, ending in brutal purges, consuming consequences and responsibility. This consuming, the burning finally gets recognized by Montag as a fundamental principle, already starting with the burning of the sun, which symbolizes the unstoppable progress of time.
The pleasure to burn changes. In the second part of the book, Montag tries to rebel. However, he is confused, it seems like his conscience refuses nonconformity. Montag never deviated from the norm. He never questioned the morality of his actions as a fireman. As he realizes that his attempts to change on his own fail, Montag remembers Faber, an old professor he met some time ago in the park. As a child, he was told to fill a sieve with sand. “And the faster he poured, the faster it sifted trough with a hot whispering” (p.74). The sand symbolizes knowledge, which Montag tries to keep; his mind however, cannot keep and understand the information on its own. Therefore, Montag visits Faber, to help Montag understand. The scene represents Montag running away, though he does not realize it yet. Montag can never return to his old life. He turned into a social rebel. At first, Guy Montag sees fire as a symbol of power, and excitement. He is convinced that he is doing the right thing.
Toward the end of the novel fire becomes a comforting symbol of warmth. While Montag was fleeing, he finally reaches a fire. However, “It was not burning. It was warming” (p.139). After Montag has seen the destruction and the sadness that uncontrolled fire brings, he begins to understand that fire is extremely dangerous, but it is also necessary. Montag learns that fire is like a phoenix. His new companions teach him that fire has its way of burning and destroying things, but new life always springs forth from the ashes. However, the phoenix continually burns itself and is reborn, due to making the same mistakes again because of a lack of memory. One of Montag’s companions, Granger, teaches him the importance about leaving something behind after one dies, and one must strive to contribute the world. After the war has started, the city was destroyed, Montag, Granger, and the other companions start their way to rebuild the city, representing hope to a new, better future.
The ignorant, non-intellectual society that Montag had once lived in was destroyed. Montag and his companions now hope for a future full of well-educated people, books, and knowledge. Montag symbolically rises like a phoenix from the ashes of a dystopian society, reborn from a flame.