Fire, Heat, Light
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
(Click the symbolism infographic to download.)
As you might expect from a novel about burning books, there’s a whole lot of fire in Fahrenheit 451. We’re not just talking about the burning houses, either. When people are angry, they’re burning with rage inside. When Montag senses Clarisse’s presence, it’s because he feels body heat. When Granger and Co. pick themselves up after the bombing, we get the image of a phoenix rising up from the ashes. This imagery is all over the place.
Fire seems to mean a lot of different things at different moments in Fahrenheit 451. Beatty and his fireman minions use it to destroy. But the woman whose house they burn interprets it another way: "Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." For her, it represents strength. Montag himself discovers an alternative use for fire at the end of the novel, when he realizes that it can warm instead of destroy. Like that whole cycle of life thing, fire has a constructive and destructive half. And like the books that are burned, each character in the novel is forced to interpret for themselves and confront contradictory perspectives – just like Beatty said about the books.