The symbolism used in this novel varies from different animals to things in nature. One of the biggest symbols throughout the novel is fire. Fire has multiple meanings in Fahrenheit 451, and is usually symbolized as something to be feared. Throughout the novel, fire is something that people do not want, even though it can be so much more than a bad thing. Fire can represent knowledge and awareness, rebirth and construction, as well as destruction.
Fire is depicted, throughout history, as a symbol of knowledge and awareness. Fire is usually a symbol that appears in novels right at a time when the main character has an epiphany or realizes something important. In Fahrenheit 451, fire is represented throughout the whole novel as a destructive force and only in the end is it shown as something good. The fire when Montag was with the “hobos” is the main example in the novel of how fire is a symbol for knowledge. “they finished eating and put out the fire. Bradbury 164)” This quotation may not seem relevant but if you read deeper into the surrounding events, the fire represents a source of knowledge as the hobos converse with Montag. The fire in this section of the novel, in a way, illuminates Montag’s soul. It makes him realize his faults and helps him to reconstruct his views towards the society. Not only does fire symbolize knowledge, it also symbolizes rebirth and construction. A symbol in Fahrenheit 451 that illustrates this, is the phoenix. There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. He must have been first cousin to man. But every time he burnt himself up, he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. (Bradbury 163)” This quotation shows that with destruction, comes rebirth. Fire is capable of destroying something, just as the phoenix was burnt to death, but just as something is destroyed, something new is born.
This is also illustrated with the dead in Fahrenheit 451 are thrown into an incinerator and burned, people in real life burn their lost ones in cremation ceremonies. It is said in ancient Greek and Roman mythology that burning the body helps the soul to be purified and pass on to the afterlife. Though fire can represent knowledge and rebirth, it is mainly depicted as a destructive force. In the novel fire is used to burn books which are knowledge. By burning this knowledge the society was kept in a confined situation where the amount of knowledge in everyone is evenly distributed. It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. (Bradbury 3)” This quotation shows Montag’s feelings towards burning in the beginning of the novel. Fire destroyed the books. Fire destroyed homes. Fire destroyed the light in everyone. The fire was not only used to destroy things but it kept the people of society in line. The fire may have been represented as a disciplinary tool. By having a constant source of the fire, people had fear distilled in them from the start.
This made them subconsciously obedient even though they seemed to be insubordinate. The overall theme of fire in Fahrenheit 451 is a feeling of destruction. With the right surroundings and intentions it was used for so much more than that. It was used as a way to exhibit knowledge. Above all, though the depiction of destruction is very influential, and the representation of knowledge is somewhat there, the most important symbolism of fire in the novel would be when it symbolized rebirth. Without rebirth no one can evolve and learn from previous mistakes.