Fahrenheit 451

by: Ray Bradbury

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing plays an important role in signaling Montag’s transformation from a knowledge-repressing fireman to a book-reading free thinker. Bradbury frequently uses foreshadowing to develop an atmosphere of tension that evokes Montag’s growing disillusionment with the status quo. He employs this type of foreshadowing very early in the novel, beginning with Montag’s initial encounter with Clarisse McClellan, in which Montag first recognizes that he is deeply unhappy. This realization sparks a tense atmosphere that both initiates and foreshadows Montag’s personal transformation.

Captain Beatty’s murder

Throughout Fahrenheit 451, the action—and inaction—of Montag’s hands foreshadow his murder of Captain Beatty. The narrator consistently mentions Montag’s hands when describing his most significant acts of defiance throughout the novel. The first instance occurs when Montag steals a book from the house of the woman who chooses to die with her books. The narrator explains: “Montag had done nothing. His hand had done it all, his hand, with a brain of its own, with a conscience and a curiosity in each trembling finger, had turned thief.” The reader also learns that Montag’s hands played a role in his first encounter with Professor Faber. Even though Montag, a fireman, suspects that Faber has a book of poetry in his pocket, Montag’s hands refuse to arrest the man: “His hands stayed on his knees, numb and useless.” When Montag sets Captain Beatty on fire in the novel’s third section, his hands similarly have a mind of their own: “Beatty glanced...at Montag’s fingers and his eyes widened the faintest bit. Montag saw the surprise there and himself glanced to his hands to see what new thing they had done.” Descriptions of Montag’s hands—which function almost separately from his own will—foreshadow Montag’s final act of violent defiance.

The Mechanical Hound’s chase

At the beginning of the novel, the Mechanical Hound unexpectedly growls at Montag, and this encounter foreshadows the chase at the novel’s end. Technically, the Hound should not be able to exhibit aggression toward Montag, since it would have to be specifically programmed to do so. As Captain Beatty explains, “It’s only copper wire, storage batteries, and electricity,” and hence it cannot decide who or what it will target: “It just ‘functions.’” Even so, Montag insists that the Hound doesn’t like him, and he hypothesizes that someone could easily have programmed the Hound to react to his particular biological profile. Although the Hound doesn’t attack Montag at this point in the narrative, this early example of unprecedented aggression foreshadows the Hound’s eventual chase following Beatty’s murder—the chase that ends with the Hound killing a Montag lookalike for the entertainment of viewers watching the event live on television.