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Fahrenheit 451

Main Ideas

Metaphors and Similes

Main Ideas Metaphors and Similes

Part I: The Hearth and the Salamander

With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. 


In this first glimpse of Montag, the narrator compares Montag’s flame igniter to a giant snake spewing a deadly venom that kills history, while juxtaposing that image with a comparison of Montag’s hands to those of an orchestra conductor, suggesting that Montag is not just a killer of history, but a very skilled and almost artistic one. 

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well read man? 


Beatty explains to Montag that as people became less intelligent, intellectuals came to be viewed as criminals who couldn’t be trusted, and books as dangerous weapons intellectuals could use against others. 

He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back.  


Once Clarisse tells Montag her ideas about the world and asks him if he’s happy, he realizes that not only is he unhappy, but he has been pretending to be happy as if he were wearing a disguise, and he can never go back to pretending now that Clarisse has revealed to him the truth. 

A book alighted, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering. In the dim, wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words delicately painted thereon. 


As Montag and his fellow firefighters burn a home full of books, one book lands right in his hands like a bird, its pages moving like wings, and Montag reads a sentence that sparks his interest. 

Part II: The Sieve and the Sand

Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. 


Characters in Fahrenheit 451 often describe unnatural things by comparing them to things in nature as if they have taken nature’s place, such as when Beatty compares a book’s burned pages to black butterflies.

"How like a beautiful statue of ice it was, melting in the sun." 


Faber tells Montag about how people fell out of love with literature over a long period of time, comparing literature to a detailed ice sculpture melting in the heat, suggesting that literature slowly lost its beauty until it became unrecognizable. 

If you put it in your ear, Montag, I can sit comfortably home, warming my frightened bones, and hear and analyse the firemen's world, find its weaknesses, without danger. I'm the Queen Bee, safe in the hive. You will be the drone, the travelling ear. 


When Faber and Montag decide to work together, Faber gives Montag a small two-way radio to wear in his ear, comparing himself to the important brain of the operation, the Queen Bee, and Montag to a drone, a mindless worker bee who does what it is told.   

Part III: Burning Bright

The helicopter light shot down a dozen brilliant pillars that built a cage all about the man. 


As the authorities and news cameras search for Montag, they realize they’ve lost him, so they focus on a different man and say he is Montag to cover their mistake; the helicopter lights shine down and surround the unsuspecting man like prison bars.

Grandfather's been dead for all these years, but if you lifted my skull, by God, in the convolutions of my brain you'd find the big ridges of his thumbprint.


After the explosion, Granger explains that his grandfather long ago taught him the importance of remembering the power of the wilderness and that this information had a big effect on his thinking, almost as if his grandfather had touched his brain with his thumb and left a physical mark.

"City looks like a heap of baking-powder. It's gone."


After the bombing at the end of the novel, Granger compares the remains of the city to a pile of white powder, suggesting that nothing is left but dust after the explosion.