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Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury
Quotes

The Hearth and the Salamander

Quotes The Hearth and the Salamander
But he knew his mouth had only moved to say hello, and then when she seemed hypnotized by the salamander on his arm and the phoenix-disc on his chest, he spoke again.

When Montag first meets Clarisse, he notes that she immediately recognizes that he is a fireman based on the symbols on his uniform. Salamanders were once believed to be unaffected by flames, which is why the firemen use them as a symbol. Firemen and salamanders are seen as having similar powers, yet soon after meeting Clarisse, Montag will find he can no longer withstand setting fires with the intent of destruction.

The room was cold but nonetheless he felt he could not breathe.

After Montag meets Clarisse for the first time, upon entering his house, he immediately notices how cold and yet stifling his home feels. Even though this scene appears in the section “The Hearth and the Salamander,” it is clear there is no hearth in Montag’s home. A hearth is a source of warmth and comfort in a house, yet Montag feels nothing but the cold. The absence of a hearth here symbolizes the absence of love, connection, and true friendship in his marriage.

Well, wasn’t there a wall between him and Mildred, when you came down to it? Literally not just one wall but, so far, three!

Moments before Montag makes this realization, he reflected on how Clarisse’s dandelion trick revealed that he was no longer in love with Mildred. Here, he considers how and why he and Mildred are so disconnected—there are literal walls between them. The parlor walls are giant screens that Mildred watches and talks to all day, every day. Rather than the parlor being a place for socializing and spending time with loved ones—like a hearth is—the parlor is actually what puts the most distance between Mildred and Montag. And unlike a hearth that gives off warmth and creates feelings of comfort, the parlor creates a coldness in Montag’s marriage and leaves him feeling powerless to connect with Mildred.

“To see the firehouses burn across the land, destroyed as hotbeds of treason. The salamander devours his tail! Ho, God!”

Here, Faber responds to Montag’s plan to plant books in the homes of firemen so that the firemen can see their own houses burn. The firemen, more than anyone else, think that they are safe from fire, a belief expressed by the salamander symbol displayed on their uniforms. However, Montag wishes to teach them a lesson by proving they are not as indestructible as they think they are.

The street empty, the house burnt like an ancient bit of stage scenery, the other homes dark, the Hound here, Beatty there, the three other firemen another place, and the Salamander . . . ? He gazed at the immense engine. That would have to go, too.

After Montag kills Beatty and the other firemen and destroys the Mechanical Hound, he considers the Salamander vehicle. Although the Salamander should be the easiest to destroy, it takes Montag a moment before he realizes he is capable of destroying it. The Salamander, a vehicle named for the creature believed to be impervious to fire, a vehicle that has symbolized so much destruction and oppression, will now finally be obliterated. In this moment, Montag accepts that nothing is safe from the attack of fire, not even the machines and people who once used fire as a weapon of oppression.