Fahrenheit 451

by: Ray Bradbury

Style

The writing style of Fahrenheit 451 is lyrical and descriptive. Bradbury’s poetic prose makes frequent use of similes, metaphors, and personification. For instance, near the end of the novel when Montag is floating downriver, the narrator describes the river as “mild and leisurely, going away from the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapors for supper.” Here the narrator employs figurative language to describe the spiritually malnourished city dwellers who subsist on nothing but illusions and meaningless entertainments—that is, on “shadows,” “steam,” and “vapors.”

Bradbury’s lyrical and adjective-heavy writing style enriches the story, endowing it with symbolic meaning. For example, Fahrenheit 451 contains a thematic preoccupation with fire. Fire appears throughout the novel, but the symbolic meaning of fire undergoes a transformation over the course of the story. Bradbury’s use of figurative language plays an important role in this transformation. At the beginning of the book, fire symbolizes the pleasure of destruction:

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.

Bradbury uses one long, breathless sentence to capture the violent pleasure of setting the world on fire. Fire becomes at once an emblem of danger (the “great python”) and a mark of artistry (the “amazing conductor”). By the end of the novel, however, fire becomes a symbol not for destruction, but for life. Near the book’s conclusion, Bradbury provides an image of the sun as its own source of flame, and hence as a symbol for self-knowledge and internal drive: “And what lights the sun? Its own fire. And the sun goes on, day after day, burning and burning.” Burning no longer destroys. Instead, the perpetual fire of the sun keeps the world alive.