Allusions in Fahrenheit 451

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury, the author uses allusions to infuse meaning into this novel about censorship in a dystopian society. In this lesson, we will learn more about the meanings of some of these allusions.

Mass Destruction and Greek Mythology

What do Greek Mythology, the Volcano at Pompeii, the Holy Bible, and the burning of heretics at the stake have in common? All are significant events that author Ray Bradbury, draws upon to make allusions in Fahrenheit 451. An allusion is a reference to either another piece of literature or a historical event that sets up the reader to bring meaning to a story. Let's take a look at some allusions in this story.

Master Ridley

In the first part of the story, Montag and the other firemen answer a report of illegal books at a woman's house. When they arrive, the woman says, 'Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.' Rather than allow them to burn her home and books in vain, the woman stays in the house and burns with them, becoming a martyr for the cause. She has a profound effect on Montag who realizes that there is nothing in his life that he cares that much about. He wants to know more about what is in those books. What did she mean by her quote about Master Ridley?

In October of 1555, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were burned at the stake for heresy because their beliefs opposed those of the British monarchy under Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary. Latimer is quoted as saying to Ridley, 'Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.' Although sentenced to horrible deaths, Latimer and Ridley's martyrdom served the Reformists' movement that continued after their demise. Like Latimer and Ridley, the woman has a cause worth dying for and is willing to sacrifice herself if it leads other people to take up her cause against censorship.


Mount Vesuvius is a volcano in Italy that suddenly erupted in 79 A.D., killing everyone in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum with toxic gases and rocks. In Bradbury's novel, when Mildred runs to the door to greet her shallow friends, she rushes as if it is a life and death matter, such as an eruption of Vesuvius. 'He was eating a light supper at nine in the evening when the front door cried out in the hall and Mildred ran from the parlour like a native fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius.' This reference indicates that Mildred has lost sight of things of actual importance and puts all of her energy into surface-level entertainment.

Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius

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