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Literary Devices in Fahrenheit 451

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  • 0:00 A World on Fire
  • 0:58 Motif
  • 1:46 Simile
  • 2:52 Allusion
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Megan Thompson

Megan has taught college English and has a master's degree in creative writing.

Literary devices help bring a piece of literature to life. Take a look at a few of the different literary devices at work in ''Fahrenheit 451'', one of the most well-known novels by Ray Bradbury.

A World on Fire

In the world of Fahrenheit 451, everything, including opinion and belief, is heated. When the firemen show up to burn down a house because it is filled with books, the woman who lives there chooses to strike a match and die in the blaze. Through the act of reading a book, the author Ray Bradbury allows us to see a world where books are dangerous, full of ideas, and therefore outlawed and feared.

One way writers create these worlds is through literary devices. A literary device is a technique used to make a piece of writing compelling or even more relatable to the reader. The great science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who lived from 1920-2012, neatly wove many literary devices into his 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, including motifs, similes, and allusions.

Motif

A motif is a dominant idea that appears throughout a literary work. Motifs are a very common tool for writers to use for a few reasons. One is that they can be quite subtle and, as a result, when the reader notices the motif, it has a big impact, almost like a light bulb turning on.

In Fahrenheit 451, one of Bradbury's motifs is religion. Even though none of the characters in the book are religious, Bradbury makes numerous religious references. The book that the main character, Montag, saves from one of the burning houses is the Bible. Montag is also searching for an identity for himself, longing to transform, or, one could argue, be reborn. The persistence of fire in the novel also summons a lot of strong Christian imagery.

Simile

Similes are another powerful literary device at work in Bradbury's novel. They are easy to recognize since they involve making a comparison, typically using words such as 'like' or 'as.' Similes might look simple, but a well-structured simile is what makes a sentence feel poetic and rich.

In Fahrenheit 451, for example, when Montag was listening to his boss Beatty talk, he felt uneasy. To describe this more imagistically to the reader, Bradbury wrote, 'Montag sat like a carved white stone.' Immediately, the reader has an image in mind, thus illustrating the power of the simile. The simile lets us picture what we are reading, and this brings life to a story.

It's important to remember, however, that similes are not merely for decorative purposes. Similes can help us better understand a character's motives, or the overall progression of a story. They allow insight, and when an author grants us passage into the inner-workings of a story, we should always take note.

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