Metaphors in Fahrenheit 451: Examples & Analysis

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  • 0:01 Metaphors & Fahrenheit 451
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Ray Bradbury is well-known for his vivid descriptions and captivating imagery, but how exactly does he do it? This lesson explores and analyzes Bradbury's use of metaphor in 'Fahrenheit 451.'

Metaphors & Fahrenheit 451

Take a look at the following set of sentences. What do they have in common?

  • The child skated across the pond.
  • He wept at his mother's grave.
  • They laughed at his joke.

You may have noticed that each of the sentences is a bit dry. They're very to the point; no frills, no fuss. Now, take a look at the next set of sentences. How are they different from the first set?

  • The child skated across the pond, a graceful wisp of smoke skimming the surface of the ice.
  • He wept at his mother's grave, unable to hold back the waterfall that was his grief.
  • A veritable pack of hyenas, they laughed at his joke.

As you can see, the second set of sentences is much more interesting, but why is this the case? Each sentence includes a metaphor, or a comparison where two seemingly unlikely things are said to be the same. Metaphors are a popular type of literary device, which are used by authors to create vivid and meaningful descriptions for the readers.

Few can disagree that Ray Bradbury is a master of metaphors. Throughout his novel Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury captivates his readers with bright imagery and stunning comparisons that illuminate the imagination. Bradbury's metaphors create numerous comparisons in Fahrenheit 451. Of note, Bradbury uses a number of metaphors to describe the work of the firemen and books, Montag's home and wife, and Montag's escape from the authorities.

Metaphors About Firemen and Books

The taboo of books is a central theme in Fahrenheit 451. As a fireman, it's not Montag's job to fight fires, but to start them. The first paragraph of Bradbury's novel reveals Montag in his element:

'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.'

This quote includes two metaphors. First, Bradbury likens the hose to a lethal snake, impressing the destructive nature of Montag's job upon the reader. Second, Bradbury shows that Montag considers his own hands to be the hands of 'some amazing conductor,' emphasizing the point that he sees beauty and importance in his seemingly horrific work.

Additionally, Bradbury's metaphors transfigure books into countless shapes and meanings. Bradbury compares the books to birds as Montag stands with his 'great python,' '. . .while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house.' Bradbury's metaphor likens burning the books to slaughtering living breathing things. Similarly, Bradbury's metaphor, 'Titles glittered their golden eyes, falling, gone,' brings life to the books by describing them as having eyes.

Perhaps one of the most memorable metaphors in Fahrenheit 451 likens books to guns: 'A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. . . Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?' Montag's boss, Captain Beatty, emphasizes the perceived danger of books with these metaphorical words. After all, knowledge is power.

Metaphors About Montag's Home and Wife

Bradbury draws readers further into Montag's reality as he describes Montag's home and wife. After a long night of burning, Montag enters his bedroom: 'It was like coming into the cold marbled room of a mausoleum after the moon has set. Complete darkness, not a hint of the silver world outside, the windows tightly shut, the chamber a tomb world where no sound from the great city could penetrate.'

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