Motifs in Fahrenheit 451

Instructor: Rachel Noorda
This lesson discusses motifs, or a distinct features or ideas, in 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury. This lesson will be centered around religion, nature, and paradox motifs throughout this piece of literature.

Defining Motif

Have you ever been reading a book and noticed that there are certain symbols or ideas that keep coming up? Those reoccurrences are called motifs, and they were deliberately inserted into the story by the author.

A motif is a distinct feature or idea in any literary work. It unifies certain themes and images, and highlights them for the reader's special attention. A motif uses symbols to help develop a theme or central idea of the work and, through repetition, motifs bring something to the attention of the reader.

Motifs in Fahrenheit 451

Three of the main motifs in Fahrenheit 451 are religion, nature imagery, and paradoxes. These are repeated throughout the novel to focus your attention, as the reader, on the important themes of the novel.


Religion is a motif in Fahrenheit 451. At the very beginning of the story, Montag steals a book during a big fire, which happens to be the Bible, and from the books initial theft, there are several more Christian references in the novel.

Montag Steals a Copy of the Bible

One example of a religious motif in Fahrenheit 451 is Faber telling Montag to pity and forgive those who continue to do wrong (by destroying books), instead of getting angry, because they don't know what they are truly doing. This is a reference to the Christian principle of forgiveness.

Another example occurs at the end of the novel with Montag going on a walk with the other men:

'Montag felt the slow stir of words, the slow simmer. And when it came to his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on a day like this, to make the trip a little easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that.'

This is a quote from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Nature Imagery

Nature imagery represents truth and enlightenment in Fahrenheit 451, especially for Montag, but also for Clarisse, the young woman he befriends early in the novel.

Nature Imagery Is a Motif in Fahrenheit 451

Montag lives in a world where the natural has been replaced by the emptiness of the mechanical, robotic, and man-made. There is a mechanical hound, but also a 'electronic-eyed snake', which is not a snake at all of course, but a way to describe the suction tube used to pump Mildred's stomach. Montag also compares books to birds:

'The men above were hurling shovelfuls of magazines into the dusty air. They fell like slaughtered birds'

'The books leapt and danced like roasted birds, their wings ablaze with red and yellow feathers.'

When Montag meets Clarisse, she shows him how to enjoy nature. She says things like 'The rain feels good. I love to walk in it.' Later, when Montag is thinking about Clarisse, he describes her as 'the girl who had known the weather and never been burned by the fire-flies, the girl who had known what dandelions meant rubbed off on your chin.'

The more enlightened Montag becomes, the more truth he finds, he moves away from the mechanical, robotic and man-made and towards the natural. Literally, as the novel progresses, he physically moves from the city to the country.


A paradox is a contradiction, and Bradbury uses paradoxes as a motif throughout Fahrenheit 451. Paradoxes show the reader how emotionless and mechanical existence is for the characters in this novel; they're a lot like machines because they exist, but they don't really display any feelings.

Another paradox in Fahrenheit 451 is the mechanical hound:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account