Personification in Fahrenheit 451

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  • 0:02 Personification &…
  • 1:36 Relfect Character Emotions
  • 2:55 To Set the Mood
  • 4:10 Bring Inanimate…
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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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.

Personification is a very powerful literary device that authors use to create meaning for their readers. Ray Bradbury's novel 'Fahrenheit 451' is filled with examples of personification. This lesson explores Bradbury's use of this literary device.

Personification & Fahrenheit 451

Listen to and/or follow along with the following statements and see if you can figure out what they all have in common:

  • The cat smiled slyly at its owner.
  • The wind whispered gently through the tall grass.
  • The lights winked happily on the edge of the lake.

Each of these sentences includes personification, which is a literary device that gives non-human things human-like qualities. For example, in the first statement, 'The cat smiled slyly at its owner,' you know that cats do not, in fact, smile. But people do! Likewise, the wind does not whisper and lights do not 'wink happily.'

So if these statements cannot be taken literally, or at face value, why do authors include this type of literary device in their writing? The answer is really quite simple: personification helps the reader make connections to objects, moments, and scenes in a novel. While you know that wind doesn't really 'whisper gently,' this description helps the reader imagine what's happening in the novel.

Ray Bradbury, both an artful and masterful writer, uses a number of different literary devices to create meaning for his stories, especially personification. Readers encounter countless examples of personification through this very famous novel, Fahrenheit 451.

Ray Bradbury uses personification in Fahrenheit 451 for a number of reasons, but most especially to reflect character emotions, to set the mood, and to bring inanimate, or non-living, objects to life.

Personification to Reflect Character Emotions

Fahrenheit 451 shows readers a futuristic world through the eyes of Guy Montag. Montag doesn't tell the reader directly what he's thinking or feeling, but the narrator does give us valuable insights into Montag's mind. We know much of what Montag is feeling based on the way the narrator describes the setting or the things going on around the lead character.

When Montag discovers that his wife Mildred has overdosed, his reaction is reflected in the flight of jet bombers that fly over his home:

'As he stood there, the sky over the house screamed . . . The jet bombers . . . did all the screaming for him.'

Montag appears incapable of expressing how he feels in this moment. The jet bombers, however, appear to be 'screaming' for Montag. Logically, you know that airplanes don't really scream. They may make a loud or piercing sound, but screaming is really only something that humans do.

Similarly, the feeling of an old woman that Montag meets later in the novel are expressed by the setting. 'She made the room roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust of guilt that was sucked in their nostrils as they plunged about.' Clearly, rooms do not actually 'roar,' but this description helps to amplify Montag's perception of the woman and her anger when the firemen burn her books.

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