Similes in Fahrenheit 451

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  • 0:00 What Are Similes?
  • 1:13 Similes in 'Fahrenheit 451'
  • 5:09 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.

A simile is a literary device that creates a comparison between two things. This lesson explores Ray Bradbury's use of similes to create vivid imagery throughout 'Fahrenheit 451.'

What Are Similes?

Listen to these three sentences:

  • The sun was shining bright.
  • Warm wind blew through the trees.
  • She sat quietly.

Each of these sentences is pretty straightforward. They're not very exciting or interesting, but you know exactly what they mean. Now listen to these next three sentences. How are they different from the first set I read?

  • The sun was shining brightly, like an immense golden disk in the sky.
  • Warm wind blew through the trees, like the soft breath of a child.
  • She sat quietly, as if she were an exquisite statue.

The beginning of each sentence is the same, but each now includes a comparison that creates new meaning. Each of these is an example of a simile, or a comparison between two seemingly unlike things using the words 'like' or 'as.'

Similes are a popular literary device that authors use to capture their reader's attention. Ray Bradbury uses similes throughout Fahrenheit 451 like a child uses crayons to brighten a coloring book (just in case you missed it, that was another simile!).

Similes in Fahrenheit 451

Bradbury's work is filled with similes. They illuminate people, places, and things and engage the reader with brilliant images and comparisons. Fahrenheit 451 follows the life of firefighter Guy Montag. Although Montag is not the one narrating the story, the reader has the unique opportunity to see the world as he experiences it.

As a fireman, Montag is responsible for burning books. While burning the home of an elderly woman, Montag is particularly moved by what he sees: 'They (the books) fell like slaughtered birds and the woman stood below like a small girl, among the bodies.' This passage includes two similes. Bradbury compares the books to slaughtered birds and the woman to a small girl. Describing the books as slaughtered birds explains the immense gravity of the situation. Books are non-living objects, but Montag perceives his actions as murder. Imagining a room full of dead birds is far more powerful than simply picturing books scattered on the floor.

Montag's world is filled with war. The black jets that streak across the sky are commonplace and go unnoticed by most of the people living in the futurist society. Montag, however, is particularly affected by their presence: 'He felt that the stars had been pulverized by the sound of the black jets and that in the morning the earth would be covered with their dust like a strange snow.' Of course it's impossible for the sound of an airplane to destroy a star, but Bradbury's description illuminates how Montag feels. Bradbury compares the imaginary star dust as being like 'strange snow.' This helps the reader picture the destruction that Montag perceives around him.

The word 'silence' has a very direct meaning. Silence is synonymous with quiet. No noise. No sound. Bradbury, however, transforms the meaning of the word: 'But there was something else in the silence that he heard. It was like a breath exhaled upon the window. It was like a faint drift of greenish luminescent smoke, the motion of a single huge October leaf blowing across the lawn and away.'

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