Literary Elements in Fahrenheit 451

In countless books or novels, literary devices are usually one of the many driving elements that determine the fate of the story and the characters within it. Authors generally utilize literary devices to help depict, build, and eventually develop themes within their works. In the novel, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, literary elements play a major influence on the development of characters and how their actions formulate a theme of destruction within it. The story revolves around a fireman by the name of Guy Montag, who is motivated by his experiences to make a change to the society in which he lives.

In a society where fire and burning is used to censor books, knowledge, and information from the general public, the censorship of information is subjective to the destruction done by the society against itself. Montag becomes highly opposed to the society over time, and risks everything he has in order to destroy it. A theme of Fahrenheit 451 is destruction and it is developed through the literary devices of motifs, archetypes, and indirect characterization.

The theme of destruction in Fahrenheit 451 was able to be developed one way through the use of motifs in different parts of the novel. A recurring element proving to have significance to the idea of destruction was the repetition of fire and burning. The constant pattern of burning could be displayed in one instance when Montag along with other crew members reported for a task in “a flaking three-story house in the ancient part of the city” (Bradbury 32). When the crew encountered a “great mound of books”, Bradbury explains, “They pumped the cold fluid from the numeraled 451 tanks strapped to their shoulders. They coated each book, they pumped rooms full of it”. The idea of burning was also acknowledged in another instance when Montag was accused of storing books inside his house, reported by his wife and her friends.

Montag was demanded by his fire captain, Captain Beatty, to burn his house and the books within it (110). Bradbury cites, “The books leapt and danced like roasted birds, their wings ablaze with red and yellow feathers”. Both occurrences prove burning books is a destruction of not only the texts, but the knowledge within them, as Montag eventually noticed. The society intends to shield the public from any harmful or contradictory material within them, and the use of destruction through burning accounts for their intentions. Another motif appearing in Fahrenheit 451 was the dropping of bombs from jet planes to destroy the city.

As Montag was talking with his mentor, Faber, they sensed “the great jet sound tremble inside themselves”. Later on, the idea was constantly repeated until Bradbury described that “the city rolled over and fell down dead” from the bombs. The repeated use and thought inside Montag of the jet planes symbolizes destruction of the old society. The city exploding, turning it to rubble, destroys the society Montag resented. Both motifs, book burning and jets dropping bombs, create and demonstrate destruction and its role in shaping the theme.

The utilization of archetypes poses yet another way the theme of destruction is used in Fahrenheit 451. In the novel, Montag emerges as the so-called anti-hero, shaped by his actions and will against society. Montag only chooses to change society not for the good of others, but exclusively for his personal willingness and desires against it. For example, when Montag begins to develop hatred for humanity, the use of statements such as “I’m so damned unhappy” and “I’m so mad” shows that he only feels the need to overthrow society on a personal level, and not for anyone else.

In another case, another character that comes into play is Professor Faber. Faber stands as a character that, when attempting to overthrow society, becomes a mentor for Montag and aids him along his journey. His support is acknowledged when he gives an earpiece to Montag, which he uses to provide him with a sense of direction, allowing him to “stay behind the lines” and listen with his “damned ears” at the same time. Faber was able to use the earpiece to lead Montag in the right direction, and more importantly save his life in the most desperate time of need. The combination of Montag’s determination to destroy society as an anti-hero and Faber’s presence alongside him as a mentor are catalysts in the eventual destruction of the society in which they live. Both of their archetypes in accordance with each other justify the theme of destruction, as seen in what the two were able to accomplish together.

A final way the theme of destruction in Fahrenheit 451 was modeled was through the application of indirect characterization. Bradbury characterizes most, if not all of the characters indirectly, and each character displays their personality through it. One was seen in the character of Clarisse McClellan, where her passion for adventure and discovery was entirely described by Bradbury indirectly. Bradbury states through her dialogue, “ ‘I like to smell things and look at things, and sometimes stay up all night, walking, and watch the sun rise”. Shown through dialogue, the author uses quotes to indirectly portray her curiosity for nature and the things around her. Her desire and curiosity had a mere impact on Montag, where her ways motivated him to change his ways. Her role in Montag’s personality was shown in Montag through his thoughts, specifically when he began to question to himself, “Were all fireman picked the for their looks as well as their proclivities?”.

Bradbury reveals through Montag’s thoughts that he begins to notice his place in society, and how he his one among many stock characters, seen in firemen. Prior to Clarisse being introduced, Montag was more accepting of his status in comparison with society. With the addition of Clarisse into his life, her affinity for exploration and learning was shadowed through the many ways Montag evolved as the novel went on. Clarisse’s influence ultimately led to the destruction of the restrictive society, with her personality being the driving factor in Montag’s rage against humanity. Bradbury’s characterization of both Montag and Clarisse indirectly fostered the eventual destruction of their society, therefore confirming the theme of destruction within it.

The recurring theme of destruction in the novel, Fahrenheit 451 was well produced by Ray Bradbury in a number of ways. More so than anything, the use of literary devices throughout the novel proved to be the most important component in the production of it. By using the literary devices of motifs, archetypes, and indirect characterization, Bradbury was capable of manipulating the characters, the plot, and ultimately the theme within the story. Destroying books to censor information, and the destruction of the society done by the characters demonstrated just how Bradbury was successful by using such devices. Literary elements were such an important contributing factor in creating a prevalent theme in Fahrenheit 451, and proved to be equally effective in creating a powerful overall message for the audience it was designed.

Works Cited

  1. Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, June 2013.