1. Identify and analyze the significance of any mythological allusions presented in Fahrenheit 451 (Foster, Chapter 9)
– Mythological Allusions:
In Fahrenheit 451, mythology is to on multiple occasions.
Originally, mythology was used to explain occurrences that didn’t have a clear reason (for example, lightening and thunder were said to be the results of Zeus’ anger). In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses mythological allusions to represent the veiled corruption in society.
Quote: “There was a silly… bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one… thing the Phoenix never had. We know the… silly thing we just did.”
The Phoenix was a bird featured in greek, chinese, egyptian and persian mythology. Though it appeared in different forms in each. The phoenix had a life span of 50-100 thousand years, after which it died in a fiery inferno, just to spring out of the ashes, reborn and young. The phoenix’s lifespan was always exactly the same length as as it’s previous one.
Quote: “Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun, and now he’s burnt his damn wings, he wonders why.” Captain Beatty pg. 113
The quote stated previously is a reference to icarus. Icarus is a character in greek mythology who flew too close to the sun, and burned his wings. Captain Beatty referred to this because Montag behaved dangerously, similarly to Icarus, and suffered (His house burned) as a result.
Quote: “Drink deep or taste not the Pieran Spring; there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.” Captain Beatty pg. 106
This quote by Captain Beatty refers to the Spring of Piera in Greece.
In mythology this site was the location of Muses, goddesses said to inspire poets and musicians. Captain Beatty was referring to how Montag was influenced by the taste of literature he had to where he felt he was inspired, similar to a poet.
2. Identify and analyze Bradbury’s use of symbols in the novel. How does each symbol relate to an aspect of Bradbury’s theme or message (Foster, chapter 12)?
The most pronounced use of symbolism in the novel is the books themselves. The main role of the Firemen is to destroy all books and the properties that contain them. What is so threatening about a book, and why must all traces of them be destroyed? The books represent ideas and knowledge–and knowledge is power. The Firemen are in charge of making sure no one gains knowledge over another. Consider Captain Beatty quoting Alexander Pope on page 102: ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.’ This quote means that when we begin to learn, it makes us thirst for more, but we ultimately become aware of much more in the process. The Firemen, who represent the government’s interests, don’t want unhappy, deep thinkers questioning the status quo, or the way things currently are. So it’s beneficial for them (the government) to destroy the very things that can further knowledge and, therefore, questions. In other words, they wish to destroy books. This might sound a bit alien, but this kind of thinking exists today. You might have heard that the culture in North Korea is strictly controlled by the state to the point where citizens are unable (or nearly unable) to obtain books or other forms of art produced outside the country. This is because the North Korean government doesn’t want its citizens to be offered alternative knowledge to the narrative the government has given them.
The Dual Nature of Fire
Consider the last rainstorm you were caught in. It might have been merely annoying, but as you probably know, heavy rain can cause a lot of trouble, such as flooding or traction issues on a highway. But remember this, if we didn’t have rain we would lose quite a few crops and plant life (not to mention how dry the air would get). This is an example of dualism. In the novel, the symbol of fire can be viewed as a dualistic, or two-sided, force. Readers may be quick to judge the role of fire in the novel, but we have to wonder if there could be a deeper meaning to the role fire plays in the larger narrative. Certainly, fire is the tool of destruction used by the Firemen to destroy the books, which, as we learned earlier, symbolize knowledge. However, fire can also be viewed as a tool, at least when it’s used responsibly. This is certainly the case near the end of the novel, when Montag is fleeing from the city and comes across a group of men who are warming themselves by the fire. In this instance, Montag makes the realization that fire can bring people together rather than separating them from each other.
3. Can Fahrenheit 451 be read as a political novel? What statements does Bradbury seem to be making about society? Who/what does he seem to blame the most for the ill’s of Montag’s Society (Foster Chapter 13)?
Politics: Political and Social Issues in Fahrenheit 451:
Failing educational standards- In schools, students only learn factoids.
Anti-intellectualism- All Mrs. Phelps could do was repeat herself when Montag wanted to have a conversation with her, Mildred, and Mrs. Bowles.
Censorship- Society censored books and newspapers for things that were not politically correct.
Totalitarian Government- The government does not allow anyone to read books.
Increase in Media- All day, people are bombarded with media. It is taboo for people to actually talk to one another instead of watching t.v. in their parlor on any one of their four walls. The television programs are so part of society, they, the programs, are are given the title of the “family.”
Pressure to Conform- Clarisse is so pressured to conform, she quits going to school. Those that do not conform are driven out of towns and forced to be homeless, or they are killed/imprisoned. Examples “‘Education’ shouldn’t be political. It’s neither Democratic nor Republican. It’s a problem.”- Ray Bradbury
How can a society such as Montag’s turn their backs on book when they cause the mind to wander as it does?
4. Does any character in the novel seem to represent a christ figure? Provide an argument in favor of, or in opposition to, this idea (Foster, Chapter 14).
If any character in the novel represents a christ figure, it has to be Montag. Even though he does not share all the same traits as christ, does not mean that he is not a Christ figure.
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