Symbolism is a literary device used in a novel to represent ideas and concepts as well as convey a deeper meaning. Analyzing symbolism helps you better understand the author’s intention, like in this Fahrenheit 451 literary analysis. Ray Bradbury uses mirrors, a phoenix, and symbolic chapter titles in Fahrenheit 451 to express the theme of knowledge being power.
Mirrors serve as a symbol of self-awareness. Granger explains to Montag that they will “... go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look into them.” In this section of the book, Montag and the Intellectuals discuss how in the future they will share the books they have memorized with the citizens of a new society. Building a mirror factory would allow them to reflect on the past mistakes made by the government to prevent them from happening again. Montag has a memory from Chicago. He remembers “... falling flat, going down, saw or felt, or imagined he saw or felt the walls go dark in Millie’s face, heard her screaming, because in the millionth part of the time, she saw her reflected face there, in a mirror instead of a crystal ball, and it was such a wildly empty face …”. Mildred seeing her reflection in a mirror rather than a crystal ball shows that she is finally able to see her reality. Since the beginning of the book, Mildred has convinced herself that she is content with her life. When she sees her reflection, she realizes that she isn’t.
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A phoenix is a bird that burns itself up and then rises from the ashes. They are used to symbolize rebirth. Granger tells Montag when the city got bombed that humankind is like a phoenix. He explains that “There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been the first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again.”. Granger is saying that the city has been reduced to ashes, similarly to when a phoenix burns itself, but that leaves the opportunity for change. Granger goes on to say that “... it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did.” The citizens in the new society will have an advantage because they will be able to remember their past mistakes.
Chapter two of Fahrenheit 451 is titled “The Sieve and the Sand”. A sieve is a mesh utensil used for straining. The sand represents knowledge, and the sieve represents Montag’s ability to retain knowledge. In the book, Montag has a memory of being a child at the beach; his cousin told him that if he filled the sieve with sand he would be given a dime Montag recalls that “the faster he poured, the faster it sifted through with a hot whisper. His hands were tired, the sand was boiling, the sieve was empty.” The sand falls through the holes in the sieve showing that as much as Montag tried to memorize and understand books he couldn’t. While on the subway, Montag tried to read the Bible but “the words fell through, and he thought, in a few hours, there will be Beatty, and here will be me handing this over, so no phrase must escape me, each line must be memorized.”. Montag tried to fill the sieve with sand similar to how he is trying to fill his mind with the words in the Bible. So, Fahrenheit 451 literary analysis shows the main thems of literary devices in this novel.