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Foster meets

Fahrenheit 451
Kayla Cook, Sammy Quiroz, Hunter Davis
“Is
“IsHe
HeSerious? AndOther
Serious? And OtherIronies”
Ironies”(Part
(Part
1)1)

“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see
things blackened and changed.”

In HtRLlaP, Foster observes that irony expands the range of interpretations


that can be applied to any symbol. This notion is what allows fire to be reimagined
as not simply a force of havoc and destruction, but rather of beauty and change.
This alternative view of fire that exists in juxtaposition to its conventional identity
warrants a reevaluation of the convictions of the reader. It should be noted that
while describing fire as beautiful, Bradbury chooses to employ the characteristics
of fire that are usually viewed with a negative connotation. As such, Bradbury
suggests that we do not have to fundamentally change who we are to be different,
but rather we must change our perspective. Within the context of Fahrenheit 451,
irony serves to question our beliefs. Symbols such as fire, books, and knowledge
dawn new masks in effort to define the meanings of beauty, happiness, tyranny,
and justice.
“Is
“IsHe
HeSerious? AndOther
Serious? And OtherIronies”
Ironies”(Part
(Part
2)1)

“What? Did we have a wild party or something? Feel like I’ve a hangover. God I’m
hungry. Who was here?”

Foster also observes in HtRLlaP that irony is utilized to present the


audience with a greater understanding of the situation than the characters.
Throughout Fahrenheit 451, this allows the audience to observe how they
themselves would handle a situation given the full context. Mildred’s suicide
attempt is undermined by her lack of recollection of her thoughts and actions. This
adds a layer of meaning that may only be recognized by the readers. Whereas a
suicide attempt should be regarded as serious and grave, in the novel it dawns the
identity of unexceptional within society.
“Is He Serious?
“FlightsAnd Other (Part
of Fancy” Ironies”
1) (Part 1)

“...He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the
furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went
up in sparklings whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.” -Fahrenheit 451, page 1

In HtRLlaP, Thomas Foster explained “flight is freedom.” Beyond the symbolism of literal flight within novels,
figurative flight can also be interpreted. Some novels, including Fahrenheit 451, include images of birds, feathers, and flying,
“all of which, while not referring to literal flight, evoke thoughts of metaphorical flight, of escape,” claims Foster. Throughout
Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury incorporates several images related to flight. He often describes the books as either being birds or
having bird-like qualities. In this passage, Guy Montag refers to the group of firefighters as “a swarm of fireflies,” and he
describes the books as “pigeon-winged.” By using “swarm” and “fireflies” to describe the group of firefighters, Bradbury
develops an image of a uniform group, with the purpose of bringing light to others. Ironically, the firefighters believed that by
burning books, they were creating a free, enlightened society by removing the ability for people to make independent
choices. However, Bradbury purposefully describes the books as “pigeon-winged”. Pigeons, much larger than fireflies, have
the ability to fly further and at faster speeds than the bugs. Additionally, pigeons belong to the same family of doves, but are
often perceived as dirty pests rather than peace and purity. The significance of Bradbury choosing to have Montag initially
perceive books as pigeons, shows that despite the fact that books are a doorway to freedom and an escape of the
monotonous society, the firemen refuse to acknowledge this. Rather, they prefer to view these books as dirty pests. This
description of the books eventually transforms over time from pigeon pests, to white pigeons--very similar to doves, to a
Phoenix. This transformation signifies the character development of Montag, as well as the steps taken towards a free
society.
“Is He Serious?
“FlightsAnd Other (Part
of Fancy” Ironies”
2) (Part 1)

“Books bombarded his shoulders, his arms, his upturned face. A book lit, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in
his hands, wings fluttering. In the dim, wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words
delicately painted thereon. In all the rush and fervor, Montag had only an instant to read a line, but it blazed in his
mind for the next minute as if stamped there with a fiery steel.” -Fahrenheit 451, page 34

In this passage, two chapters of HtRLlaP can be applied to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Snow is described by Foster
as “clean, stark, severe, warm, inhospitable, inviting, playful, suffocating, filthy [over time]”. It also can represent a
“great unifier.” Essentially, Foster explained that snow can mean almost anything. In the context of this passage,
the white seems to symbolize purity, and alludes to dove-like qualities. Also, as aforementioned, the feather and
pigeon evoke images of freedom and escape. As Montag is helping raid a house, he begins to realize that books may
not merely be the dirty pests that he previously believed. He begins to consider them to as white pigeons, almost
as a pure and peaceful dove would look. This description illustrates Montag’s development as a character, and his
progression towards recognizing the freedom that books can bring for not only him as a character, but for the
society in which he lives.
“Is“If
HeShe
Serious?
Comes And Other
Up, It’s Ironies”
Baptism” (Part
(Part 1) 1)

“And sometimes, I tell them, I like to put my head back, like this, and let the rain fall in my mouth. It
tastes just like wine. Have you ever tried it?[...] And then, very slowly, as he walked, he tilted his head
back in the rain, for just a few moments, and opened his mouth…”bbbh
In this passage from Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse serves as a sort of spiritual guide (similar to the role of a
priest), by introducing Guy to her perception of the world. Whereas through Baptism in the Christian
faith a priest formally brings an individual into the church, through the symbolic Baptism occurring in
this case, Clarisse is unintentionally introducing Guy to the world that Clarisse sees and lives in by
standing in the rain rain with him and telling him about the way the rain tastes to her. Throughout the
novel, Clarisse is described as an extremely fair skinned girl with blonde hair. This use of the color
white serves to make Clarisse appear as an angelic figure, making her holy in the eyes of the reader.
She succeeds in her unintentional quest to open Montag’s eyes to her world when Montag tastes the
drops of rain. Clarisse again serves the function of a religious/spiritual guide through this parallel to
the Bible in which Jesus turns water into wine. In the Bible, this is the first miracle Jesus performs,
just as in Fahrenheit 451 it is the first time that Montag begins to question things and see them
differently. She has baptised Montag into her school of thought by standing in the rain with him.
“Is“If
HeShe
Serious?
Comes And Other
Up, It’s Ironies”
Baptism” (Part
(Part 2) 1)

“But he was at the river. He touched it, just to be sure it was real. He waded in and stripped in
darkness to the skin, splashed his body, arms, legs, and head with raw liquor; drank it and
snuffed some up his nose. Then he dressed in Faber’s old clothes and shoes. He tossed his own
clothing into the river and watched it swept away. Then, holding the suitcase, he walked out in
the river until there was no bottom and he was swept away in the dark[…] Now there was only
the cold river and Montag floating in a sudden peacefulness, away from the city and the lights
and the chase, away from everything.
In this passage, Montag has finally escaped the Hound and the people hunting him down by
wading into the river. At this point, Montag being submerged in the river illustrates the power of
water to signify new life and a division between what is good and evil, as emphasized by Foster
in chapter 18. Montag has escaped the world and the people he deems as evil, and to escape
them he enters the water. The water is symbolic in this part of the story of new life, as it is also
the vessel that leads Montag to a future, which although unknown, he believes must be better
than the life he was living before.
“Is“Yes,
He Serious? And Other
She’s a Christ Figure,Ironies” (Part
Too” (Part 1) 1)

“And when it came his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on a day like this, to make the trip a little
easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep
silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else? Something, something… And on the other
side of the river was there a tree of life, which have twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month;
And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Yes, thought Montag, that’s the one I’ll save for
noon. For noon… When we reach the city.” Fahrenheit 451, page 158
This is the last section of the book, in which Montag quotes pieces of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and Revelations 22:2.
For the first time, Montag is finally able to preach. However, it is incredibly significant the parts of the Bible
Montag has prophesied. Revelations is a book in the Bible that encompasses Christ’s second coming. After his
Resurrection, the Bible wrote that he ascended into heaven, and then at the end of the age it was written that
he will return in Revelations to renew the Earth. This is similar to Montag; he was resurrected after having left
his life and descending into the wilderness, but at the end of time for his city and society, he planned on
returning with messages that he plans to use to rebuild society. This gives evidence that he is a Christ figure,
and that he seeks a renewal for the people of his society. He is asking them to turn from their ways, and seek
enlightenment as readers and intellectuals.
“Is“Yes,
He Serious? And Other
She’s a Christ Figure,Ironies” (Part
Too” (Part 2) 1)

““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 first cousin to Man. 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 damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things
we’ve done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it,
someday we’ll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them. We pick up a few more
people that remember, every generation.” -Fahrenheit 451, page 156

This passage takes place at the end of Fahrenheit 451. At this point, Guy Montag has undergone a complete
redevelopment of his character. As the story begins, he is a firefighter who believes books have no value and should
be burned for the safety of the society. However, as the story comes to a close, Montag abandons his life in order to
aid in the proliferation of books. In the same way, the way he refers to books also evolves from pigeons to, in this
excerpt, a Phoenix. At this point, Montag and the other literary outcasts recognize the importance of books; they not
only see books for the freedom they provide society, but for the freedom that books can provide within an individual.
Montag is able to unlock the barriers he had previously placed upon his growth. At this point, books are now
described as a mythological Phoenix. They may burn, but from the ashes, they resurrect. In the same way, Montag has
resurrected. Not only do people think he is physically dead, but for the first time, Montag has awakened from his
spiritual death as well.
“Is He Serious? References
And Other Ironies” (Part 1)

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Simon and Schuster, 1950.

Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor: a Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between

the Lines. Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017.