In his fiction based novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury utilizes symbolic images, fragile themes, and the mind stirring use of foreshadowing to reflect on how the corruption of an independent mind can lead to an oppressed dystopia. Within the title of the beginning chapter, regarding Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury provides the audience with a conjunction of two images, the hearth, and the salamander. A hearth is an area in one’s home that surrounds the fireplace, while a salamander is a mythological beast who has the ability to live in fire and not be harmed. Both of these images have some relation to the element of fire, which is the most prevalent icon in Montag’s life throughout the novel.
However, in Fahrenheit 451 these two images exude a much greater meaning than a simple floor in front of a fireplace and a fiery beast. These two compelling images focus on Montag’s home life as well as his occupation of being a fireman. The hearth embodies the fire which heats Montag’s home and the salamander, an official symbol of the firemen, is used for transportation as it is also the name of the men’s fire trucks.
For Montag however, having a salamander (a beast who lives in fire without being harmed) be his official symbol is quite ironic. For instance, in the line of duty, Montag is harmed by fire in the sense of him ruining his society as well as his home through the process of burning books. This is seen from Montag’s wife, Mildred, being but not being as she “lived, but did not live” inside the “parlor walls” distancing herself from reality. Following these two flame related images, is the next conjunction used by Ray Bradbury, and also found within the second chapter’s title, the sieve, and the sand. These two images symbolize Montag’s effort to comprehend as he reads the forbidden literature. The sand represents Montag’s knowledge that eludes him, while the sieve serves as his mind attempting to make the knowledge that he learns permanent. According to Montag, “if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve” (74).
This thought of Montag’s was proven false when he was faced with a repeating “Denham’s Dentifrice” advertisement while attempting to read and memorize each line of the Bible lying in his hands.