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Discuss the use of quotations from literature in Fahrenheit 451. Which works are quoted and why?
“Fahrenheit 451 is set in a world where book burning is the norm and lovers of literature are seen as ‘simple minded’. (Bradbury, 2011, p. 25) Bradbury’s usage of direct quotations from literature are used to signify pivotal moments in Montag’s journey to reinstate literature as a societal fixture.
One notable moment is the burning of an elderly woman and her book collection. Montag is able to catch a glimpse of a poem before it is burned: “Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine.” (Bradbury, 2011, p. 17) This quotation is from Dreamthorp, an essay collection by Victorian Era poet Alexander Smith, which speaks on the joy one can find in humanity’s creative works. This theme pertinent to Montag’s journey, and the quote is a setup for Montag’s later realization: “…for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up.” (Bradbury, 2011, p. 25) Montag’s belief that the act of creating and enjoying literature is innate to being human then becomes the driving force behind his actions.
Montag’s opposing force is his boss, Captain Beatty. The novel’s climax occurs when Beatty arrested Montag, but is later burned alive. Beatty is a purveyor of book burning, yet he ironically deliver the majority of Fahrenheit’s quotations. Beatty’s final words quote Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’: “There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am arm’d so strong in honesty that they pass me in an idle wind, which I respect not!” (Bradbury, 2011, p. 55) Bradbury selected this quote to draw a parallel between Montag and Cassius, both of whom posed as sympathizers to causes they hoped to overthrow.
1. Bradbury, R. (2011). Fahrenheit 451: The Hearth and the Salamander. Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition.
2. Bradbury, R. (2011). Fahrenheit 451: Burning Bright. Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition.
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