Analyzing Allusions in Fahrenheit 451 to Develop a Deeper Understanding of Montag

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text, interact with each other, and develop a theme by tracing Montag's growth.

Big Idea

What does it mean to be a martyr?

Getting Started

10 minutes

At the beginning of class, I write three upcoming allusions on the board:


  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Master Ridley
  • Tower of Babel


We will review the term allusion and then students can use their phones to look up each of these allusions. We will briefly discuss each, so that we are prepared when we come upon them in our reading. I will also ask why Bradbury would use allusions in a text about ignorance and I will give a chance to speculate about his reasons (L.9-10.5a).


Analyzing the many allusions in this text deepens our understanding of the characters and their motives (RL.9-10.4). The allusion to Nicholas Ridley is especially poignant. Having students look up the reference helps them understand what Montag is struggling to comprehend himself.

Read: The Firehouse

20 minutes

Before we read the next four pages aloud, I ask students to focus on Montag. How is he changing? How is he feeling about everything? How do you know? (RL.9-10.3). 


In this section, Montag starts to notice more around him. For example, he notices that all firemen look the same and he wonders if that is why he became one. He also starts asking risky questions and even uses the phrase "once upon a time," which causes Beatty to react. This is the moment when students start to figure out why Montag keeps thinking about the ventilator grill at home, an important element of foreshadowing. This section also references Ben Franklin as the first fireman. This allusion is based in reality, as Franklin did found the first fire brigade; however, the reference has been inverted to suggest that a founding father, who celebrated freedom and liberty, actually preferred restriction and ignorance. Because students know Franklin's accomplishments, I hope that they will understand the irony (RL.11-12.6).


When we have finished reading this section, we will return to the original questions at the top of this section. Montag has grown bolder in this section, but he is also confused and frightened. There are several details students can name to defend these positions (RL.9-10.1). This knowledge will help us read the next section, which is the last straw for Montag. 

Read: The Martyr

20 minutes

This section is packed with important and interesting information. We will pause intermittently as we read to discuss the writing style, the plot and  its connection to theme:


Imagery (RL.9-10.4)

  • The burning books are described, once again, as birdlike, but this time they are "slaughtered" instead of "flapping" as on the first page of the text. 
  • What does this suggest?


The job and its effect on Montag (RL.9-10.3)

  • We understand more of how the firemen operate: they receive an alarm call via telephone/text message and head to the house, where the police should have already removed any person. The calls are always at night and always a "spectacle."
  • It disturbs Montag that the woman is present when the firemen arrive because it changes the nature of his job, which he describes as "Janitorial work, essentially." Why is he so upset? What is Montag realizing? How is he changing as a character?


Knowledge is Power (RL.9-10.2)

  • The woman in the house is calm and confident, even while the firemen destroy her home. We discover quickly that she has a plan: she will martyr herself for her books, just as Master Ridley was an Anglican martyr.
  • From her, Montag concludes that there most be something in books worth reading, worth knowing, and possibly worth dying for. So he steals a book. He description here is powerful and worth discussing because he blames his hands for the theft, claiming that his hand has a brain of its own. 


Captain Beatty (RL.9-10.3)

  • We discover that Beatty reads and analyze how he is developing as a character.



Wrapping Up

10 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, students will return to their character chart and add some details about Captain Beatty. We add to this chart each time we meet a new character. At the end of the novel, it will be interesting to see how similar some characters are, not just in beliefs and behavior, but also in physical descriptions.