Analyzing Symbolism of Fire Throughout Fahrenheit 451

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SWBAT determine a theme and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details, by focusing on how fire affects Montag over time and what it symbolizes.

Big Idea

What role does fire play in this text?

Getting Started

15 minutes

At the beginning of class, we will prepare ourselves to read by thinking about fire. I will ask that each students write the word fire in their notebook and then I will give them 5 minutes to list anything they associate with fire: adjectives, events, descriptions. Then we will compile their ideas, making a big list on the board. Once we have everyone's ideas on the board, we will separate them into two categories: positive connotations and negative connotations.


Ultimately, I want students to start thinking about the role of fire throughout the text. The section that we will read together today echoes Montag's feelings about fire on the first page of the novel, but he won't always feel this way. This list will serve us throughout the rest of the novel, as Montag realizes that fire doesn't just destroy.

Reading: Montag burns his own home

15 minutes

pages 113-117

Using scripts of the text which I created in order to allow for a reader's theater reading of this section, we will read these pages, which lead up to the most-action part of the novel. We will pause in our reading to discuss important elements:

  • Beatty calls Montag "Icarus." Why is this an effective allusion? (RL.9-10.4)
  • Why did Millie report her own home? What do you think of her? (RL.9-10.3)
  • Why does Montag feel "good" burning his own home? (RL.9-10.2)


After reading I will ask: Unlike Mrs. Hudson, Montag chooses not to die in his house with his books. Instead he burns everything, asserting even that "it was good to burn" and that "fire was best for everything!" Are these choices and sentiments consistent with his character? Are you surprised that he fails to follow in her footsteps? (question originally from NEA's Big Read). I like this question because it focuses students on character development and theme at the same time.


*Note: I cannot include the scripts as a resource here for copyright reasons, but you can easily create them for your students, and I strongly encourage you to do so. 

The Role of Fire

20 minutes

After reading, we will focus on Bradbury's description of fire on page 116, which echoes the opening of the novel. This worksheet will help us make conclusions about the role of fire in the novel (RL.9-10.1). At this point, fire is still an instrument of destruction for Montag, but that will change once he leaves the city. Students will work independently at first. I will circulate, helping students where they need it. Then we will share our statements all together. Here is one student's annotations and another student's statement about the role of fire (W.9-10.10).

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

For homework, students will write an open response, using the statements they developed in class as their thesis. The question is: What is the role of fire in this novel? (W.9-10.2) I will ask students to ignore their first instincts and NOT refer to the internet at all. I know that a few of them go to internet even when they don't need to. I will explain that if they look online, they will write the wrong answer because we haven't finished and things will change. Plus, they don't need to look online because we have answered the question in the last hour.