Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is futuristic novel posing the answer to the question of "what will the future bring if we follow the current path?" Bradbury observed the trends of censorship in the book burnings in Germany and paranoid McCarthyism in the United States and used symbolism and exaggerated metaphor to convey the destructive and degenerative direction of censorship throughout the world. .
The most obvious symbol is that of fire. The first part of the book is titled the Hearth and the Salamander. The salamander is a small amphibian that was believed to be a creature that endured fire without being harmed. The salamander symbolizes Guy Montag and the other firemen that work with fire but believe they cannot be burned by the work of their hands. Ironically Montag and Captain Beatty's destructions both came from the very fire that they wielded. .
The hearth, is symbolic of the goodness of fire which has been lost in a society that is completely fireproof. Another irony is that in this fireproof society the only damage that fire can do is that which humans force upon each other. Bradbury seems to assert that even if we remove a danger from ourselves we irrationally carry it with us. It ties into his idea of censorship in that we destroy or remove what books we deem to be dangerous, yet they survive in spite of it. They in fact, thrive because of it. .
The Symbol of the phoenix is also prevalent in the novel. The phoenix historically symbolizes rebirth and renewal through fire. Each fireman wears a phoenix on his uniform in the book. Bradbury inserted this symbolism equating humanity with the phoenix and affirming that, though the firemen burn the books, like the phoenix literature rises up from the ashes. Like the phoenix, Montag rises up from the ashes and actually goes on to become more enlightened from the experience. .
One quote from the book summarizes the point of the entire novel.