The Phoenix has been used as a symbol of importance for thousands of years showing the beliefs of the Egyptians in the early history of the Earth. The Phoenix assists the author Ray Bradbury to give hope to a futuristic censorship society without morals and beliefs. Certain characters in Fahrenheit 451 like Montag, Clarisse and Faber are all portrayed as phoenixes in their own mission to bring about change in the society they live in. It can also be seen that the symbol of the Phoenix shares connections to religion. Therefore, it can be said that Bradbury uses the symbol and meaning of the phoenix to represent a sense of rebirth, end of suffering and immortality as it is shown through the character of Montag and the general norms of society.
The Phoenix represents rebirth and demonstrates the rebirth of the society. Bradbury uses the symbol to refer to a rebirth in the city. Through Granger’s thoughts, Bradbury expresses the similarities between man and the Phoenix; “There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix… every time he burnt himself up, he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again… must have been first cousin to man”(Bradbury 156). The comparison between the phoenix and humans is seen from Granger and helps readers understand that there is a sense of hope for mankind because they understand that humans can remember the mistakes that they have made and can learn from them in the future which brings out the cause and effect relationship and the lesson that “Learning from mistakes is what can bring a better future”.
In addition to the Phoenix representing rebirth, it also demonstrates the end of suffering for the society. The description that is given on the last page as Montag is returning to the city gives a sense of hope and brings to light that the suffering is over and it was time for change; “…on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manners of fruits… leaves of trees were for the healing of the nations”(Bradbury 158). The quote brings to attention that there is going to be a new cycle of life that will appear that will be different than the previous society bringing back the idea of the Phoenix. The fruits on the trees symbolize peace and faithfulness in many different cultures around the world today and the symbol of the Phoenix will remain strong in the heart of Montag as Clarisse and Faber live inside of him illustrated by Clarisse’s innocent and questioning mind as a newborn Phoenix and Faber who has passed away or “burnt up” with his ideas in Montag’s mind.
Lastly, the symbol of the Phoenix represents immortality in the society. Immortality is represented by a new hope and shining light brought by the Phoenix and it can be witnessed in Montag’s character as he thinks to himself; “that’s the one I’ll save for noon”. Noon is the part of the day where there is the most sunshine and there is not any shadow that darkens the light so that shows Montag that his clearest path will appear as soon as he enters the city and that contributes to his “spiritual resurrection” or rebirth as a new person like a Phoenix. This allows a connection to be made to Christianity and Jesus because both the Phoenix and Jesus gave up their lives for good to happen in the future but they are always immortal in the sense that they live in every person’s body and are never forgotten. The theme of embracing culture and religion is hidden as a message when talking about this symbol and Montag understands that it is all of the lessons and the understanding of literature that will allow society to progress.
All in all, the symbol of the Phoenix shows how Montag’s ideas change throughout the novel and gives reader an idea as to what will happen next with the society and how will it be different than the society they were previously living in.