Fahrenheit 451 Vocabulary

Image of a burning book
Tony Hutchings / Getty Images.

Tony Hutchings / Getty Images

 

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian science fiction novel by Ray Bradbury that examines the tension between knowledge and mindless escapism. Bradbury was inspired to write the novel in part because he believed television, then a new medium, was destructive to society.

Bradbury selected vocabulary carefully to stress the power of learning and the overwhelming experience of society for his characters. His word choice creates a subtle dichotomy between the calm, reasoned moments (which tend to involve thought and reading) and the frenetic, exhausting moments (which tend to involve entertainment and the destruction of books).

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Cacophony

Definition: a jarring mixture of sound and noise that distracts or alarms

Example: "You drowned in music and pure cacophony. He came out of the room sweating and on the point of collapse."

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Symphony

Definition: a long-form piece of music composed for a full orchestra

Example: "[H]is hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history."

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Pulverize

Definition: to crush completely into dust

Example: "He felt that the stars had been pulverized by the sound of the black jets..."

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Suffuse

Definition: to gradually cover or fill a space

Example: "In the hall Mildred's face was suffused with excitement.

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Sputter

Definition: a staccato series of explosive sounds

Example: "The perspiration gathered with the silence and the sub-audible trembling around and about and in the women who were burning with tension. Any moment they might hiss a long sputtering hiss and explode."

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Phosphorescent

Definition: glowing without flame, either from heat or other forms of radiation

Example: "He was a phosphorescent target; he knew it, he felt it."

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Incessant

Definition: continuous and unending

Example: "Silently, Granger arose, felt his arms, and legs, swearing, swearing incessantly under his breath, tears dripping from his face."

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Titillation

Definition: a feeling of curiosity or excitement

Example: "That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation?"

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Litterateur

Definition: someone who knows a lot about literature and books

Example: "Go ahead now, you second-hand litterateur, pull the trigger."

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Juggernaut

Definition: an unstoppable force

Example: "He saw a great juggernaut of stars form in the sky and threaten to roll over and crush him."

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Odious

Definition: repulsive, disgusting

Example: "The engine slammed to a stop. Beatty, Stoneman, and Black ran up the sidewalk, suddenly odious and fat in the plump fireproof slickers."

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Melancholy

Definition: a mood of quiet sadness

Example: "Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.

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Abruptly

Definition: without warning

Example: "Abruptly the room took off on a rocket flight into the clouds, it plunged into a lime-green sea where blue fish ate red and yellow fish."

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Scuttle

Definition: to move rapidly with small, jerky movements

Example: "He dropped a book, broke pace, almost turned, changed his mind, plunged on, yelling in concrete emptiness, the beetle scuttling after its running food..."

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Torrent

Definition: a violent flood

Example: "The folly of mistaking a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself as an oracle, is inborn in us, Mr. Valery once said."

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Fugitive

Definition: someone who runs away, particularly from law enforcement

Example: "The fugitive cannot escape if everyone in the next minute looks from his house."

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Cadence

Definition: a specific rhythm, either in speech or movement

Example: "His name was Faber, and when he finally lost his fear of Montag, he talked in a cadenced voice, looking at the sky and the trees and the green park, and when an hour had passed he said something to Montag and Montag sensed it was a rhymeless poem."

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Insidious

Definition: slow and subtle movement or events with a negative impact

Example: "It's an insidious plan, if I do say so myself."