"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, Part 1: The Hearth and the Salamander

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury imagines a dystopian future in which firemen burn banned books and people are constantly bombarded with mindless entertainment. This classic novel is as powerful and relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1953.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Part 1: The Hearth and the Salamander, Part 2: The Sieve and the Sand, Part 3: Burning Bright

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. venomous
    extremely poisonous or injurious
    With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his 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.
  2. stolid
    having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
    With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black.
  3. hypnotize
    induce a state that resembles sleep in
    But he knew his mouth had only moved to say hello, and then when she seemed hypnotized by the salamander on his arm and the phoenix-disc on his chest, he spoke again.
  4. suspended
    supported or kept from sinking or falling by buoyancy
    He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact.
  5. transformed
    given a completely different form or appearance
    One time, when he was a child, in a power-failure, his mother had found and lit a last candle and there had been a brief hour of rediscovery, of such illumination that space lost its vast dimensions and drew comfortably around them, and they, mother and son, alone, transformed, hoping that the power might not come on again too soon...
  6. accuse
    blame for; make a claim of wrongdoing or misbehavior against
    They walked the rest of the way in silence, hers thoughtful, his a kind of clenching and uncomfortable silence in which he shot her accusing glances.
  7. anticipate
    be excited or anxious about
    What incredible power of identification the girl had; she was like the eager watcher of a marionette show, anticipating each flicker of an eyelid, each gesture of his hand, each flick of a finger, the moment before it began.
  8. fringe
    the outside boundary or surface of something
    The breath coming out of the nostrils was so faint it stirred only the furthest fringes of life, a small leaf, a black feather, a single fibre of hair.
  9. melancholy
    a feeling of thoughtful sadness
    And the men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths, the men with the eyes of puff-adders, took up their load of machine and tube, their case of liquid melancholy and the slow dark sludge of nameless stuff, and strolled out the door.
  10. earnestly
    in a serious manner
    Laughter blew across the moon-coloured lawn from the house of Clarisse and her father and mother and the uncle who smiled so quietly and so earnestly.
  11. dissolve
    pass into a solution
    “I don't know anything any more,” he said, and let a sleep-lozenge dissolve on his tongue.
  12. aggravate
    exasperate or irritate
    You're peculiar, you're aggravating, yet you're easy to forgive.
  13. illuminate
    make lighter or brighter
    The Mechanical Hound slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming, gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel back in a dark corner of the firehouse.
  14. capillary
    long and slender with a very small internal diameter
    Light flickered on bits of ruby glass and on sensitive capillary hairs in the nylon-brushed nostrils of the creature that quivered gently, gently, gently, its eight legs spidered under it on rubber-padded paws.
  15. proboscis
    a long flexible snout as of an elephant
    Three seconds later the game was done, the rat, cat, or chicken caught half across the areaway, gripped in gentling paws while a four-inch hollow steel needle plunged down from the proboscis of the Hound to inject massive jolts of morphine or procaine.
  16. activate
    make engaged or more engaged
    The Hound half rose in its kennel and looked at him with green-blue neon light flickering in its suddenly activated eyebulbs.
  17. fetch
    go or come after and bring or take back
    It's a fine bit of craftsmanship, a good rifle that can fetch its own target and guarantees the bull's-eye every time.”
  18. abstract
    not representing or imitating external reality
    And most of the time in the cafes they have the jokeboxes on and the same jokes most of the time, or the musical wall lit and all the coloured patterns running up and down, but it's only colour and all abstract.
  19. proclivity
    a natural inclination
    Were all firemen picked then for their looks as well as their proclivities?
  20. alight
    settle or come to rest
    Books bombarded his shoulders, his arms, his upturned face. A book alighted, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering.
  21. flourish
    a showy gesture
    Now, it plunged the book back under his arm, pressed it tight to sweating armpit, rushed out empty, with a magician's flourish!
  22. dignity
    formality in bearing and appearance
    Captain Beatty, keeping his dignity, backed slowly through the front door, his pink face burnt and shiny from a thousand fires and night excitements.
  23. contempt
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    The woman on the porch reached out with contempt for them all, and struck the kitchen match against the railing.
  24. heresy
    any opinions at variance with the official position
    “A man named Latimer said that to a man named Nicholas Ridley, as they were being burnt alive at Oxford, for heresy, on October 16, 1555.”
  25. stagnant
    not circulating or flowing
    He tried to count how many times she swallowed and he thought of the visit from the two zinc-oxide-faced men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths and the electronic-eyed snake winding down into the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water, and he wanted to call out to her, how many have you taken TONIGHT! the capsules! how many will you take later and not know? and so on, every hour! or maybe not tonight, tomorrow night!
  26. appeal
    be attractive to
    “Once, books appealed to a few people, here, there, everywhere.
  27. resume
    short descriptive summary (of events)
    “Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a ten or twelve-line dictionary resume.
  28. neglected
    “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored.
  29. furnish
    provide with objects or articles that make a room usable
    “Empty the theatres save for clowns and furnish the rooms with glass walls and pretty colours running up and down the walls like confetti or blood or sherry or sauterne.
  30. nomadic
    Towns turn into motels, people in nomadic surges from place to place, following the moon tides, living tonight in the room where you slept this noon and I the night before.”
  31. assumption
    a statement that is held to be true
    And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world (you were correct in your assumption the other night) there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes.
  32. custodian
    one having charge of buildings or grounds or animals
    They were given the new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges, and executors.
  33. absolutely
    totally and definitely; without question
    Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information.
  34. equate
    make uniform, corresponding, or matching
    Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely.
  35. conflicting
    in disagreement
    We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought.
  36. torrent
    an overwhelming number or amount
    Don't let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world.
  37. extinguish
    put out, as of fires, flames, or lights
    All of them running about, putting out the stars and extinguishing the sun.
  38. intend
    have in mind as a purpose
    “Well, then, what if a fireman accidentally, really not, intending anything, takes a book home with him?”
  39. vacant
    void of thought or knowledge
    The open door looked at him with its great vacant eye.
  40. submit
    accept or undergo, often unwillingly
    “It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death rather than submit to break eggs at the smaller end.”

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