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Fahrenheit 451


Part 1 - Summary
Part 1 - Interpretation
Part 2 - Summary
Part 2 - Interpretation
Part 3 - Summary
Part 3 - Interpretation



Part 2 - The Sieve and the Sand


Millie and Montag spend the rest of that day reading through the books, and for the first time in years there is a strange type of friendship between the couple.  They engage in meaningful dialogue even though this is heated at times.  Montag reveals to Millie how much Clarisse had influenced him. She was the first person that Montag had ever met who was more interested in other people rather than herself.

Montag realizes that the authors of the books he has have been dead a long time, but through their words you are able to know the person, and in a way this is what Clarisse was driving at.

Millie was unable to see this. She argued that, “Books aren’t people. You read and I look around, but there isn’t anybody!” It is clear that Millie preferred the TV or parlor screens as they were called, for she was able to relate to her television family.

Another war was imminent, for they could hear a large number of bombers flying overhead. Montag comments that, “We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1960.”  Just as the country has a feeling of unrest due to the onset of another possible war, so does Montag’s own unrest gain momentum.  Although he doesn’t fully understand the content of the books, he appreciates that they have value, but he is unable to convince Millie.

Millie closes her mind to the truths contained in the books.

Montag wishes to understand more about the books and realizes he needs a teacher. Immediately his mind recalls a chance meeting with an elderly man in the park last year.  He was a retired English Professor named Faber. Montag suspected the old man of hiding a book on his person and the man offered him his address on a slip of paper in case Montag wanted to turn him in, which Montag never pursued.  He was struck by something the old man said, “I don’t talk things, sir, I talk the meaning of things.  I sit here and know I’m alive.”

Finding the address of Faber, Montag decides to visit him and he takes a copy of the Bible with him. Slowly Montag is turning into a rebel and on the underground train he makes no attempt to hide the Bible. He places it on his knees, open.

He suddenly recalls a time in his childhood when he played on the beach, and a cruel cousin said to him, “Fill this sieve and you’ll get a dime!”   However much he tried, he could not perform this function.  As with this Bible, however much he read the words they just seemed to pass through his mind and not leave any real impression. He started to read the Sermon on the Mount, but was interrupted by the intercom system tapping out an advertisement for Denham’s Dandy Dental Detergent.  Angered at this intrusion Montag finds himself standing up and shouting for the advertisement to cease. He arrives at Faber’s house and the old man lets him in.

Everything in the house is pale and white, matched by the old man’s white flesh and hair.  Immediately Faber’s eyes focussed on the book under Montag’s arm. Faber is immediately impressed by Montag’s bravery, or is it foolishness? 

Montag is experiencing some exhilaration because of his acts of nonconformity. He is now trying to assert his own individual identity.  He realizes that he can never return to his former life. Faber looks at the Bible and comments that Christ is now part of the television family, and he wonders if God could now recognize his own son in the form projected.

Faber advises Montag that the saving of books is important, but that is only part of the whole picture.  People must be free to read books and act on the information they obtain from them, and of course books are useless if nobody reads them.  Montag advises Faber that he thought at one time that he was happy, but now he realizes that this is not the case.  He also tells him that his wife is not really happy either.

Faber says this is because there is something lacking in everybody’s lives, and this is in three forms.  Firstly, it is due to the absence of books, which have their own quality or texture.  They are individual and have their own features, and they provide “infinite profusion”. It is man’s natural state to mirror this infinite profusion and the current society strives to make everyone the same without variety.

The second feature is having quality leisure time. People should immerse themselves in rediscovering nature and reading books, papers and magazines, and not devoting their time to mindless pursuits such as watching parlor television screens and racing around in cars. 

The third feature is to have freedom and the ability to think for yourself, and this can only be obtained if the first two features come about.

This is difficult for Montag to fathom.  He is initially concerned that what books are left are preserved, and the only way to do this is to discredit the firemen. He proposes that they could print extra books and plant them in firemen’s houses so that they can be discredited. 

Faber responds by saying, “the salamander devours his tail”.

Faber has been turned into a cowardly person through the long years of oppression, and he finds himself unable to support Montag’s plans.

Montag still wants Faber to give him a better understanding of the written word and he slowly starts tearing pages out of the Bible.  This horrifies Faber, who eventually agrees to help Montag.  He knows of someone who might be prepared to do printing for them.  For their plan to work, however, Montag has to resume his job, and he is fearful that Captain Beatty will find him out and trick him. Faber reveals that he is also an inventor, and shows Montag an electronic device, which is quite small and fits into the ear, similar to a seashell radio. However, this transmits as well as receives messages, and Faber will tell Montag what to say through this device when he is confronted by Captain Beatty.  Montag is curious how Faber has managed to pay for all this, and he reveals that he plays the Stock Market, one of the few intellectual and dangerous pastimes left to human beings. Montag leaves for his home.

When he arrives, Millie has two of her friends round for supper, Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles, who advise that their husbands have been called up for the war yet again. They do not seem concerned.  There is more chance of men being killed by jumping off buildings than in a war.

Montag is frustrated by the women’s small-talk concerning the television soap operas and interactive plays, and to their surprise he switches off the screens in order to obtain their attention. Much to their surprise he starts reading poetry from a book. Mrs. Phelps is quite moved by Montag’s rendition, and at the end of the poem she starts to cry. In complete contrast, Mrs. Bowles decries all books as being counterproductive and says that poetry is a sickness. Millie tries to explain away the book by saying that it is one of the perks of being a fireman - that they are allowed to look at the books before they are destroyed.  Her friends leave upset, and Millie escapes to the bathroom to take some sleeping tablets.

All the while Montag was being so rash, Faber was shouting at him in his ear to stop being foolish, and that their plans will be uncovered.  Montag sets off for work and again Faber assures him that he will be there to give him support, “He would be Montag plus Faber, fire plus water, and then, one day, after everything had mixed and simmered and worked away in silence, there would be neither fire nor water, but wine.” 

Montag arrived at the station and noticed that the Mechanical Hound was missing - the kennel was empty.  Captain Beatty was waiting for Montag and seemed pleased to see him. He said, “I hope you’ll be staying with us, now that your fever is done and your sickness over.”   The intuitive Beatty started to exhibit his knowledge of literature quoting from various books. He made pertinent quotes, e.g., “a little learning is a dangerous thing”, and “knowledge is power!” Meanwhile, Faber was whispering in his ear warnings such as, “Don’t listen.  He’s trying to confuse you. He’s slippery.”  Montag was able to keep cool, although inwardly his head was in a whirl.

Suddenly, Beatty seized his wrist and said, “God, what a pulse!  ''  sounds like the day after the war.”

Faber responded in his ear, “All right, he’s had his say.  You must take it in.” Just as Montag was about to involuntarily talk audibly back to Faber, the station bell rang. They had a call out.

This was a different call. For the first time ever, Beatty was driving, and they arrived at Montag’s house.

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