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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 3 - Burning Bright


“Tyger, tyger burning bright,

in the forest of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

Millie had sounded the alarm.  She had collected together all the books that Montag had hidden so that they could be burned together with their house.

As the firemen prepared to incinerate the house, Millie left in a taxi with a suitcase.

Stoneman and Black wielded axes, breaking the windows in order to provide ventilation.

All Montag’s neighbors empty from their homes to view the spectacle. He is shocked that Millie had put in the alarm. 

Faber is trying to bring Montag to his senses. He asks, “Can you get away, run?”

Montag cannot escape because of the Hound, which is in the area. Beatty wants him to set fire to his own house.  He mocks him. Beatty gives him the flame-thrower and he sets about firing his own home. He obtains some satisfaction in destroying the telescreens.  “He came to the parlor where the great idiot monsters lay asleep with their white thoughts and their snowy dreams.  And he shot a bolt at each of the three blank walls and the vacuum hissed out at him.”  Everything was now burning in Montag’s home. 

Slightly subdued, Montag returns to Beatty who calls him a fool, saying that he had warned him about hiding books. He tells him not to blame his wife, for her friends had also alerted him to the situation after he had read from a book of poetry to them.

Faber is still shouting at Montag to make an escape, and Beatty hits Montag and the earpiece flies out onto the ground.  Beatty can hear Faber talking and tells Montag that he will trace, and drop in on his friend and arrest him. Beatty continues to insult Montag, calling him “a secondhand litterateur”. 

Montag turns the flame-thrower on Beatty who turns into “a shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling, gibbering mannikin, no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn as Montag shot one continuous pulse of liquid fire on him.” 

The Mechanical Hound appears on the scene and leaps at Montag, who cuts it down with flame, but not before it manages to slightly inject Montag’s leg. 

In fear, the other two firemen do not move. 

Before Montag escapes the scene he looks at the immense engine, the Salamander, and thinks, “that would have to go too”. Montag makes his escape with one leg almost useless.  The only place he can run to is Faber.  He can’t help wondering why Beatty just stood there and made no attempt to escape death.  In order for Montag to reach Faber, he has to cross the Boulevard, which is dangerous at the best of times, but with his bad leg it will be almost suicidal.  However, he has no choice for the Police helicopters, and no doubt another Hound, will be in quick pursuit.  He manages to cross the Boulevard by pure luck, and before he arrives at Faber’s, he plants a book that he had taken from the scene, at Fireman Black’s house.

He ‘phones in the alarm from a booth, and waits for the Salamanders to arrive at Black’s house, before going on to Faber’s.  He recounts his adventures to Faber who then tells him that war has been declared. The both plan to escape from the city. The best way is for Montag to try for the river, and once he has crossed this, to head south following the railroad tracks. Faber will catch the early morning bus to St. Louis where his old printer friend lives.

Montag asks Faber for some of his old clothes and tells him to clean everything that he has touched in the house with alcohol, to kill any scent for the Mechanical Hound.  He will also have to turn on his outside lawn sprinklers to kill any scent that is there.

Montag will try and lure the Hound to the river.

Montag reaches the river undetected.   He douses himself in a bottle of whisky that Faber gave him, and puts on his clothes.  He allows the river to bear him downstream.  However, the Police are televising this chase so they cannot be seen to fail, and while they lose Montag’s scent, they pick on another innocent man, a nonconformist who likes walking at night, and he becomes Montag.

Montag emerges from the river on the other side. He has undergone a transformation and he feels that he has been resurrected.  He is apprehensive about entering the wilderness, but he is also exhilarated by his newfound freedom. He now enters the countryside and is experiencing new smells, and he soon forgets the smell of kerosene that has been with him so long.  He comes across the unused, rusted rail tracks, and follows them south.

In the distance he sees a fire, but this is not a fire of destruction, this is a fire around which men are obtaining warmth. He is welcomed by the outcasts, and their leader appears to be a man called Grainger.  Grainger doesn’t think the authorities will search for him here, but just in case, he gives him a potion which will change the chemical content of his sweat so that no Mechanical Hound will be able to track him.  Grainger explains that there is a large number of outcasts, and that they too burn books, but only after they have been memorized.

Everybody has a photographic memory, but for most people, this aptitude has been suppressed. The outcasts know how to use this power and if need be, they can recall information from anyone. He asks Montag if he has read anything in detail, and Montag confirms, the Book of Ecclesiastes. Grainger is pleased with this and explains that a man named Harris knows these verses, but if anything happens to him, Montag will become that book. 

Grainger goes on to explain that they were expecting Montag, as they have a small tele screen and have been watching the chase.  They explain to Montag that he is already dead, for the Police have found a scapegoat who has taken his place. The outcasts are therefore all books.  Grainger is Plato’s ‘Republic’ Simmons is ‘Marcus Aurelius’.  In their company, they also have - Jonathan Swift, Charles Darwin, Einstein and so on. Collectively, Grainger calls them “The Book Burners”.

They decide that they will need to travel further south, away from the city because the cities will become targets in this new war. 

To Montag, his former life is like a dream.  His head feels much clearer now, but he can’t help wondering about Millie.  If the city is attacked she will be killed, and he wonders what her last moments of life will be like. He pictures her looking at her television screen, just before it goes blank and she dies.  He suddenly remembers where he met her a long time age. It was in Chicago.

They stop and cook some food on a fire, and Grainger likens the fire to a life-giving force, and uses the word “phoenix”.  The phoenix was a bird that would build a pyre and burn itself, and through this process was reborn. You will note that the firemen wear the emblem of a phoenix on their uniforms.

Montag has also undergone a rebirth after passing through fire.

It is clear that the city is receiving a pounding. The party are thrown to the ground by the force of the bombs.  The group are compelled to return to the city to see if they can be of help.  When they arrive, they see that it has been totally destroyed. It looks like “a heap of baking powder, it’s gone”.  The group are silent as they make their way to the city. Montag wonders if they are making sure that they remember that what is inside them is safe.

“And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”  This is Montag’s thought that he’ll use when he reaches the city.

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