The ownership and reading of books is prohibited in Fahrenheit 451
In Fahrenheit 451, the ownership and reading of books is prohibited. Members of society focus only on entertainment, immediate gratification, and speeding through life. If books are found, they are burned and their owner is placed under immediate arrest. If the owner refuses to abandon the books, however, he or she often dies, burning along with them. Near the beginning of the novel, an old woman burns alongside her books.
Her life has been condemned as all that she loves and believes in is about to be destroyed when the firemen arrive: “‘Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out’”(Bradbury ). She may hope that her sacrifice will awaken people to the significance and importance of preserving the recordings of the thoughts and deeds of great men and women. As it turns out, Montag, who is part of the crew that has come to set fire to the books, is disturbed by the woman’s refusal to leave her house. Throughout the entirety of Fahrenheit 451, the author does not give a clear explanation as to why the illegality of books has become so in great in this society.
Rather, the author only provides a few allusions to possible causes. Fast cars, loud music, and massive advertisements create an overstimulated society without room for literature, self-reflection, or appreciation of nature. People with interests outside of technology and entertainment are viewed as abnormalities and possible threats. Bradbury gives the reader a brief description of how society slowly lost interest in books, first condensing them, then relying simply on titles, and finally forgetting about them all together. The technologies Bradbury describes in Fahrenheit 451 are all the result of a society that has embraced entertainment over knowledge. In Fahrenheit 451, censorship is shown through the fireman system, a system which prevents education and the freedom of expression by burning books.
Censorship is shown through the books that they burn. People aren’t allowed to read books, and that is the most extreme form of censorship that exists. Not only this, but people talking is looked down upon. The opening line of Bradbury’s novel is, “It was a pleasure to burn” (). Firemen seemed to enjoy their status as book burners. The banning and burning of books creates a dystopian society. This society is one of unhappiness and sorrow. The censorship in Fahrenheit 451 also causes characters to become mindless. The characters have no control over their lives. Millie’s dependency on her television family played a role in Montag’s obsession with finding out what it was that made books so evil.
What was so bad about them they had to be banned? Seeing Millie become so obsessed with television programs was very disturbing to Montag: (cit.) He saw how Millie was becoming mindless, unable to think for herself.
How People Destroy Themselves and Each Other in Fahrenheit 451
A wife overdoses on medication, much to the distress of her husband; a woman watches as the room in which she stands is doused in kerosene before she takes it upon herself to strike the first match; a Fire Captain hands a flamethrower to one of his subordinates and orders him to aim it at him – at the Captain himself – and pull the trigger. These three suicide attempts –: one successful, one not so, and the other enacted as a murder – embody the theme of self-destruction that runs throughout Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, and each of them represents a different facet of that theme: involuntary self-destruction, voluntary self-destruction, and voluntary self-destruction in order to pre-empt an involuntary self-destruction. Mildred Montag’s overdose implies a dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a desire to escape into something less real, more passive, an indirect and involuntary kind of self-destruction. The old woman’s voluntary death entails an immense satisfaction with the world that is taken from her, and no desire whatsoever to live a life without some element of that world in it. And Captain Beatty’s death at the hands of Guy Montag represents a combination of both of the above – a man torn between fondness and duty, between an affection for that which he destroys, and for the process of destruction itself.
Mildred’s self-destruction is one common trait of the majority of the citizens in the society depicted in the novel, and hers is a path that Montag risks following – at least until the moment his curiosity gets the better of him and he opens the covers of a book. “I am a cowardly old fool,”, says the English professor Faber, being the placid kind of man that Montag will devolve into if he does not immediately rebel against the system that oppresses him. “Proof of my terrible cowardice: I’ve lived alone so many years, throwing images on walls with my imagination.” Faber is what Montag will become if he allows Mildred to desensitize him. “She was beginning to shriek now,” we are told of Mildred when Montag looks at his wife through new eyes after their argument, “sitting there like a wax doll melting in its own heat.” Mildred’s self-destruction is of the involuntary, passive variety, she does not so much destroy herself as she allows herself to rot away slowly. Her world is a dream-world for which she abandons reality: she is unconscious when we meet her, having overdosed on pills designed to make her sleep and recede into dreams. When she comes to, she is filled with denial and claims she would never have done such a thing, later she has her own name inserted into a television program and so she is literally absorbed into a fictional world. And finally, she replaces her husband with the cartoon White Clowns to the point where Montag asks her: “Does the White Clown love you? …Does your ‘family’ love you, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?”
The answer, of course, is no, but like so much between Montag and Mildred, it remains unspoken. Indeed, speaking aloud is the means by which Montag very nearly engages in his own self-destruction: he recites a poem to Mildred and her friends, and reduces one of them to tears, which causes the others to turn on him. The anger he provokes results in his downfall. This, however, can hardly come as a surprise to him, and even less so to Faber, who listens to the poetry recital via Montag’s earpiece: “You’ll ruin everything,”, he insists, “Shut up, you fool!” – but Montag persists, the poetry is read aloud, and later, after the women have left his house, they turn to the authorities and point their fingers at him. “It was pretty silly, quoting poetry around free and easy like that,” Beatty warns Montag during their final confrontation. “It was the act of a silly damn snob. Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he’s the Lord of all Creation.” Ironic, given that only a few moments later when Montag has a flamethrower trained on him, it is Beatty who quotes poetry: “Why don’t you belch Shakespeare at me, you fumbling snob? ‘There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am arm’d so strong in honesty that they pass me as an idle wind, which I respect not!’”
This is not the first demonstration of Beatty’s literary knowledge. Earlier, he refers to the myth of Icarus and Daedalus, he quotes Jonathan Swift, and alludes to Biblical passages. Also, he understands a reference to religious persecution made by the aforementioned old woman before she sets herself ablaze. How is it that a man, who leads investigations into houses, in order to burn the illegal and outlawed books they have, knows so much about literature himself? Moreover, how is he still able to display some visible level of affection for literature – one that Montag shares, but which, unlike Beatty, he is not allowed to show to the outside world? With his knowledge of and resentment for literature, Beatty embodies the conflict between both literature’s destruction and its appreciation – and so his actions and his speeches indirectly give voice to the reasons why the burning of literature is self-destructive, even if his actual words dictate why it is a positive thing.
“Not everyone [is] born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone [is] made equal,”, Beatty tells Montag in one of many examples of a revisionist history accepted by the society of this world. “Each man is the image of every other, then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.” Therein lies the essence of the evolution of book-burning, as well as the essence of its self-destructive nature. Like Mildred’s involuntary self-destruction, book-burning evolved not from active opposition to literature, but from a passive attraction to other materials. “The world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths,”, Beatty tells Montag. “Films and radios, magazines, books [were] leveled down to a sort of pastepudding norm. …Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows. …School [was] shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored.” Essentially, Beatty details the devolution of literature – indeed, of ‘thinking’ itself and its replacement by graphic intake, films and drawings and photographs. “More cartoons in books. More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. …Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. …There you have it. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship,” Beatty says of the process by which books were banned, before he adds the qualifier: “to start with.”
Those three words – “to start with” – embody everything that is self-destructive about the book-burning of the society depicted in the novel. It is self-destructive because, most conspicuously, Beatty’s assertions with regard to the validity of book-burning do not stand to reason. He claims that society’s individuals lost interest in literature because nothing of value was being produced – books were “dishwater” – but that could not possibly entail a mass abandonment of fiction altogether, particularly when so much of value has already been accumulated by society to begin with – just because no new books of any worth are being produced, there is no reason to abandon hundreds of years of books that do hold some value.
More importantly, however, is that book-burning is self-destructive because it is a violation of individuality and individual rights. Beatty uses this notion to his advantage – “all men made equal” – but here, he fails to add the qualifier that should appear at the end of that statement: “All men made equal, resulting in mass mediocrity, with no man given the opportunity to disrupt or ascend beyond that equality.” That is to say, book-burning is self-destructive because it removes the individual’s choice as to whether or not he or she wishes to indulge in literature. Certainly, even if there were such a world in which society lost interest in fiction and books, there must be some individuals who would still choose to pursue literature for pleasure. These individuals do exist in this world – in the form of Montag, of course, and Beatty to an extent, and most notably in the form of Faber and the group of men Montag meets outside the city – but it is not merely their right to read books that has been taken from them: they have also lost their right to choose to read books. Book-burning, therefore, is self-destructive on both a physical and metaphysical levels: it denies indulgence in physical literature – pages and printed words – but it also denies an individual the right to use his or her metaphysical free will, and in doing so, we realize that it is self-destructive because it nullifies the very thing that makes us truly human in the first place.
However, this is not the extent of its self-destruction, it is only the most visible extent. Worse than this destruction of literature and free will is the destruction of truth. How do we know that the story Beatty tells Montag is real? In fact, we know that Beatty lies on several occasions: “When did it all start, you ask, this job of ours, how did it come about, where, when? Well, I’d say it really got started around a thing called the Civil War.” This is not true, firefighters, as we know, have never been employed to burn books, and such a trend did not arise during the Civil War. Even Beatty disputes this claim, but with another lie: “I’d say it really [started during] the Civil War. Even though our rulebook claims it was founded earlier.” If Beatty disputes one important element of his own code of conduct, how can we be sure that anything in that code is true? Instead, we realize that with the above time frame given for the inception of the firemen, as well as other claims such as that houses have always been fire-proof, the citizens of this story live in a world that has fallen victim to a fictional past, as in the aforementioned revisionist history. The history of this society has been glossed-over, deleted, lost and destroyed, re-built and re-written as propaganda, and almost all actual historical truth has been lost, resulting in a world which very identity is one of dualistic irony: a world that shuns fiction, yet is almost wholly built upon lies. Beatty even let’s slip this inconsistency, perhaps subconsciously: he calls Montag a “fumbling snob” for reciting poetry, and he calls the critics of the past “snobs” for denouncing books. Who, then, does he believe to be the real “snob”: those who love fiction, or those who ridicule it? He inconsistency believes in truth that he works hard to conceal: that he knows, somehow, that the laws he upholds are a facade; that, at the very least, they could not have been founded upon any actual history and are instead a product of fiction dressed up as fact.
Beatty continues to explain how book-burning came about: “You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. …Colored people don’t like ‘Little Black Sambo’. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Burn it. …Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with.” It is due to the sensitivity of minority groups, Beatty says, that book-burning was put in place; the government did not want any disruption on behalf of those groups. This, then, is an ironic example of a more ‘positive’ kind of self-destruction, at least from the point-of-view of Montag and Faber: in its aim to not offend minority groups, the book-burning decree has instigated the creation of a new minority group that eventually overturns it. And, more ironic still, in order to enforce that decree the government has employed the firemen, yet it is one of those same firemen who joins a rebellion against the government and the decree it attempts to uphold.
“At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch,” says Beatty. “What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, Montag, take my word for it, I’ve had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing!” Notice that Beatty did not read books to know what they were about but to know what he was about, and the books gave him answers – they gave his life a purpose, even if he does not realize that fact. “[The books say] nothing you can teach or believe,” he insists, yet Beatty continually uses the contents of books throughout the novel to teach Montag; their relationship, until Montag rebels against Beatty, is a teacher-student relationship. Though they do eventually become opponents, Montag finds a thematic counterpart of sorts in Beatty as, on a more personal and less societal level, they engage together in voluntary self-destruction in order to pre-empt their involuntary self-destruction. That is, they each suspect they will follow in the footsteps of Mildred, rotting away with passivity, so they deliberately choose to follow in the footsteps of the old woman instead, to challenge those who demand that they not do certain things – to challenge even the laws they have sworn to uphold – in order to prevent themselves from dissolving into nothingness.
Like Mildred, both Montag and Beatty are slowly decaying. Montag, first, admits to himself that he is unhappy – “I don’t know anything anymore,” he says. And similarly, Beatty’s violent antagonism springs from the frustration he feels with regard to his obvious and paradoxical affection for literature, and for his duty to not only hide that affection but to burn its source. Beatty, for all his long, portentous speeches, consistently reveals more about himself through what he doesn’t say rather than by the actual words he uses: “Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?” he asks, without openly acknowledging that he himself is a well-read man: “Me? I won’t stomach [a well-read man] for a minute.” Here, he subconsciously indicates his own feelings of self-loathing – the same feelings that ultimately prompt him to order the flamethrower-wielding Montag to “Go ahead now, you second-hand litterateur, pull the trigger.”
Montag obeys him, and only later does he realize that “Beatty wanted to die. …He had just stood there, not really trying to save himself.” With these words, Montag might just as easily be describing Mildred, if only Mildred had taken control of her own decay instead of simply sitting by and allowing it to happen to her. Unlike Mildred, both Beatty and Montag would rather be destroyed than allow themselves to decay. And so, they both openly and unreservedly share literature and literary allusions with other people – even though it is explicitly illegal because, with neither man being able to destroy himself consciously, they are both aware that the consequences of such actions will serve to destroy them instead: essentially, they both flirt with self-destruction by enticing and provoking some reaction or retribution from the world whose rules they are breaking. Just as the old woman insists to them both “I want to stay here” as her house goes up in flames, so too does Beatty recite ‘Julius Caesar’, while Montag recites ‘Dover Beach’: three different actions, each with the same intention of self-destruction. Only two of those individuals, however, succeed in being destroyed, while the last, Montag, survives, and eventually uses the same passion for literature that nearly led to his death to rebuild an entire world that has destroyed itself.
Ultimately, it is this ability to rebuild that sets Montag apart from his contemporaries and his society, and even apart from Faber, for, unlike Faber, Montag is as much against the self-destruction of his society as he is a product of it. He neither completely denounces it nor does he completely accept it; rather, he agrees to carry out Faber’s joking suggestion that they plant books in the houses of firemen in order to ‘solve’ the problem of firemen and book-burning altogether.
“Fire is bright and fire is clean,” says Beatty; his solution is to destroy. “Do your own bit of saving,” says Faber, “and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore”; his solution is to create something better. Neither of these extremes will work as a ‘solution’ for the problems faced by a society that is founded on a fiction, and that denounces all other fiction. The only solution is to arrive at a compromise, to play by the rules of society in order to break them: “When you’ve got nothing to lose,” says Montag, “you run any risk you want.” This, then, is how he overcomes the obstacles of this book-burning society – he understands both the disease of self-destruction and its cure. And so it is that this self-destructive society is itself destroyed under his watch, and is rebuilt into something altogether more constructive by way of his hands.
The Tone and Mood of Self Reflection in ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
Everything within the trailer depicts the overall tone and mood of self reflection. The movie trailer for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, begins with a full shot of a major explosion, and then cuts to the scene of an advanced society all at eye level. This scene is included to draw in the audience’s attention, as it helps bring curiosity to the events leading up to the explosion. This tone of curiosity is included in the first scene to get the audience thinking, which is crucial for the next scene as it is referring to the daily lives of people in this society. Through the use of both full and mid shots along with high angle and eye level, you can visualize the aspects of their society that are similar to our own society along with aspects that show, how we ultimately have the potential of becoming like them if we stay on a blinded course. This idea makes the scene more relatable, therefore further engaging the audience at a greater extent. The scenes of lifestyle are shown in a negative way intentionally in order to develop a disgraceful tone. The scene following depicts Montag is emerging as an enlightened being.
The brief scene following depicts Clarisse, through through the use of mid shots and eye level angle with Clarisse being in front on the camera. This is meant to show how Clarisse is more enlightened than Montag, as well as showing how Montag is enlightened by Clarisse. Beatty is depicted in this scene as he is crucial to the book. He is shown when the audience sees someone burning a house down whereas the house represents Montag’s house burning which is a symbol of essentially the “death” of fireman Montag and the man being Beatty. This scene also includes the moment just before Montag jumps in the water and looks over it. This scene in connection with the biblical reference made in the book and ultimately symbolizes purity and rebirth. These scenes were chosen as they all allude to the idea of a new beginning, and the opportunity to a have a second chance at life, which allows to convey a tone of rebirth. The following scene conveys the obstacles he had to overcome during his early enlightenment phase. This scene depicts Faber through showing his lessons, while a train is driving away from the city. This train represents the scene where Montag is trying to understand the bible, but isn’t grasping the message of the book. Also, this scene includes where he is running away, and trying to get away from the city.
The use of high and eye levels angles in conjunction with mid and close shots, the center of attention is able to be placed on Montag, and shows him as someone who is looking down upon and he is going against the culture of the society. These scenes were chosen as they display key milestones in Montag’s development as an intellectual which are important to understand the story and Montag’s evolution in society. The scenes of Montag trying to break free from the influence of society conveys a tone of rebellious or mutinous. Also following is another explosion. The purpose of this explosion however, is meant to show the ultimate consequence of the society’s actions. Lastly, Montag and his group return to the destroyed city, shown by the truck driving towards the city on fire to start a new society. This is to show Montag new beginning with his group of intellectuals. The tone of this scene is meant to be hopeful, intense and optimistic as they essentially now have a second chance at life.
The Literature Characters Who Faced Adversity
End Of Term Semester Exam – Semester
Jamais Cascio once said, “Resilience is all about able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.” As an individual, you have the choice on how you react to unexpected problems, and how you react and plan your next move will determine your outcome and your future. Some individuals crumble for making a wrong move and fail in the process, but some make a wise move and thrive and usually keep making wiser decisions as the progress. There are exceptionally great characters that faced adversity and took control of their future. These characters would be Minerva, in Julia Alvarez’s novel, “In Time Of The Butterflies, Katniss, in Suzanne Collins novel, “The Hunger Games”, and Montag, in Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451”.
Minerva is a strong individual who faced adversity and then took control of her life. Minerva shows how resilient she is in many parts of her novel. She once said, “We cannot give up” (Alvarez 269). Following with her previous statement, she then said, “Adversity was like a key in the lock for me” (Alvarez 269). Minerva is explaining how obstacles in her path helps her open up her inner-strength, which makes her determined,fearless, and a difficult opponent to tackle on. Minerva is the type of person who likes to get the job done no matter how bad the road is. Minerva has run into trouble and she said, “I’m not gonna going to run scared” (Alvarez 193). This quote shows that she is determined and brave to complete her goal, She isn’t scared to tackle intimidating obstacles that could stop her. Adversity will not stop this brave individual who is trying to achieve her goal. Adversity makes Minerva into a more stronger, resilient person, and thats why she can take on adversity and then takes control of her life.
Katniss is another individual who faced adversity and then took control of her life. When the only supplier in Katniss’s family dies, which would be her father, and a mother who is in a deep depression that she can’t support her own children, who could step up? Katniss, the older sibling stands up to save her family.Katniss once said, “At eleven years old, with Prim just even, I took over as head of the family” (Collins 61, eBook)
As a result for Katniss who becomes the head of the family, with the survival and hunting skills that her father taught her before he passed away, she starts going to the forbidden outskirts of district 12, she hunts animals to keep her family alive, and becomes into a tough, unsentimental girl. Living in the districts under the control of the Capitol, you must be strong, ruthless to survive, and being nice and gentle is a disadvantage. Someone could potentially take advantage of you and do his/her bidding. In a part of Part I in the novel, she shows that she sacrifices attachments to others in order to protect herself, except Prim, shes an exception. In order for Katniss to survive, she has adapted to be unsentimental. When she goes hunting to gather food for her family, she cannot hesitate to kill an animal that is potentially useful food for the family, or else her family starves to death. Katniss adapted to her environment and overcame adversity to keep her and her family alive, and thats why Katniss is a strong individual who faced adversity and took control of her family.
And lastly, Montag is the last strong individual who faced adversity and then took over his life. After Montag meets Clarisse, an unusual teenage girl in this novel’s world, his eyes opened to a world he had forgotten. She asks Montag one intriguing question in one point of this novel. She says, “Are you happy”? Montag then responds, “Am I what? he cried… Of course I’m happy. Then later in the novel, he says, “He was not happy, he was not happy. He said the words to himself” (Bradbury 28-34 eBook). Montag starts to consider other things she has pointed out and decides to embrace a new pathway to self discovery rather than living a meaningless, repressed existence in a society that expects no asking questions, let alone important ones. Montag then starts to use books, a forbidden item in this country where its illegal to keep and use. Instead of hiding books where its safe from being discovered from another person, Montag reveals his books to Millies, her wifes friends. The narrator then said, “But Montag was gone and back in a moment with a book in his hands.” Millie then tells on Betty, the chief of the fire department, the ones responsible for burning houses with books in them, and Montags boss. Then the firemen arrives in front of Montag’s house and starts burning it. Montag then kills Beatty with his flamethrower. Montag doesn’t back down when someone destroys what he loves. He has the courage to face Beatty and kill him. Montag won’t get pushed around like a ragdoll when what he believes is right, is being destroyed. And thats why Montag is another character who tackles on adversity and thrives when confronting and overcoming it.
In conclusion, these three strong individuals faced many hardships, and they tackled them and overcome it. They thrive by defeating these obstacles that blocks them from their goal. Overall, these are three special characters are the best at facing adversity and then took control of their future.
Ideas of the American Society in Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 invokes two paradigms of America: the paradigm of America in the 1950s, and the Puritan paradigm of America. This paper will discuss the way these paradigms manifest themselves in the text, the relation between them, and the way the author uses them to postulate his conceptualization of America’s history and future.
The paradigm of America in the 1950s manifests itself predominantly in six different aspects of the novel. First, the book burning in the novel’s dystopian America comments on the American public’s perception of book burning in the 1950s. In the aftermath of the Nazi bonfires that consumed numerous books, and the anti-Semitic burnings of Jewish books in Communist Russia, book burning became the emblem of tyranny in the Western world. The majority of the American public at the time conceptualized the book burner as the evil “other” – the Nazi or the Communist – and accordingly perceived America as the champion of freedom, which struggles incessantly against book burners and what they stand for (Faragher, 809). This notion of Americanness as the opposing force to book burning is destabilized in the novel by the nearly unanimous approbation of book burning by both the fictional American authorities and the fictional American public. Bradbury even directly encourages the reader to draw parallels between the fictional book burning and contemporary events, noting in the Coda: “There is more than one way to burn a book” (Bradbury, 176). Bradbury does not reveal to which events he is referring, but this comment resonates strongly with topical events in America in the early 1950s: protests and lawsuits of religious and parental organizations against what they deemed obscene literature led to the establishment of the Gathings Committee, which demanded that publishers impose restrictions on the content of the paperback novels they intend to publish (Speer, 154-55); simultaneously, two prominent members of the McCarthy administration undertook a campaign to “purge United States Information Agency libraries of more than thirty thousand works by Communists, fellow-travelers and unwitting promoters of the Soviet cause” (Ward, 2).
Second, the character of Faber, the involuntarily retired English professor, may allude to the McCarthy administration’s persecution of academics: five years prior to the publication of the novel, charges of Communist activities were filed against six faculty members of the University of Washington (Schrecker, 93). Third, the predominance of mass culture, and particularly mass media, in the dystopian America of the novel, reflects the rapid ascendancy of mass culture in 1950s America: the fictional American public’s preference of comic books over more complex and ambiguous texts (Bradbury, 57) reflects the substantial increase in the sales of comic books (Faragher, 809) and the simultaneous decline in paperback sales (Speer, 154) in 1950s America; the fictional American public’s obsession with their TV parlours corresponds to the unprecedented popularity of mass media in 1950s America, to such a degree that, according to Maldwyn A. Jones, “television soon took up more American leisure time than any other activity, becoming for most people the preferred form of entertainment as well as the main source of information about what was going on in the world” (Jones, 593-4). Fourth, the incessant subway commercial for Denham’s products (Bradbury, 79) and Mildred’s fierce desire to purchase further components for her TV parlour (Bradbury, 20) manifest the striking increase in American consumerism following World War II (Faragher, 851). Fifth, the alienation that permeates the novel reflects the sense of estrangement that plagued the American middle class in the 1950s (Mills, 182-7). The novel’s different levels of alienation each seem to manifest a certain facet of estrangement in 1950s America: Montag’s alienation from Mildred, due to her obsession with mass media – “‘I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls.’” (Bradbury, 82) – may be construed as Bradbury’s critique of mass media as one of the causes of the high divorce rates in 1950s America (Stevenson, 28); Clarisse’s sense of isolation from her fellow classmates – “‘Oh, they don’t miss me,’ she said. ‘I’m antisocial, they say.’” (Bradbury, 29) – may allude to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, which was first published in the United States in 1951 and became a milestone in the discussion of the alienation of American youths; finally, the indifference of the fictional American public to the suffering of the people of other countries – “we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are” (Bradbury, 73) – may reflect the lack of concern of the 1950s American public for the plights of war-devastated Europe (Griffith, 23).
The sixth manifestation of the paradigm of 1950s America in the novel is the atomic bombing of the fictional American city. Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Western liberals began to fear that humanity might utterly destroy itself. This fear was exacerbated by the revelation at the end of the 1940s that the Soviet Union had acquired the technology to create nuclear weapons (Hoskinson, 346). The American public was especially frightened by this intelligence, due to the United States’ Cold War with the Soviet Union. Bradbury incorporates this American fear into the novel, by retaining the contextual framework of America as the country that initiated atomic warfare – “‘we’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1990!’” (Bradbury, 73) – and adding a fictional tragic consequence: “Once the bomb release was yanked, it was over” (Bradbury, 158).
Towards the end of the novel, when Montag escapes into the wilderness, the text shifts from manifestations of the paradigm of America in the 1950s to manifestations of the Puritan paradigm of America. Montag’s escape corresponds to the Puritan journey to New England: like the Puritans, Montag exiles himself from a society that persecutes him, crosses a body of water, arrives at the virgin lands of America, and integrates into a new society founded on the very ideals that were the cause of his persecution. Furthermore, the sequence of scenes in which Montag emerges from the river that nearly drowned him and subsequently leads Granger and his companions towards a better future, invokes Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea and his guidance of the Israelites to the Promised Land. This Biblical allusion is consonant with the Puritan paradigm, because the Puritans perceived their journey to New England as a reenactment of the Exodus.
Another manifestation of the Puritan paradigm is Montag’s preservation of the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation in his mind, to the extent that he becomes these texts: “‘Montag… you are the book of Ecclesiastes’” (Bradbury, 151). In this context, Granger’s promise – “We’ll pass the books on to our children” (Bradbury, 152-3) – resonates with John Winthrop’s declaration that the ultimate goal of the Puritan settlement of America is “to encrease the body of christie… that our selves and posterity may be the better preserved” (Winthrop, 14). If we accept the notion that a subject’s words are an extension of his body, then by preserving the words of God and his Son for the purpose of passing them on to future generations, Montag is realizing the Puritan aspiration to augment the body of Christ for posterity. Moreover, Montag’s quotations from the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation – “To everything there is a season… And on either side of the river was there a tree of life” (Bradbury, 165) – manifest the Puritan paradigm by alluding to Puritan captivity narratives, such as Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. These narratives are saturated with Biblical quotations that compare the depicted events, which take place in America, to Biblical scenes, with the express purpose of promoting the Puritan vision of America as the new Promised Land.
Having discussed the manifestations of the two paradigms of America in the novel, I would now like to explore the relationship between them. I suggest that this relationship can be extrapolated from the novel’s invocation of various elements from collective American past: the Mechanical Hound’s pursuit of Montag may be construed as a subtle reference to the hunting of fugitive African American slaves by the dogs of slave owners, which, according to Jon T. Coleman, “helped police human property… intimidated slaves and chased down runaways” (Coleman, 483); Beatty’s claim that book burning “really got started around a thing called the Civil War” (Bradbury, 54) alludes to the American Civil War; the Firemen rulebook refers to a Founding Father of the United States: “First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin” (Bradbury, 34). These intimations of American past indicate that the fictional America of the novel began to deteriorate towards the depicted dystopian state of affairs long before the McCarthy administration or the mass culture of the 1950s. By implicating Benjamin Franklin as the pioneer book burner, the author is suggesting that the very establishment of the United States by the Founding Fathers was a crucial factor in America’s gradual decline. Consequently, the author’s representation of the Puritan paradigm, which preceded the Founding Fathers, as an antithesis to his dystopian America, may be interpreted as an appeal for America to return to its origins. We may therefore conjecture that the author postulates the Puritan paradigm as the last prelapsarian vision of America, whereas the paradigm of America in the 1950s is a late stage in the country’s downfall.
The novel culminates with the fulfillment of John Winthrop’s warning that “if wee shall deale falsely… wee shall shame the faces of many of god’s worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are goeing” (Winthrop, 15). The people of the dystopian America indeed deal falsely both towards themselves and towards others, and we may surmise that they are cursed by their destitute neighbors, who wage war on them. Finally, they are in fact consumed by flames. Bradbury cremates the manifestations of the paradigm of America in the 1950s, in order to rekindle the Puritan paradigm of America. He takes America back to square zero, and entrusts the task of resettling it to Montag and his companions, who will be the new American pioneers. The novel concludes with their procession towards the city, thereby echoing the Puritan dream of America as “a Citty upon a Hill” (Winthrop, 15). Bradbury leaves the narrative open-ended, with the suggestion that perhaps the rebuilt city will be more faithful to the original vision. Readers can only hope that this time around, Montag and his descendants will create a new and better America.
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Griffith, Robert, ed. Major problems in American History Since 1945: Documents and Essays. Lexington, Mass: D. C. Heath, 1992.
Hoskinson, Kevin. “The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury’s Cold War Novels.” Extrapolation 36.4 (1995): 346-359.
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Schrecker, Ellen. The Age of McCarthyism: a Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Speer, Lisa K. “Paperback Pornography: Mass Market Novels and Censorship in Post-War America.” Journal of American and Comparative Cultures 24 (2001): 153-60.
Stevenson, Betsey, and Justin Wolfers. “Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 21.2 (2007): 27-52.
Problems within the Society in Fahrenheit 451
Do you remember how your parents would always say too much television will “turn your brain to mush?” This just so happens to be the case in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which poses an eerily similar problem. This novel is about a society caught in the technology of tomorrow, while losing the knowledge of yesterday. Television makes the problems in real life seem distant, and makes people care less about their actual life. Television is also a tool, used and abused by the government in Bradbury’s world. TV just might also take away a human’s one, true right: to think freely.
TV, or “the parlor,” is the enemy in the world of Fahrenheit 451 and perhaps even of the world we know today. The parlor walls are a tool used by the government to detach people from reality. Mildred and Montag, the protagonist, are so disjoined from each other that neither would even care if the other were to die the next day. The people in this land all have the same mindset: “He said, if I get killed off, you just go right ahead and don’t cry, but get married again, and don’t think of me”(95): they try very hard to be independent of their significant others. This society has lost all sense of communal loe, because people are nothing but a way to get money. Mildred would not mind if Guy were to die, as long as she inherited enough money for another TV wall. As Montag says, “That’s one-third of my yearly pay.’ ‘It’s only two thousand dollars,’ she replied. ‘And I should think you’d consider me sometimes. If we had a fourth wall, why it’d be just like this room wasn’t ours at all, but all kinds of exotic people’s rooms. We could do without a few things” (20). Millie thinks that Guy should care more about her and, oddly, demonstrate this care by giving her an even bigger television wall. Montag is just trapped in the illusion that he loves Millie, because she does nothing for him, she has no job, and does not even talk to him, yet he buys her so much.
Mildred abuses her relationship with Montag further by neglecting him so she that can be with her “family.” When Montag is sick in bed, he pleads for Mille to change: “Will you turn the parlour off?’ he asked. ‘That’s my family’ … ‘I’ll turn it down.’ She went out of the room and did nothing to the parlour and came back.” The definition of “family” is far different from what it is today. The married couple has no love for each other, and shares no common interests. Although not by blood, Mildred is more closely related to the television than to her actual family, her husband. The parlour is just a replacement for the family people already had, but the parlour does not have scary thoughts, that are to be hidden.
Adding to this theme of unpleasant fixation, the government uses the civilians like puppets, and television like the puppet master’s hand. The parlor is used mostly to control the emotions of the public. When Granger is showing Montag that he is still being chased, he says, “They’re faking. You threw them off at the river. They can’t admit it. They know they can hold their audience only so long…So they’re sniffing for a scape-goat to end things with a bang” (148). They have to kill someone in the end, so the government would rather kill one person than lose the happiness of many. Ultimately, it was supposedly beneficial to the people protected by the government to be happy, and secure, because of one strange man’s death. The people of one suburb are literally used as a weapon by the government, when Montag hears what the people would have seen on their walls: “Police suggest entire population in the Elm Terrace area do as follows: Everyone in every house in every street open a front or rear door or look from the windows. The fugitive cannot escape if everyone in the next minute looks from his house” (138). These commands from the TV are followed religiously because following in this manner entertains the people; they do not know what else to do with their time. The government knows this, and uses the people as a collective weapon. People are so easily manipulated in this world that they are almost better than literal weapons, as long as they do not think, that is.
With the television telling you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, you not need to think for yourself, or even act with human dignity at all. Mildred realizes this, at least in Montag’s mind, at the end, when the bombs come down on the city. Montag thinks, “she saw her own face reflected there, in a mirror instead of a crystal ball, and it was such a wildly empty face, all by itself in the room, touching nothing, starved and eating of itself”(159). Montag imagines that Mildred finally realizes what she had been doing to her life with the television. It has finally come to her that she has touched nothing, and changing nothing in the world. She simply existed, not for or against anything, but simply caught in the system. Mildred’s friends lack basic human affection for their own children, as demonstrated when one said, “I put up with them when they come home three days a month…They’d just as soon kick as kiss me” (96). This woman denies her children what today is basic love. This reaction is basically neglect, which causes the kids to in turn be terrible adults and neglect their own kids. If the adults do not stop, the cycle will continue infinitely.
As Fahrenheit 451 shows, the influence of television is a very dangerous tool, if abused. It can be used to make people forget about the world’s problems, and remove the human rights of self-thought. TV can turn people into a mass weapon, which is why television is so dangerous. Whenever someone turns on the television, think to yourself: are you watching the TV, or is it watching you?
Ray Bradbury’s Interpretation of the Disadvantages of Technology as Described in His Book Fahrenheit 451
Have you ever tried to interact with someone but they are too distracted on their phone? In Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, he depicts a society where technology has turned into an obsession. People no longer read due to the fact that books are banned so they are constantly depending on technology to entertain themselves. This overuse of technology has created a society that lacks intelligence, thinking, socializing, time outdoors and communicating. Bradbury predicted that people in the future would spend all their time using technology and unfortunately his prediction is true and relates to our society today.
The overuse of entertainment technology has impacted relationships in the world of Fahrenheit 451 and in our world today. For example, in Fahrenheit 451, Mildred spends all her time interacting with the parlor walls and doesn’t even acknowledge that Montag is there. They do not communicate whatsoever due to all the time she spends with the parlor walls. “Will you turn the parlour off?” he asked. “That’s my family.” (Pg 52 Bradbury). Montag asks Mildred to turn off the parlour walls for once and she rejects him and says that it’s her family. According to our world today in an article called “3 ways Technology can impact your relationships”, “technology can create problems between romantic partners, potentially stirring conflict and dissatisfaction in the relationship” and “Nearly 1 in 10 had argued with a partner about excessive time spent on the devices” (goodtherapy.org staff). Technology can impact your brain so much that you start forgetting things, in fahrenheit 451, Mildred couldn’t even remember when she and Montag met. “Can’t you remember?…It’s been so long” (Pg 46 Bradbury). Technology interferes with relationships by creating an obsession and addiction, the user ends up spending all their time on the device instead of with their partner and they stop communicating.
The overuse of technology in Fahrenheit 451 has turned people into non talking, non associating people who don’t think and have opinions of their own. “No one has time anymore for anyone else” (pg 27 Bradbury). In the story Clarisse is called “antisocial” because she likes to talk, socialize, explore nature, etc. This is ironic because in our way of thinking we would consider her social. Because of the constant technology in the faces of these citizens, normal human social behavior is considered out of the ordinary. According to an article “Technology: Is It Making Kids Antisocial”, by Morgan Hampton. Morgan states that “Today children are more dependent upon electronics and less dependent on human interaction” (Hampton). Bradbury predicted that people would be more interested in technology than human interaction and he was correct.
Most people cannot go a day without using technology. It has become an addiction, obsession and a real world wide problem. We use our tv’s, cell phones, computers, radio, etc. everyday. These devices are a necessity and a reliable source of entertainment to most of us in our daily lives just like they are to Mildred in Fahrenheit 451, “She had both ears plugged with electronic bees” (pg 16 Bradbury), “He reached over and pulled the tiny musical insect out of her ear” (pg 43 Bradbury), “Now it was in her ear again” (pg 45 Bradbury). Mildred’s ear buds are constantly in her ears. She refuses to keep them out when her husband takes them out of her ears. In our society today, we often come across people with their earbuds in and are so occupied they won’t even acknowledge you are there, just like Mildred does to Montag. In an article “Teen Technology Addiction”, the author states that “Technology impacts the pleasure systems of the brain in ways similar to substances…technology fulfills our natural human need for stimulation, interaction, and changes in environment with great efficiency…technology can become a quick and easy way to fill basic needs, and as such, can become addictive” (Ford). Due to Mildred’s addiction to the parlor walls, it keeps her inside all day and she doesn’t often go outside. Technology is extremely addictive and prevents you from going outside and unplugging from your devices.
Bradbury’s prediction of people in the future spending too much time using technology was right and welly describes our society today. The overuse of technology in our world today is almost worse than what it was in Fahrenheit 451. The dependence, obsession and addiction to technology has negatively impacted our society just as well as it did in Fahrenheit 451. The loss of communication, lack of intelligence, less time outdoors, etc. has really left an impact on people in our society today and in the society of Fahrenheit 451 and it is all because of our reliance on technology.
Literary Analysis Of Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury
The world is never at rest, harboring many diverse people with their own acclaimed opinions and actions. These various components contribute to the intricacy of the world, being the stimuli for powerful thoughts and emotions. In the novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury utilizes metaphors, personification, and repetition to depict that ignorance is bliss due to people enclosing themselves from reality because of the pain brought, which promotes the desire for an untroubled environment.
To begin with, Bradbury relays his message through the use of personification; This is used to describe society’s outlook on how life should transpire. The quote which supports this is, “They show the pores in life. The comfortable people want only wax faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless”. The author expresses how books show the ‘pores of life. ’ Pores are a human characteristic that flaws the face. Individuals tend to criticize and be discontent about possessing this feature. They try to minimize the appearance of pores as much as they can in hopes of a clear complexion. What’s being implied is that books illuminate the negative elements that are attached to reality. They elevate realness and authenticity which unveils the conflicts that lie within the world. The people are unable to face the portion of life that provide the slightest distraught. They cover up this defect through un-acknowledgement, hence them opting for, ‘poreless, hairless, expressionless’. This illustrates society’s aspiration for perfection, void of any conflict which demonstrates their inclination of happiness over truth.
Not only does Bradbury display society’s outlook, he also shows the way they live based on ignorance through the use of the metaphor, “We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam”. The people are being compared to flowers, plants that are soft, delicate, and beautiful, which is then used to describe how they ‘live on flowers’. By drawing this comparison, it illustrates how people are trying to guard themselves from actuality and be confined in their own world of what they deem as happiness, which is an environment that solely focuses on beauty of things. The author further explains that they are unwilling to ‘grow on good rain and black loam’. In order for a plant to thrive, their environment must garner fertile soil and an abundant source of water.
By comparing the people to flowers and describing their habitat and the way they live, it indicates that people are reluctant to better themselves and possess individuality. For one to be their own person, they must accumulate original ideas and undergo experiences that will make them ponder. Society is lacking much development by not acquiring the necessary nutrients to grow and process the vital things in life, which in this case, is knowledge. The society’s detested feelings towards knowledge ultimately ties back to why ignorance is so advocated by the people. Most have a certain stigma about books. This is displayed in the literary pattern, repetition, “I’ve always said, poetry and tears, poetry and suicide and crying and awful feelings. Poetry and sickness; all that mush”. The constant deliverance of flipping from ‘poetry’, which is associated with literature, to words that are generalized as negative, emphasizes that the people deduce works of literature to be pure evil. Mrs. Phelps’ continuance of spitting out the things that she feels are negatively affiliated with books is a strong representation of how the majority of society perceives knowledge. Like Phelps, most people are unable to pull any positive aspects from obtaining information. They are unwilling to accept the words that come their way which conveys how close minded they are. Complexity and anything that aid critical thinking is disregarded and is reckoned as intolerable. If that were to be presented in their life, emotions would be activated which are highly unfavorable for them due to the complicated nature when dealing with feelings.
Due to society’s limited range of comprehension and experience in various emotions, the foreignness of it all will cause a surge of panic and terror. Their little bubble of bliss would burst, exposing them to pain and suffering, thus why simplicity is highly sought after. The repetition reinforces this idea by parading the outpour of emotions which effectively lets the reader gain perspective as to why there is much passion against knowledge. The use of the figurative languages such as personification, metaphors, and repetition fully enhances the aspect of obliviousness along with happiness that can result from ignorance.
These literary devices establish society’s idealistic goals and methods of living in the solitude of bliss. In today’s world, peace and absolute contemptment is valued, but is almost impossible to be fully achieved for everyone. There are many happenings on Earth that people turn a blind eye on due to the unreal horrificness of the situation. It is believed that focusing on yourself and residing in your own world creates a better living rather than recognizing and dwell upon the misfortunes of everyday life.
Understanding the Role of Guy Montag As Portrayed By Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451
“Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years and he had never questioned the joy of the midnight runs, nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames…never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think…and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do! (Ray Bradbury-Fahrenheit 451)”. Was Guy Montag the same person at both the beginning and end of Fahrenheit 451? The answer to this question is a definite no. Montag transformed dramatically throughout the story. He started as a person of ignorance, but ended a man of enlightenment and intelligence. Montag embarked on his journey as a fireman who lived to burn and destroy books, but returned a crusader who lived to save them.
“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spouting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of an amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters of history. 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. (Ray Bradbury-Fahrenheit 451, page 3)”. In the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag was happy on the outside. He enjoyed burning books for a living, and believed that his marriage and all-around life fulfilled him. However, deep within, Montag really wasn’t happy. His marriage was far from perfect. He and Mildred seldom spoke of subjects which held any meaning. They showed little or no love for each other. Seemingly, they had little in common. Deep within himself, Montag knew something was wrong. What sparked Montag to change was Clarisse, who was the catalyst of Montag’s huge transformation. Clarisse brought questions and emotions into Montag’s life that he had never experienced or seen in anyone before. She questioned things such as society, the world, other people, and everything around her. She thought about life, looking for real answers and meanings. She noticed tiny everyday things such as rain or the moon, which seemed amazing to her. She held insight and intellect. All these elements were missing in Montag’s life, and deemed wrong or “anti-social” within the world he existed. Clarisse’s imagination, intelligence, and questioning personality rubbed off on Montag as he too began to stop and look at the world around him. This signified the beginning of Montag’s great change.
Many things pushed Montag to further change. The second of these events was the alarm at the old woman’s home. When Montag witnessed the old woman burn herself with her books, he realized that perhaps books really were worth reading. After this significant event, Montag decided to contact Faber, a retired English professor whom he had met in the park. Faber, much like Clarisse, challenged Montag’s mind, questioning the world and seeking the real meanings and solutions to the problems faced by society. Faber educated Montag about books, and introduced him to the hidden world of conformity, dishonesty, and degradation that surrounded them. Faber was really Montag’s bridge over trouble. Had it not been for Faber’s calming advice and explanation, Montag would likely have gone crazy over his confused battle for books. Through the small hearing device, Faber guided Montag through the many obstacles blocking their goal of resurrecting books in the conforming society. At this stage, Montag was midway through his transmogrification. Through the help of Faber and eventually Beatty, Montag would completely change.
Guided by Faber’s voice in the tiny earpiece, Montag explored life through new eyes. He had become two people, Montag, and Faber. Montag was influenced somewhat by Beatty, the fire captain. Through his drawn out speeches, Beatty attempted to confuse Montag, but only pushed Montag further toward discovering what lay within books. Montag began to see the world in a new light. He confronted Mildred and her friends by reading poetry in front of them. After this, Mildred went over the edge, calling in the alarm on Montag. Montag was forced to burn his home, which he did willingly. As he did this, he burnt his old life, the life of conformity, destruction, and ignorance. Montag was torching the life he had spent with Mildred, as well as the life of the fireman. Yet, the action, which would change Montag’s life forever, still waited. As Montag stood in the ashes of his smoldering home, the ashes of his old life, he was confronted by Beatty. Antagonized by Beatty, Montag pulled the trigger of the flame-thrower, instantaneously turning Beatty into a burning mass of flame. The murder of Beatty signified the end of old life for Montag. He could no longer go back. Montag knew he must leave, and this he did. By way of the river, Montag fled from the mechanical hound, firemen, police, and helicopters. He escaped to the country, leaving behind the city, the conforming, ignorant society, as well as the ashes of the old Montag. Montag was a new man. Once he met the Granger and the other men who lived in the forest, he knew he had really found his new life. These men were much like Montag. They too were fighting a war to keep books alive. Within the heads and memories of these men lived books. These men would appreciated Montag for his courage, and would recognize him as a leader. There, Montag would live, waiting for the right moment when people would be ready to accept books again. As Montag led the men back toward the ashes of the city, the city which much like Montag, had been scarred by war, he knew that he would probably never change the world. Immediate action may not follow his arrival. Yet, Montag would do his best to contribute to the rebuilding of a new world, a world of intelligence instead of ignorance, and understanding instead of condemnation. Montag was truly a new man.
Montag changed drastically throughout the book Fahrenheit 451. He began as a lost, empty, sad individual with little knowledge of the fulfillment life could bring. However, Montag became a new man. Through the help of Clarisse and Faber, and eventually Granger, as well as the indirect influence of people such as Mildred and Beatty, Montag became a man of understanding and fulfillment. He had a purpose in life, and realized what the world held for him. He was the new Guy Montag.
Fahrenheit 451 Reading notes for part 1 “The Hearth and The Salamander”
Guy Montag is one of many firemen in charge of burning books in a future version of the United States where books are illegal. The novel starts off with a concise description of the joy he experiences while on the job of burning books. In the book, he is described as wearing a helmet with the number 451 (the heat at which paper burns, thus giving the reason for the name of the book), a dark black suit with a salamander on the arm, and a “phoenix disc” on his torso.
Coming home from his work at the fire station, he feels a sense of nervousness. He gets a sense that somebody is around him or watching him in the shadows. This is when he meets a new neighbor. A very unusual 17-year-old by the name of Clarisse McClellan. She instantly sees that Montag is a fireman and seems very interested in him and his suit. Clarisse tells Montag that she is considered “crazy” and proceeds to tell Montag that she thinks the original job of firemen was to douse and extinguish fires instead of lighting them.
She intrigues him with her strange “left-field” questions, unusual lifestyle, and “incredible power of identification.” She asks him if he is content with his life and then Clarisse walks into her house without hearing Montag’s response. Inquiring the imbecilic question, Montag says he is a little bit concerned because normally he doesn’t talk about his personal life with strangers.
When he returns to his house, he realizes that he is not happy with his life. Montag keeps feeling uneasy when he gets to bed. He sees his wife Mildred listening to her favorite radio show “Seashells”. Montag accidentally kicks over an empty bottle of sleeping pills, realizing his wife had overdosed on the pills, and he calls an ambulance. Just as he does this, a squad of jet bombers drops bombs and shakes the house immensely. The ambulance arrives, and two very cynical workers show up with a snake-like machine to pump Mildred’s stomach. Montag ponders upon the question he was asked by Clarisse and all the events that had happened. He feels terribly dazed as he takes a sleeping pill and dozes off.
The next day, Montag tries to talk to Mildred about her attempted overdose the night before. Mildred says she has no memory of her attempted suicide. When Montag asks about it he gets completely shot down by his wife. Instead, she insists on talking about the plot of the television programs that she watches. As he is not interested in the conversation, Montag leaves for work.
When he gets outside, he sees Clarisse having fun in the rain. She runs a dandelion across her chin and explains to Montag that if any pollen rubs off she is in love. Then, she rubs the dandelion on Montag’s chin but to his embarrassment, no pollen rubs off at all. After this, Clarisse asks Montag why he chose to become a fireman in the first place. Clarisse says that he is not like any of the other firemen she has met before. Montag tells Clarisse that she should go to her therapist that she was assigned by the authorities because of her “lack of sociability”, and for her apparently dangerous motive towards independent thought.
Once Montag reaches his work at the fire station, he reaches into pet a mechanical hound, but, to his surprise, it growls at him and threatens him. Montag immediately reports this phenomenon to his captain, Captain Beatty. He is concerned it could be a murder plot because the exact same event has happened twice before in this month. After this, the other firemen tease him and say that a fireman in Seattle had committed suicide by setting the trigger for the mechanical hound to his own chemical complex. Beatty tells Montag that the hound will be checked out and assures him that the problem won’t happen again.
Over the next week, Montag sees Clarisse outside of his house going to and coming from work every day. Clarisse asks Montag why he never had children of his own with his wife and she also explains why she decided to stop going to school. On the eighth day, he did not see Clarisse outside of his house and when he got to the fire station, he asks captain Beatty what happened to the man whose library they burned down. Beatty then says how the man was sent to an asylum for the clinically insane. Montag then asks if the firemen were ever deployed to extinguish fires. The other firemen show him a handbook where they were established in the 1790’s to burn English-influenced books. Then, the alarm is sounded, and they head off to an old rickety house owned by an old woman. The old woman has pushed aside so they can get to the books. One book falls into Montag’s hand and he decides to quickly hide it under his coat. Even after they drench the books with kerosene, the woman stands her ground and doesn’t leave. Beatty begins to flame up the house, but Montag stops to try and help the old woman leave quietly. She insists on refusing, and as Montag leaves, she lights the fire herself burning her and the house down. All the firemen are very quiet on the drive home to the station.
Montag goes home and hides the book he has under his pillow. Montag tells Mildred that he has not seen Clarisse for about four days. He asks Mildred if she knows anything about her recent disappearance, and Mildred says she believes that she was killed in a car crash.
Montag wakes up very sick, he smells kerosene and he throws up. Montag tells Mildred about the old woman’s house the night before and asks her if its okay if he gave up his job for a while. He tries to explain to Mildred that he is guilty of burning all the books and the old lady’s house, but Mildred does not want to listen. He attempts to talk with Mildred about how it really bothers him and asks her when she was last bothered by something. The argument ends when they see Captain Beatty coming up the front walk.
Captain Beatty comes by to check on Montag, saying that he guessed Montag would be calling in sick that day. He tells Montag that every fireman runs into the “problem” he has been experiencing sooner or later, and he relates to him the history of their profession. Beatty’s monologue borders on the hysterical, and his tendency to jump from one thing to another without explaining the connection makes his history very hard to follow. Part of the story is that photography, film, and television made it possible to present information in a quickly digestible, visual form, which made the slower, more reflective practice of reading books less popular. Another strand of his argument is that the spread of literacy, and the gigantic increase in the number of published materials, created pressure for books to be more like one another and easier to read (like Reader’s Digest condensed books). Finally, Beatty says that “minorities” and special-interest groups found so many things in books objectionable that people finally abandoned debate and started burning books.
Mildred’s attention falters while Beatty is talking, and she gets up and begins absentmindedly straightening the room. In doing so, she finds the book behind Montag’s pillow and tries to call attention to it, but Montag screams at her to sit down. Beatty pretends not to notice and goes on talking. He explains that eventually the public’s demand for uncontroversial, easy pleasure caused printed matter to be diluted to the point that only comic books, trade journals, and sex magazines remained. Beatty explains that after all houses were fireproofed, the firemen’s job changed from its old purpose of preventing fires to its new mission of burning the books that could allow one person to excel intellectually, spiritually, and practically over others and so make everyone else feel inferior. Montag asks how someone like Clarisse could exist, and Beatty says the firemen have been keeping an eye on her family because they worked against the schools’ system of homogenization. Beatty reveals that he has had a file on the McClellan’s families’ odd behaviors for years and says that Clarisse is better off dead.
Beatty urges Montag not to overlook how important he and his fellow firemen are to the happiness of the world. He tells him that every fireman sooner or later becomes curious about books; because he has read some himself, he can assert that they are useless and contradictory. Montag asks what would happen if a fireman accidentally took a book home with him, and Beatty says that he would be allowed to keep it for twenty-four or forty-eight hours, but that the other firemen would then come to burn it if he had not already done so himself. Beatty gets up to leave and asks if Montag will come into work later. Montag tells him that he may, but he secretly resolves never to go again.
After Beatty leaves, Montag tells Mildred that he no longer wants to work at the fire station and shows her a secret stock of about twenty books he has been hiding in the ventilator. In a panic, she tries to burn them, but he stops her. He wants to look at them at least once, and he needs her help. He searches for a reason for his unhappiness in the books, which he has apparently been stealing for some time. Mildred is frightened of them, but Montag is determined to involve her in his search, and he asks for forty-eight hours of support from her to look through the books in hopes of finding something valuable that they can share with others. Someone comes to the door, but they do not answer, and he goes away. (Later it is revealed that the Mechanical Hound was the second visitor.) Montag picks up a copy of Gulliver’s Travels and begins reading.