Firefighters today have the great task of putting out fires. But unlike this day and age, firemen in this book start fires. Fireman Guy Montag loves to rush to a fire and watch books burn up. Then he met a seventeen-year old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid, and a... read more
Fahrenheit 451 takes place in an unspecified future time (some dialogue places it after 1990) in a hedonistic anti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control. This America is filled with lawlessness in the streets ranging from teenagers crashing cars into people to firemen... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Fahrenheit 451 takes place in an unspecified future time (some dialogue places it after 1990) in a hedonistic anti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control. This America is filled with lawlessness in the streets ranging from teenagers crashing cars into people to firemen at a station who set their 'mechanical hound' to hunt various animals by their scent for the simple and grotesque pleasure of watching them die. Anyone caught reading or possessing illegal books is, at the minimum, confined to a mental hospital while the books are burned by the firemen. Illegal books mainly include famous works of literature, such as Walt Whitman and William Faulkner, as well as the Bible and all historical texts.
One rainy night returning from his job, fireman Guy Montag meets his new neighbor Clarisse McClellan, whose free-thinking ideals and liberating spirit force him to question his life, his ideals, and his own perceived happiness. Clarisse would not ask how a thing was done, but why. Later, he finds out that Clarisse has been killed in an auto accident.
After meeting Clarisse, Montag returns home to find his wife Mildred asleep with an empty bottle of sleeping pills next to her bed. He calls for medical help; two technicians respond by proceeding to suck out Mildred's blood with a machine and insert new blood into her. The technicians' utter disregard for Mildred forces Montag to question the state of society.
In the following days, while at work with the other firemen ransacking the book-filled house of an old woman before the inevitable burning, Montag accidentally reads a line in one of her books: "Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine". This prompts him to steal one of the books. The woman refuses to leave her house and her books, choosing instead to light a match she had concealed from the firemen's view, prematurely igniting the flammable kerosene the firemen had sprayed her house with and, in an act of martyrdom subsequently burns herself alive along with her beloved books. This disturbs Montag, who wonders why someone would die for books, which he considers to be without value.
Jarred by the woman's suicide, Montag becomes physically ill and calls for sick leave, whereupon he receives a visit from his fire chief Captain Beatty, who explains to him the political and social causes which underlie the work they perform. Captain Beatty claims that society, in its search for happiness and in an attempt to minimize cultural offenses through political correctness, brought about the suppression of literature as an act of self-censorship and that the government merely took advantage of the situation. Beatty adds that all firemen eventually steal a book out of curiosity, but all is well if the book is burned within 24 hours; he thus implies he knows of Montag's book-hiding tendency. Montag argues with his wife, Mildred, over the book he himself has stolen, showing his growing disgust for her and for his society.
It is revealed that Montag has, over the course of a year, hidden dozens of books in the ventilation shafts of his own house, and tries to memorize them to preserve their contents, but becomes frustrated that the words seem to simply fall away from his memory. He then remembers a man he had met at one time: Faber, a former English professor. Montag seeks Faber's help, whereafter Faber begins teaching Montag about the vagaries and ambiguities but overall importance of literature in its attempt to explain human existence. He also tells him what books really mean. He also gives Montag a green bullet-shaped ear-piece so that Faber can offer guidance throughout his daily activities.
During a card game at the firehouse, Beatty tells Montag he had a dream about him, and relates the literary argument he claims to have had in his dream. Beatty quotes many books and shows an amazing knowledge of literature to prove to Montag that books can confuse the thoughts. Shortly after receiving an emergency dispatch, Montag follows Beatty and the crew to another call to arms; Beatty theatrically leads the crew to Montag's own home. He reveals that he knew all along of Montag's books, and orders Montag to destroy the house. Montag sees Mildred moving away from the house and sets to work burning their home; not content destroying the books, he burns the televisions, beds, and other emblems of his past life. After he destroys his house, Montag walks back to Beatty, Beatty slaps Montag on the head causing the earpiece to fall out. When Beatty finds Faber's earpiece, he threatens to track Faber down, whereupon Montag turns the flamethrower on Beatty, killing him. He becomes a fugitive for these crimes. When the firehouse's mechanical hound attacks him, he turns the flamethrower on it twice, destroying it.
He flees through the city streets to Faber's house, with another firehouse's mechanical hound and television network helicopters in hot pursuit. The newscasters hope to document his escape as a spectacle, and distract the people from the oncoming threat of war, a threat that has been foreshadowed throughout the book via the reader being repeatedly told of planes flying over the buildings that the characters are in, as well as a radio broadcast that says "this country stands ready to defend itself". When he arrives at Faber's home, the old man tells Montag of vagabond book-lovers in the countryside. Montag then escapes to a local river, floats downstream and meets a group of older men who, to Montag's astonishment, have memorized entire books, preserving them orally until the law against books is overturned. They burn the books they read to prevent discovery, retaining the verbatim content (and possibly valid interpretations) in their minds.
Meanwhile, the television network helicopters surround and kill another innocent man (who regularly walks about and thus is in a police file as a suspect individual and potential scapegoat) instead of Montag, to maintain the illusion of a successful hunt for the watching audience.
The war begins. Montag watches helplessly as jet bombers fly overhead and attack the city with nuclear weapons. It is implied Mildred dies, though Faber is stated to have left for St. Louis, to "see a retired printer there". It is implied that more cities across the country have been incinerated as well; a bitter irony in that the world that sought to burn thought is burned itself. At the moment of the explosion, the emotion of seeing the city burned causes a key phrase from the Bible to emerge from the depths of Montag's memory. The final page of the novel shows this phrase to be Revelation 22:2.
At dawn, Granger (the leader of the band) and Montag have some bacon for breakfast. During the meal, Granger discusses the legendary phoenix and its endless cycle of long life, death in flames, and rebirth, adding that the phoenix must have some relation to mankind, which constantly repeats its mistakes. Granger then muses that a large factory of mirrors should be built, so that mankind can take a long look at itself. After the meal is over, the band sets off back toward the city, to help rebuild what is left of it.
The novel is concluded in a shocking but slightly optimistic tone. It is suggested that the society Montag knew has almost completely collapsed and a new society must be built from the ashes. Whether this new society will meet the same fate is unknown, but it is implied that the book-keepers will begin to show people who they are, what they have become, and how they can change with time and knowledge.
“Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, bern 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That's our official slogan.”Guy Montag
“There are too many of us, he thought. There are billions of us and that's too many. Nobody knows anyone.”
“He felt his body divide itself into a hotness and a coldness, a softness and a hardness, a trembling and a not trembling, the two halves grinding one upon the other.”
“His hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms. He could feel the poison working up his wrists and into his elbows and his shoulders, and then the jump-over from shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade like a spark leaping a gap. His hands were ravenous. And his eyes were beginning to feel hunger, as if they must look at something, anything, everything.”
“It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the 'parlour families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it's not books at all you're looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe into one garment for us.”
“Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality and what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. this book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, steaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”
“The magic in what books say:Number one, as I said, quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”
“I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane.”Clarisse
“FAHRENHEIT 451: The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns.”
“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.”
“She didn't want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing. You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it.”
“Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”
“You're afraid of making mistakes. Don't be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.”
“People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.”
““Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?” “No. Houses have always been fireproof, take my word for it.” “Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.””
“He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys, and into the sky, faces hid by curtains, pale, night-frightened faces, like grey animals peering from electric caves, faces with grey colourless eyes, grey tongues and grey thoughts looking out through the numb flesh of the face.”
“The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.”Faber
“The sun burned every day. It burned Time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burnt things with the firemen, and the sun burnt Time, that meant that everything burned!”
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”Ray Bradbury, from Coda
“Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fixing nuts and bolts?”Beatty
“...he held the book in his hands and the silly thought came to him, if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve.”In Montag's mind
“I'll hold onto the world tight someday. I've got one finger on it now; that's a beginning.”Montag (thinking to himself)
“It doesn't matter what you do... so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something like you after you take your hands away.”Granger
“Well, after all, this is the age of the disposable tissue. Blow your nose on a person, wad them, flush them away, reach for another, blow, wad, flush. everyone is using everyone else's coattails.”
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.”Granger
“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the Universe together into one garment for us.”Faber
“There are too many of us, he thought. There are billions of us and that's too many. Nobody knows anyone. Strangers come and violate you. Strangers come and cut your heart out. Strangers come and take your blood. Good God, who were those men? I never saw them before in my life!”Montag (thinking)
“And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world... there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes. They were given a 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. That's you, Montag, and that's me.”Captain Beatty
“Does you family love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?”
“Who's more important, me or that Bible?”Mildred
“We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren't happy”Montag
“Nobody listens anymore”Montag
“And maybe if I talk long enough, it'll make sense.”Montag
“It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books.”Faber
“Books show the pores in the face of life.”Faber
“It must be RIGHT.”
“It SEEMS so right.”
“It rushes you you on so quickly to it's own conclusions your mind hasn't time to protest, "What nonsense!"”
“That's the good part of dying, when you've nothing to lose, you run any risk you want.”Montag
“We do NEED knowledge”
“Can't trust people, that's the dirty part.”
“We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering.”
“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.”Faber
“But remember that the Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. We all have our harps to play. And it's up to you now to know with which ear you'll listen.”Faber
“Number one: Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the grass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”Faber
“A book is a loaded gun.”
“For a little while I'm not afraid. Maybe it's because I'm doing the right thing at last.”Faber
“But you can't make people listen. They have to come 'round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them.”Granger
“Picture it. Nineteenth-century man with his horses, dogs, carts, slow motion. Then in the twentieth century, speed up your camera. Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests. Tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending.”Beatty
“Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more.”captain betty
“Speed up the film, Montag, quick. Click, Pic, Look, Eye, Now, Flick, Here, There, Swift, Pace, Up, Down, In, Out, Why, How, Who, What, Where, Eh?, Uh!, Bang!, Smack!, Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in midair, all vanishes! Whirl man's mind around so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!”Beatty
“"I sometimes think drivers don't know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly." Clairres”
“"Are you happy?"”Clarisse
“"For what! Why!" said Montag. "I saw a damnedest snake in the world the other night. It saw dead but it was alive. It could see but it couldn't see. You want to see that snake? It's at Emergency Hospital where they filed a on all the junk the snake got out of you! Would you like to go and check their file? Maybe you'd look under Guy Montag or maybe under Fear or War. Would you like to go to that house that burnt last night? And rake ashes for the bones of the women who set fire to her own houe! What about Clarisse McClellan, where do we look for her? The morgue! Listen!”
“"You weren't there, you didn't see," he said. "There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing."”Montag
“"Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what the books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”Faber
“He heard a number of people crying out in the darkness and shouting. He reached the backyard and the alley. Beatty, he thought, you're not a problem now. You always said, don't face a problem, burn it. Well, now I've done both. Good-bye, Captain. And he stumbled along the alley in the dark.”
““Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.””Granger
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