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Free Study Guide: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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FREE BOOK SUMMARY FOR FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY

PART 2: “THE SIEVE AND THE SAND”

Montag and Millie read; Montag calls an old English professor

Summary

For the rest of the afternoon, Montag and Millie read through the hidden collection of books. At one point, they hear a faint scratching outside their door. When Mildred hears a sniff, she remarks in relief that it is only a dog. Montag, even though he is too scared to look, knows it is the Mechanical Hound.

The tension of the mood is further heightened by the sound of the bombers circling overhead. With their roar in the background, Mildred wonders out loud what will happen to them when Beatty discovers their deceit. Montag tries to convince her not to worry so much. He also tells her that books hold the key to a better life. Millie becomes hysterical, screaming that Montag is going to ruin them both. Montag is saved from her further hysteria by the ringing of the phone. She calms herself down to talk to her friends about their make-believe television world. As she chatters on the phone, Montag thinks about how worthless she is and about how she will never improve her life.

Montag shuts his eyes and remembers a day long ago when he met an old man named Faber, a retired English teacher. When Montag approached him, Faber had quickly hidden something under his coat; Montag believes it was a book. Montag did not question him, but sat beside Faber and talked to him. Faber had even recited a few lines from a poem for Montag. After an hour of conversation, the old professor had written his address on a slip of paper and handed it to Montag. Montag now goes through his wallet and finds Faber’s name and address. He calls him up and openly asks him how many copies of the Bible, Shakespeare, and Plato are left in the world. Faber answers that there are none remaining and hangs up the phone.

Montag realizes the thing for him to do is to turn one of the books over to Beatty to clear up any suspicions. He will make a copy of the book before handing it over. He hides the chosen book in his jacket and leaves the house.

Notes

This scene is again filled with tension. As Montag reads through some of the books, a scratching is heard outside the door. Mildred is convinced that it is only a dog, but Montag is sure that it is the Mechanical Hound. As he reads, he tries not to think about his danger. Instead, he thinks about Clarisse as he reads about friendship. “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindness there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” Montag realizes that Clarisse made his vessel run over; she made a remarkable impact on him in the short time he knew her.

Montag wishes that he now had someone with whom to share his knowledge. Even though he reads to Millie, she is totally uninterested in the words. Her whole being is fearful about Montag and her getting caught; she grows hysterical over the thought, accusing her husband of ruining them. Only the ringing of the phone calms her down. As his wife chatters to her friends, Montag thinks of the past. He remembers Faber, an old English professor. When he was a fireman, Montag had often thought of investigating him, for he was certain the professor still had books. One time when Montag had approached him, he had quickly hidden a book under his shirt. It is interesting to note that Montag, even back then, did not report the old man for hiding the book.

Montag is now drawn to Faber, wanting to talk to him again and share knowledge. When he finds Faber’s address and phone number in his wallet, he telephones. He asks Faber how many copies of the Bible, Shakespeare, and Plato still exist in the world. Faber sadly answers that there are none and sadly hangs up. Montag is excited over the thought that he may truly own the last copy of the Bible. He is determined to preserve the ideas printed there, even if he cannot save the book itself. He decides he will copy the book before he turns it over to Beatty, trying to avoid suspicion. It is obvious that Montag is a changed man. He now has a purpose in life; he has also lost his fear of the system and stands unafraid, facing the world.


Montag has a memory of his childhood

Summary

Montag is traveling on the subway to go and see Faber. He has a flashback to his childhood; a cousin had offered him a dime if he could fill a sieve with sand. He tried and tried, not realizing it was impossible, until finally the tears flowed down his cheeks. Montag also thinks about his efforts at memorizing the Bible so if it is burned its contents will not be forgotten. The problem is that as much as he tries, he is unable to retain any of it. He tries to think about what he has studied in the Bible, but can recall nothing. The train radio and the people on the train seem to make it impossible for him to concentrate. His endeavor at memorization reminds him of filling the sieve with sand.

Notes

It is appropriate that Montag has a flashback to the sieve and the sand; its symbolism is self-explanatory, and its relevance is obvious. Montag is trying to memorize as much as possible from his books, especially from the Bible, but everything he reads seems to slip away from him. “The words fell through, and he thought, in a few hours, there will be Beatty, and here will be one handing this over, so no phrase must escape me, each line must be memorized.” His failure at memorization frustrates him to the point of tears, just as when he was as a child trying to fill up the sieve with sand.


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