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
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.
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
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.
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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