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Free Study Guide: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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FREE STUDY NOTES FOR FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY

PART 3: “BURNING BRIGHT”

Beatty is killed and the Mechanical Hound bites Montag

Summary

Montag is not overly surprised that Mrs. Black, one of the neighbor women, reported his possession of a book. He is shocked, however, when he finds out that his wife, Mildred, also turned him in. He watches her run out of the house with a suitcase and disappear in her “beetle” without even acknowledging him. Beatty, for his part, seems to be satisfied that Montag is caught. He tells him he has known for a long time about the books and that he tried to warn Montag by sending the Hound on his trail. Beatty is most angry with Montag for not giving up, for not having been scared of the Hound and for having the audacity to persist in his quest for knowledge. Beatty uses many images and quotes from literature in his condemnation of Montag; after thoroughly berated him, Beatty then forces Montag to torch his own house. Contrary to Beatty’s expectation, Montag takes pleasure in torching his home; he especially delights in ruining Millie’s television room, which had consumed his wife’s soul.

Faber whispers to Montag that he should run; but Montag cannot move. He is afraid of the Hound, for he knows his chance of escaping is dim. Beatty then discovers the green bullet in Montag’s ear and says he will be able to trace the two-way radio to its source. Montag realizes he must kill Beatty. He turns the flame-thrower at his boss, burning him to death. Montag tries to run, but the Hound catches up with him. Montag puts up a noble fight, but the Hound injects its poison into his leg. Montag burns his leg, hoping to destroy the poison and hobbles away.

Notes

Beatty’s smugness reveals that the man takes pleasure in the undoing of Montag. He reveals that he has known about the books for awhile and claims that he tried to warn Montag with the Mechanical Hound. Beatty is incensed that the fireman refused to heed the warnings and continued to try and acquire knowledge. As he lectures Montag, he quotes from books; it is obvious that Beatty has memorized passage after passage, and yet he is willing to destroy all books and the people who study them. He is obviously a conflicted man, one almost worth of sympathy.


Beatty makes Montag torch his own home, thinking it to be a huge punishment. Ironically, Montag takes pleasure in seeing it burn, especially the television room in which his wife spent her life. Once again, Montag manages to stay calm due to the encouragement of Faber. When his friend quietly encourages him to run over the listening device, Montag cannot heed his warning; he is too afraid of the Mechanical Hound. Then Beatty discovers the green “bullet” in Montag’s ear and says he will trace its source.

Montag, frantic for his friend’s safety and his own survival, decides he must kill Beatty; he turns the igniter on him, killing him in a most appropriate manner. It is the moment of climax in the plot, for Montag has taken a stance from which he can never turn back.

Once Beatty is dead, Montag rediscovers his own energy, which he uses to fight the Hound. Although it is a formidable, perhaps invulnerable, machine, Montag’s rage is so great and his cause so worthy that he is able to fight the Hound off for awhile. Finally, it succeeds in injecting its poison into Montag’s leg. Though he loses the use of his leg and probably the leg itself, Montag manages to hobble away. Although the entire scene is a tragic one, with the flight of Mildred, the destruction of Montag’s house, the murder of Beatty, and the injection of the poison, it ends on a positive note. Miraculously, Montag manages to escape from the Hound and hobble away to freedom.


Montag is a fugitive from the law

Summary

Before departing, Montag retrieves some books that Millie had not found. When he hears someone approach, he tries to run; it is nearly impossible because of his crippled leg. Somehow he manages to escape. As he flees, he thinks of Beatty, recalling his face when he realized what Montag was doing to him. It strikes him as strange that Beatty simply stood there, never attempting to run. Montag realizes that Beatty, like him, had never been happy. Beatty, however, was not as courageous as Montag and felt powerless to defy the law. In reality, Beatty wanted to die; the realization stuns Montag.

Montag stops at the home of Mrs. Black. In revenge for her turning him in, he plants a few books in her kitchen. He then goes outside and turns on the alarm.

Notes

Montag realizes that Beatty is another victim of the strange world they live in. Montag recalls a story about a fireman in Seattle who set the Mechanical Hound to his own scent and let it loose. He next remembers the orderlies who are kept so busy rescuing people from suicide. Beatty’s willing acceptance of his own death seems to be another act of willful self-destruction that strikes Montag as evidence of how miserable mankind has become.

Montag, now a fugitive, knows from the radio that he is being hunted. As he tries to flee, he can hardly bear the pain in his crippled leg and his rising delirium; he is in a total panic, bordering on hysteria. He gains enough control to stop at the home of Mrs. Black, the neighbor women who turned him in. Montag plants books in her kitchen and then turns on the alarm. He hopes that the new burning will detract attention from him. More importantly, Montag has taken the initial step of implementing his plan. Besides getting his revenge on Mrs. Black, he will be destroying the first fireman, for her husband works at the fire station. Montag feels doubly justified in his deed.


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