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Free Study Guide-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Free Online Booknotes
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Montag tells Millie about the book

Summary

After Beatty's departure, Mildred urges Montag to return to work. For the first time, she seems a bit troubled by his peculiar behavior of late. Montag, however, has no heart for the job anymore. He confesses to Mildred that he has stolen books, not just one, but twenty or so. He shows her where he has been hiding them in the grill of the air-conditioning system. Millie is terrified and moves to throw the books into the incinerator. Montag stops her by telling her that they are both in trouble together. He then tries to make her understand that his career is wrong and that he needs to do the right thing for a change. Suddenly, the mechanical voice at the front door announces that someone is coming. Montag decides he will not open the door; instead, he opens a book at random and begins reading. He later turns off the door alarm so he and Millie will not be further disturbed.

Notes

This is a scene of revelation that is really a turning point in the novel, for Montag tells his deepest secret to his wife. He reveals that he has stolen around twenty books, which he hides behind the air conditioning grill. Even the dull Millie understands the seriousness of her husband's offense and immediately moves to burn his books. He, however, is able to stop her. He also tries to explain to her how his job is wrong, but his thinking is right; Millie cannot understand his explanation. The suspense that Bradbury has created in the novel about the unknown is now replaced with suspense about the consequences of Montag's actions.


Like all the citizens in this futuristic society, Mildred has been made lazy by and dependent upon the technological advancements that surround her. She can no longer thinks for herself, just as the government has planned. It is not surprising that she is terrified of punishment and frightened by the prospect of secret knowledge. She accepts the rule that no one should have an individual thought; she certainly never has one herself. Instead, she totally believes in the government as it exists and is terrified of questioning or contradicting it. Ironically, Montag succeeds in keeping her from burning the books by telling her that the two of them are already in this together. Mildred believes him and seems to have no choice but to become his accomplice.

An interesting aspect of Montag's personality is also revealed in this scene. At the old woman's house, Montag was seen unconsciously taking a book; his hand seemed to act of its own accord. Now it is revealed that Montag has stolen many other books; his subconscious has been guiding him toward the self- discovery that Clarisse put in motion. Bradbury seems to be indicating that mankind has an inherent desire to improve his station in life by seeking the truth. Montag's unconscious quest for knowledge is proof of this theme.

At this point, it is important to note the title of Part I, "The Hearth and the Salamander." The hearth obviously refers to the place where a fire is burned; additionally, it is usually a reference to the place where a man's heart is - his hearth and home. The salamander refers to the myth that the creature can live through fire; it is, therefore, a positive image that suggests that this society can live through the fire it is undergoing. Since Fahrenheit 451 has as its primary image the destruction of books (and knowledge) through burning, the title further suggests that thought and knowledge, like the salamander, will make it through the fire.

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