Fahrenheit Summary & Analysis Part 1 | Test Prep | Study Guide | CliffsNotes
FAHRENHEIT Ray Bradbury Contributors: Brian Gatten, Brendan Greaves, 47 REVIEW AND RESOURCES 50 Quiz 50 Suggestions for Further Reading 55 CONTEXT R Montag encounters a gentle seventeen-year-old girl named Clarisse . His biggest regret in life is not having a better relationship with his wife. Chapter 1 of Fahrenheit is aptly named because both the hearth and the salamander Also in this chapter, Montag meets his new neighbor, Clarisse McCellan, when he arrives This chapter shows a distant, disconnected relationship between these two characters. Part 1: "The Hearth and the Salamander" Quiz. Relationship Status married to Mildred, though it's not a happy relationship. Unlike Montag, Mildred is content to live in her cage of television and empty.
When Montag returns to work the next day, he touches the Mechanical Hound and hears a growl.
The Mechanical Hound is best described as a device of terror, a machine that is perversely similar to a trained killer dog but has been improved by refined technology, which allows it to inexorably track down and capture criminals by stunning them with a tranquilizer. Montag fears that the dog can sense his growing unhappiness. He also fears that the Hound somehow knows that he's confiscated some books during one of his raids.
The fire chief, Captain Beatty also senses Montag's unhappiness. Upon entering the upper level of the firehouse, Montag questions whether the Mechanical Hound can think.
Beatty, who functions as the apologist of the dystopia, points out that the Hound "doesn't think anything we don't want it to think. After several more days of encountering Clarisse and working at the firehouse, Montag experiences two things that make him realize that he must convert his life.
The first incident is one in which he is called to an unidentified woman's house to destroy her books. Her neighbor discovered her cache of books, so they must be burned. The woman stubbornly refuses to leave her home; instead, she chooses to burn with her books.
The second incident, which occurs later the same evening, is when Millie tells Montag that the McClellans have moved away because Clarisse died in an automobile accident — she was "run over by a car. Montag decides to talk with Millie about his dissatisfaction with his job as a fireman and about the intrinsic values that a person can obtain from books.
Suddenly, he sees that Millie is incapable of understanding what he means. All she knows is that books are unlawful and that anyone who breaks the law must be punished. Fearing for her own safety, Millie declares that she is innocent of any wrongdoing, and she says that Montag must leave her alone. After this confrontation with Millie, Montag entertains the idea of quitting his job, but instead, he decides to feign illness and goes to bed.
When Captain Beatty, who is already suspicious of Montag's recent behavior, finds that Montag hasn't come to work, he makes a sick call to Montag's home. Beatty gives Montag a pep talk, explaining to him that every fireman sooner or later goes through a period of intellectual curiosity and steals a book.
Beatty seems to know, miraculously, that Montag stole a book — or books. Beatty emphatically stresses that books contain nothing believable. He attempts to convince Montag that they are merely stories — fictitious lies — about nonexistent people. He tells Montag that because each person is angered by at least some kind of literature, the simplest solution is to get rid of all books. Ridding the world of controversy puts an end to dispute and allows people to "stay happy all the time.
Ridding the world of all controversial books and ideas makes all men equal — each man is the image of other men. He concludes his lecture by assuring Montag that the book-burning profession is an honorable one and instructs Montag to return to work that evening.
Immediately following Beatty's visit, Montag confesses to Mildred that, although he can't explain why, he has stolen, not just one book, but a small library of books for himself during the past year the total is nearly 20 books, one of which is a Bible. He then begins to reveal his library, which he's hidden in the air-conditioning system. When Millie sees Montag's cache of books, she panics. Montag tries to convince her that their lives are already in such a state of disrepair that an investigation of books may be beneficial.
What neither of them know is that the Mechanical Hound probably sent by Captain Beatty is already on Montag's trail, seemingly knowing Montag's mind better than Montag himself.
Analysis Fahrenheit is currently Bradbury's most famous written work of social criticism. It deals with serious problems of control of the masses by the media, the banning of books, and the suppression of the mind with censorship.
The novel examines a few pivotal days of a man's life, a man who is a burner of books and, therefore, an instrument of suppression. This man Montag lives in a world where the past has been destroyed by kerosene-spewing hoses and government brainwashing methods. In a few short days, this man is transformed from a narrow-minded and prejudiced conformist into a dynamic individual committed to social change and to a life of saving books rather than destroying them.
Before you begin the novel, note the significance of the title, degrees Fahrenheit, "the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns.
The implications of both concepts — one, a simple fact, and the other, a challenge to authority — gain immense significance by the conclusion of the book. In the first part of FahrenheitBradbury uses machine imagery to construct the setting and environment of the book.
He introduces Guy Montag, a pyromaniac who took "special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. Montag has a smile permanently etched on his face; he does not think of the present, the past, or the future. According to his government's views, the only emotion Montag should feel, besides destructive fury, is happiness.
He views himself in the mirror after a night of burning and finds himself grinning, and he thinks that all firemen must look like white men masquerading as minstrels, grinning behind their "burnt-corked" masks. Later, as Montag goes to sleep, he realizes that his smile still grips his face muscles, even in the dark. The language — "fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles" — suggests that his smile is artificial and forced.
Soon he will understand that this small bit of truth is an immense truth for himself. At present, Montag seems to enjoy his job as a fireman. He is a "smiling fireman.
Montag smiles, but he is not happy. The smile, just like his "burnt-corked" face, is a mask. You discover almost immediately when Montag meets Clarisse McClellan that he is not happy. By comparing and contrasting the two characters, you can see that Bradbury portrays Clarisse as spontaneous and naturally curious; Montag is insincere and jaded.
Clarisse has no rigid daily schedule: Montag is a creature of habit. She speaks to him of the beauties of life, the man in the moon, the early morning dew, and the enjoyment she receives from smelling and looking at things. Montag, however, has never concerned himself with such "insignificant" matters.
Clarisse lives with her mother, father, and uncle; Montag has no family other than his wife, and as you soon discover, his home life is unhappy. Clarisse accepts Montag for what he is; Montag finds Clarisse's peculiarities that is, her individuality slightly annoying. Despite all these differences, the two are attracted to one another. Clarisse's vivacity is infectious, and Montag finds her unusual perspectives about life intriguing. Indeed, she is partly responsible for Montag's change in attitude.
She makes Montag think of things that he has never thought of before, and she forces him to consider ideas that he has never contemplated. Moreover, Montag seems to find something in Clarisse that is a long-repressed part of himself: Impossible; for how many people did you know who refracted your own light to you?
She speaks to him about her delight in letting the rain fall upon her face and into her mouth. Later, Montag, too, turns his head upward into the early November rain in order to catch a mouthful of the cool liquid.
In effect, Clarisse, in a very few meetings, exerts a powerful influence on Montag, and he is never able to find happiness in his former life again. Yet, if the water imagery of this early scene implies rebirth or regeneration, this imagery is also associated with the artificiality of the peoples' lives in the futuristic dystopia of Fahrenheit Each night before she goes to bed, Mildred places small, Seashell Radios into her ears, and the music whisks her away from the dreariness of her everyday reality.
As Montag lies in bed, the room seems empty because the waves of sound "came in and bore her [Mildred] off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning. She has abandoned reality through her use of these tiny technological wonders that instill mindlessness.
The Seashell Radios serve as an escape for Millie because they help her avoid thoughts.
Although she would never — or could never — admit it, Millie Montag isn't happy either. Her need for the Seashell Radios in order to sleep is insignificant when measured against her addiction to tranquilizers and sleeping pills.
When Millie overdoses on sleeping pills which Bradbury never fully explains as accidental or suicidalshe is saved by a machine and two machinelike men who don't care whether she lives or dies. This machine, which pumps out a person's stomach and replaces blood with a fresh supply, is used to foil up to ten unexplainable suicide attempts a night — a machine that is very telling of the social climate. Montag comes to realize that their inability to discuss the suicide attempt suggests the profound estrangement that exists between them.
He discovers that their marriage is in shambles. Neither he nor Millie can remember anything about their past together, and Millie is more interested in her three-wall television family. The TV is another means that Mildred uses to escape reality and, perhaps, her unhappiness with life and with Montag.
She neglects Montag and lavishes her attention instead upon her television relatives. The television family that never says or does anything significant, the high-speed abandon with which she drives their car, and even the overdose of sleeping pills are all indicators for Montag that their life together is meaningless.
For Montag, these discoveries are difficult to express; he is only dimly cognizant of his unhappiness — and Millie's — when he has the first incident with the Mechanical Hound.
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In some sense, the Hound's distrust of Montag — its growl — is a barometer of Montag's growing unhappiness. Captain Beatty intuitively senses Montag's growing discontent with his life and job. Beatty is an intelligent but ultimately cynical man. He is, paradoxically, well-read and is even willing to allow Montag to have some slight curiosity about what the books contain. However, Beatty, as a defender of the state one who has compromised his morality for social stabilitybelieves that all intellectual curiosity and hunger for knowledge must be quelled for the good of the state — for conformity.
He even allows for the perversion of history as it appears in Firemen of America: After kicking a bottle of pills that lies on the floor, he realizes she has attempted suicide. He calls the hospital, and shortly, two workers come to pump her stomach. The next day, Mildred denies her attempted suicide, and Montag leaves for work. This chapter shows a distant, disconnected relationship between these two characters.
Mildred spends her days with her television "family," and this is all she ever wants to talk about with Montag even when he has real-life concerns he wants to discuss. As he leaves for work, Montag again meets Clarisse, who serves as an obvious foil to Mildred in this chapter. Whereas Mildred attempts to engage Montag in her shallow TV shows, Clarisse is a free thinker and ponders the world around her. Clarisse tells Montag that she is seeing a psychiatrist because the authorities see her ability to think independently as an alarming attribute.
She tells Montag that he is different from other fireman she has met because he is willing to listen to what she says. Montag then goes to work at the fire station, where the Mechanical Hound growls at him.
Montag is concerned-as this has happened before-and brings it to the attention of Captain Beatty. Montag worries that someone may have set the Hound to react to him this way, suggesting that he perhaps has an enemy in the fire station.
Beatty tells Montag not to worry and that he will have the Hound checked out-though he seems somewhat suspicious of Montag. Meanwhile, some of the other firemen tease Montag about his worries regarding the Hound. Over the next several weeks, Montag sees Clarisse every day outside of his home. She confides to him that she has started skipping school. On the eighth day, he becomes concerned when he doesn't see her as usual.
Though he starts to look for her, he heads to work instead. At the station that day, Montag askes Captain Beatty about a man's whose library they burned the week prior. Beatty tells him that he was taken to an insane asylum. Here, Montag wonders about the man, and he almost reveals that he read the first line of a book of fairy tales before burning the man's library.
Later, the alarm sounds, and the fireman rush to the house of an old woman who has books hidden in her attic. A book happens to fall in Montag's hand during this process and, without thinking, he hides it under his coat. The firemen try to get the old woman to leave before they burn the books; however, she refuses. Beatty suggests they leave her and light the fire anyway.
Montag protests, and Beatty retorts with his reasoning for burning books. He compares books to the Tower of Babel from the Bible, which caused the universal human language to split into thousands of languages. Beatty feels that books, with so many different opinions, are similarly divisive. Despite Montag's protests and Beatty's willingness to continue the burning regardless, the woman takes matters into her own hands. She lights the match herself, choosing to be burned alive with her books.
Montag's protests, however, show him to have a great deal more empathy than most other people in his world.