Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


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Montag, Beatty and the rest of the firemen expected it to be just another burning. They did not expect an unidentified woman to commit suicide along with burning her books. As the firemen attempted to save the woman, she told them to “go on.” Within a moment, “The woman on the porch reached out with contempt to them all and struck the kitchen match against the railing.” On the way back to the firehouse, the men didn’t speak or look at each other. While Beatty began showing the knowledge he has gained from books, which along with the death, firemen begin to show that they are thinking and showing emotions. While listening to Beatty, Blackstone passes the turn to the firehouse, while Montag is amazed at his intelligence.
After meeting the exiles, the war has begun, and a bomb was dropped in the city, killing everyone. Before they begin they’re adventure back towards the city, Granger decides to start a fire and cook some beacon. While eating, Granger mentions the Phoenix, and explains how society is related to the Phoenix; “He must have been the first cousin to man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprung out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing over and over.”
After arriving to Montag’s home, Beatty instructs Montag to burn his own books as his punishment. Instead, Montag burns the television sets and the bed, in spite of Millie’s pleasures. When Beatty discovers the hidden book in Montag’s jacket and the earpiece, he tells Montag he and Faber will be arrested. In fear, Montag turns the flame thrower on Beatty, making him a “shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling gibbering manikin no longer human or known.” After burning the mechanical dog, Montag reassures himself that Beatty wanted to die.
Montage burns his first house, showing his pleasure and joy in his job. “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten and blacken and change.” By the end of the novel, Montag watches the sun as he floats down the river. Montag decides that he must never burn again; “The sun burnt everyday. It burnt time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people away, without any help from him.

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The three symbols all work to show orders followed and complete power, rebirth, death, and change.      
Montag, Faber, and Beatty’s struggle revolves around the tension between knowledge and ignorance. The fireman’s duty is to destroy knowledge and promote ignorance in order to equalize the population and promote sameness. Montag’s encounters with Clarisse the old woman and Faber ignite in him the spark of doubt about this approach. His resultant search for knowledge destroys the unquestioning ignorance he used to share with nearly everyone else, and he battles the basic beliefs of his society. By Montag following orders and burning the books, and finding pleasure in it, it shows authority in complete power and following orders.
After the bombing of the city, Granger compares mankind to a phoenix that burns itself up and then rises out of its ashes over and over again. Man’s advantage is his ability to recognize when he has made a mistake, so that eventually he will learn not to make that mistake anymore. Remembering the mistakes of the past is the task Granger and his group has set for themselves. They believe that individuals are not as important as the collective mass of culture and history. The symbol of the phoenix’s rebirth refers not only to the repeated life of history and the collective rebirth of humanity but also to Montag’s own rebirth.
Before Montag burns Beatty to death with the flame thrower, Beatty spoke to Montag, “It’s perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did. . . . It’s a mystery. . . . Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences . . . clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical.” He comes across the mystical nature of fire, its mysterious beauty, and the fascination it holds for people. Beatty, who accused Montag of not considering the consequences of his actions, then defines the magnificence of fire as its gift to demolish consequences and responsibilities. In connection to fire, is the dedication to cleanliness and destruction of the society. Sad, and full of fear, Montag turns the flame thrower on Beatty, an “antibiotic, aesthetic, practical” death. Although the death later haunts Montag, he convinces himself that Beatty desired to die.
Montag views the sun as he escapes the city and floats down the river, and thinks to himself; “The sun burnt every day. It burnt Time . . . Time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burnt things with the firemen and the sun burnt Time, that meant that everything burnt!” Montag sees the stars for the first time in years, and he finally enjoys the freedom to. He starts by considering the moon, which gets its light from the sun, then considers that the sun is akin to time and burns with its own fire. If the sun burns time (and, thus, burns away the years and the people) and he and the firemen continue to burn, everything will burn. These thoughts lead him to the conclusion that since the sun will not stop burning, he and the firemen must stop. In these lines, Bradbury repeats the word “burning” to communicate the sense of revelation that Montag experiences as he considers this and to subtly suggest that the ex-fireman must now redefine his thoughtful conceptions of fire and burning, and, therefore, his identity and purpose.


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