Fahrenheit 451 Study Guide

Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury

In an alternate future, a hedonistic and anti-intellectual USA has completely abandoned self-control. Lawlessness in the streets, books burned by the firemen, and chaos at every juncture is the rule. Anyone caught possessing or reading books is confined to a mental hospital or worse.

Guy Montag, a fireman, meets a new neighbor whose free-thinking ideals make him question his own, because she prefers to ask 'why' rather than 'how' something is done. He proceeds home and finds his wife asleep with an empty bottle of sleeping pills next to her. The medical help he summons roughly exsanguinate her and equally roughly put fresh blood back into her. Their complete disregard for her comfort again makes Montag question the state of the world.

Later, while ransacking a book-filled house before burning it, his eyes fall upon a line from one of her books: "Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine." He steals the book, but before he can look at any others, the woman martyrs herself, igniting the fire before the firemen would have. Montag wonders why anyone would die for something as valueless as books.

He calls for sick leave, and instead receives a visit from Captain Beatty, his chief, who explains to him that society enacted the suppression of books in an attempt to find happiness and censor it's own politically incorrect offenses. Beatty says that all firemen eventually steal a book, but that it had best be burned within 24 hours.

A year later, Montag has hidden dozens of books in the ventilation shafts of his own home, and tries to memorize them for posterity, but fails. He remembers a man he once knew: Faber, an English professor. He meets Faber, who explains how literature is important, and gives him an earpiece so that he can guide Faber as he does his work.

Beatty shortly reveals that he knew all along of Montag's crimes, and he orders Montag to destroy his own home. Montag burns not just books, but everything in his own home, severing himself from his past life. He then turns the flamethrower on Beatty, killing him, and is made a fugitive.

Montag flees to Faber, who tells him of vagabond book-lovers living in the countryside. He runs, and meets the group of older men who have memorized entire books to preserve them against the law. Granger, the group's leader, discusses man's relationship to the Phoenix, constantly repeating its own mistakes and burning itself down, only to rise up and try again.

A war (that has been alluded to in several places earlier) begins, and Montag watches bombers blow his home city away. Once again, the society that Montag knew has been burned to ash, and a new society must rise up in its place.

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