Summary and Analysis
Part 2 - The Sieve and the Sand
Millie and Montag spend the rest of the cold, rainy, November afternoon reading through the books that Montag has acquired. As Montag reads, he begins to understand what Clarisse meant when she said that she knew the way that life is to be experienced. So entranced are Montag and Millie by the substance of the books, they ignore the noise of a sniffing dog outside their window.
In Millie's mind, books hold no value; she would rather avoid reality and bask in the fantasy of her television. Although she can choose books and life, she chooses instead to place her loyalties with the television character, White Clown, and the rest of her television family. Montag, however, needs to find someone from whom he can learn and discuss what the books are trying to tell him; he needs a teacher.
In his desperation and thirst for knowledge, Montag recalls an encounter last year with an elderly man in the park. The old man, a retired English professor named Faber, made an impression on Montag because he actually spoke with Montag about real things. Montag remembers that he keeps Faber's phone number in his files of possible book hoarders, and he determines that if anyone can be his teacher and help him understand books, Faber can. Consequently, Montag takes the subway to Faber's home and carries with him a copy of the Bible.
Faber is a devotee of the ideas contained in books. He is also concerned with the common good of man. Montag immediately senses Faber's enthusiasm and readily admits his feelings of unhappiness and emptiness. He confesses that his life is missing the values of books and the truths that they teach. Montag then asks Faber to teach him to understand what he reads. At first, Faber views this new teaching assignment as a useless, as well as dangerous, undertaking. His attitude, however, does not deter Faber from launching into such a challenging and exciting task.
Nevertheless, Faber is skeptical and pessimistic of whether books can help their society. As if responding to Faber's pessimism, Montag presents Faber with an insidious plan that entails hiding books in the homes of firemen so even they will become suspect. Ultimately, through supposed treason, the firehouses themselves will burn. Faber acknowledges the cleverness of the plan, but cynically, he urges Montag to return home and give up his newly acquired rebelliousness.
Faber's demonstration of cowardice and political nihilism incites Montag to begin ripping pages out of the Bible. Shocked by the destruction of this rare, precious book and stirred by Montag's rebellious convictions, Faber agrees to help him.
As a result of Montag's concern about how he will act when he and Beatty next meet, Faber shows Montag one of his inventions — a two-way, Seashell Radio-like communication device that resembles a small green bullet and fits into the ear. Through the use of this device, Faber can be in constant contact with Montag, and he promises to support him if Beatty attempts to intimidate Montag. Through the use of Faber's spying invention, they listen to Captain Beatty together.
Throughout Part Two, the threat of war increases. Ten million men have been mobilized, and the people expect victory. Montag's war is just beginning.
After his meeting with Faber, Montag returns home hoping to discuss ideas and books with Millie. Unfortunately, in Montag's case, a little learning is dangerous thing, because when he returns home, he finds company. Immediately, he launches into a tirade in the presence of two of Millie's human friends, Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles. This tirade will prove costly to his idealistic plans.
Montag, who is tired of listening to the women's meaningless triviality, decides to disconnect the television and begins to attempt a discussion with the women. He reads Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" in hopes that the women will be motivated to discuss the work. Although the women — especially Mrs. Phelps — are moved by the poem, they can't say why and dismiss any further discussion.
Faber attempts, through the two-way radio, to calm Montag's zealous anger. He urges Montag to make believe, to say that he is joking, and Faber commands him to throw his book of poems into the incinerator. Despite Faber's admonitions and Millie's defensive maneuvers, Montag continues by soundly cursing Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles for their empty and corrupt lives. Mrs. Bowles leaves in a fury; Mrs. Phelps, in tears. Characteristically, Millie escapes from this horrible scene by rushing to the bathroom and downing several pills. She wants to sleep and forget. Montag hides several of the remaining books in some bushes in his backyard and then goes off to work. He carries with him a substitute book to give Beatty in place of the Bible that he left with Faber.
Montag dreads the meeting with Beatty, even though Faber promises to be with him via the two-way radio implanted in Montag's ear. Beatty tries to coax Montag into admitting his crime of stealing (and reading) books, but Faber is true to his word and supports Montag during Beatty's taunting.
Before Montag can respond to Beatty's tirade, the fire alarm sounds, and the firemen rush off to work. Ironically, Montag realizes that his own home is the firemen's target.
While Millie and Montag are reading, Clarisse's profound influence on Montag becomes obvious. In fact, Montag points out that "She was the first person I can remember who looked straight at me as if I counted." However, Millie and Montag have forgotten — or are ignoring — the danger of their situation. They hear "a faint scratching" outside the front door and "a slow, probing sniff, and exhalation of electric steam" under the doorsill. Millie's reaction is "It's only a dog." Only a dog? The Mechanical Hound lurks outside, probably programmed by Beatty to collect evidence that he can use later against Montag.
The Montags, however, can't ignore the sounds of bombers crossing the sky over their house, signaling the imminence of war. Although no on knows the cause of the war or its origins, the country is filled with unrest, which is a parallel to the growing unrest and anger smoldering within Montag.
Abandonment of reality has become uppermost in Millie's mind. When Montag speaks to her about the value and merit in books, she shrieks and condemns him for possessing the books. Bradbury describes her as "sitting there like a wax doll melting in its own heat." Here, fire imagery again implies destruction. This time, however, Millie carries the seeds of her own destruction. As stated earlier at the end of Part One, she can choose books (and life). But because she shuns books and the lessons that she can learn from them, Bradbury describes her as a doll that melts in its self-generated heat. Montag, on the other hand, wants to comprehend the information that the books give him. More importantly, however, Montag realizes that he needs a teacher if he wants to fully understand the books' information.
The person to whom Montag chooses to turn, Faber, "had been thrown out upon the world forty years ago when the last liberal arts college shut for lack of students and patronage." Montag recalls from their earlier encounter Faber's "cadenced voice" and "convictions"; in particular, Faber's words seemed a great deal like poetry. He said to Montag, "I don't talk things, sir; I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I'm alive."
While riding the subway to Faber's house, Montag experiences a moment of self-reflection. He discovers that his smile, "the old burnt-in smile," has disappeared. He recognizes his emptiness and unhappiness. Moreover, he recognizes his lack of formal education — what he thinks is his essential ignorance. This sense of helplessness, of ineffectuality, of powerlessness, of his utter inability to comprehend what is in books, overwhelms him, and his mind flashes back to a time when he was a child on the seashore "trying to fill a sieve with sand." Montag recalls that "the faster he poured [the sand], the faster it sifted through with a hot whispering." He now has this same feeling of helplessness as he reads the Bible; his mind seems to be a sieve through which the words pass without Montag's comprehending or remembering them. He knows that in a few hours he must give this precious book to Beatty, so he attempts to read and memorize the scriptures — in particular, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. As he attempts to memorize the passages, however, a loud and brassy advertisement for "Denham's Dental Detergent" destroys his concentration.
Montag is trying to rebel, but he is confused because of his many mental blocks against nonconformity. He has never before deviated from the norm, and his attempts to establish an individual identity are continually frustrated. Montag's flight to Faber's home is his only hope. The scene represents a man running for his life, which, in fact, Montag is doing, though he doesn't fully realize it yet. Nor does he know that he is already an outcast. He can never return to his former existence. His transformation is inevitable.
Of significance in this part of the book is that Faber bears a close resemblance to Carl Jung's archetypal figure of the "old man." According to Jung in his essay "The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairy Tales," the old man archetype represents, on the one hand, knowledge, reflection, insight, wisdom, cleverness, and intuition, and on the other hand, he represents such moral qualities as good will and readiness to help, which makes his "spiritual" character sufficiently plain. Faber displays these qualities, and he, like Clarisse, is associated with the color white, symbolic of his spiritual nature: "He [Faber] and the white plaster walls inside were much the same. There was white in the flesh of his mouth and his cheeks and his hair was white and his eyes had faded, with white in the vague blueness there." The color white is significant here because it indicates purity and goodness. White is also the opposite of the blackness of the burnt books and the dark ashes into which they are burned.
Besides enlightening Montag, Faber expands on his philosophy about the use of the books, as well as about society in general. (One can't help but think that Faber's discussion is close to Bradbury's own view, but of course, this assertion is simply speculation.) Faber explains that books have "quality" and "texture," that they reveal stark reality, not only the pleasant aspect of life but also the bad aspects of life: "They show the pores in the face of life," and their society finds this discomforting. Tragically, society has started programming thoughts: People are no longer allowed leisure time to think for themselves. Faber insists that leisure is essential to achieving proper appreciation of books. (By "leisure," Faber doesn't mean "off hours," the time away from work, but simply ample time to think about things beyond one's self.) Distractions, such as the all-encompassing television walls, simply will not allow for leisure time. Ultimately, however, Faber thinks that the truth in books can never be of value in this society again unless its individuals have "the right to carry out actions based on" what they find in the books. Books are of value only when people are allowed the freedom to act upon what they've learned. On this last point, Faber is pessimistic; he is convinced that people in his society will never have the freedom to act upon what they've learned.
When Montag presents Faber with his plan to incite revenge upon the other firemen, Faber is skeptical because "firemen are rarely necessary"; their destruction would hardly warrant a change in society. Faber means that "So few want to be rebels anymore." People are too distracted — that is, too "happy" — to want to change things.
After Faber decides to join Montag in his plight, Bradbury later describes this coalition of two as "Montag-plus-Faber, fire plus water." Fire and water images blend, because the product resulting from the union of these two separate and opposite items is a third product — wine. Wine looks like water, but it burns like fire. Montag and Faber work together, because all is far from well in the world.
By joining Montag, Faber also states that he will be, in effect, "the Queen Bee," remaining safely in the hive; Montag is "the drone." Before parting, they initiate plans to "[print] a few books, and wait on the war to break the pattern and give us the push we need. A few bombs and the 'families' in the walls of all the homes, like harlequin rats, will shut up!" Perhaps this subversion (the destruction of TV) will restore the public's interest in books. However, despite his decision to help Montag, Faber acknowledges that he is ultimately a coward. He will stay safe at home while Montag faces the threat of punishment.
As the threat of war increases, you can see that the war is a parallel to Montag's attitude concerning his own personal battle. His inner turmoil intensifies. Armed with a friend such as Faber, the two-way green-bullet radio, and a beginner's knowledge of the true value of books, he is now ready to wage war against Beatty and the rest of his stagnant society. Montag feels that he is becoming a new man, intoxicated by his newfound inner strength, but his is an idealistic knowledge blended with the zealousness of a convert; he has not considered any sort of pragmatic implementation plan.
When Montag meets with Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles, he forgets that they are a good deal like Millie; they are devoted to their television families, they are politically enervated, and they show little interest in the imminent war. Because their husbands are routinely called away to war, the women are unconcerned. War has happened before and it may happen again.
Listening to their empty babble, animated by his rebel posture, and with Faber whispering comfortably in his ear, Montag impulsively shouts, "Let's talk." He begins reading from "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold:
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Despite their flippancy and chatter, the women are moved, but again, they do not understand why. Although Mildred makes the choice of what her husband should read, Matthew Arnold's poem typifies Montag's pessimism as he tries to fathom the vapid, purposeless lifestyles of the three women. The poem forces the women to respond — Mrs. Phelps with tears and Mrs. Bowles with anger. The Cheshire catlike smiles that Millie and her friends wear indicate their illusion of happiness. Montag imagines these smiles as burning through the walls of the house. Ironically, smiles should signify joy, but not in this case, just as they did not in Montag's case. However, the smiles of these women are destructive and perhaps evil. Furthermore, Millie and her friends are characterized by fire imagery; they light cigarettes and blow the smoke from their mouths. They all have "sun-fired" hair and "blazing" fingernails. They, like the fleet of firemen, are headed toward their own destruction.
After this disastrous situation with Millie, Mrs. Phelps, and Mrs. Bowles, Montag anxiously prepares for his meeting with Beatty. Captain Beatty's suspicion of Montag steadily increases as he watches Montag with an "alcohol-flame stare." While Beatty is baiting Montag to slip about stealing books, Faber proves himself to be a good partner to Montag and supports him throughout the entire confrontation. In a most striking diatribe, Beatty reveals that he is extremely well read; he accurately quotes authors from a wide range of historical periods and is able to apply what he has read. He has obviously thought about what the works mean and, in a curious way, uses them to good effect against Montag. He is aware of Montag's newfound zealousness (as Beatty states, "Read a few lines and off you go over a cliff. Bang, you're ready to blow up the world, chop off heads, knock down women and children, destroy authority,") and manages to urge Montag in a direction that would cause him to abandon his recently acquired humanistic convictions. Through ignoring the title of the book returned by Montag, Beatty shows that he is aware of Montag's collection and is trying to get Montag to admit his guilt. Also, Beatty wants to prove to Montag that the title (and the book itself) is not significant. The only important point about the book is that it needs to be destroyed.
Montag can't respond to Beatty's denunciation of him (no doubt his rebuttal would have failed miserably) because the fire alarm sounds. In a colossal act of irony, Montag realizes when the firemen are called to action that his own home is the target for the firemen. Instead of implementing a plan to undermine the firemen by planting books in their houses, Montag, in a grotesque reversal of expectations, becomes a victim himself.
Part Two centers on Montag's first personal experience with ideas found in books, and it details his change into a social rebel. The section seemingly ends on a note of defeat.
We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over from James Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, published in 1791. The quotation helps Montag understand his relationship with the mysterious Clarisse, who brings joy into his life for no obvious reason.
That favorite subject. Myself. taken from a letter of the British biographer James Boswell, dated July 16, 1763. The quotation emphasizes the chasm that separates Montag from Mildred, who shuns self-analysis and submerges herself in drugs and the television programs that sedate her mind.
half out of the cave Bradbury alludes to Plato's cave allegory, found in Book 7 of his Republic. The analogy describes how people rely on flickering shadows as their source of reality.
Faber the character's name suggests that of Peter Faber (1506-1545), tutor of Ignatius Loyola and founder of two Jesuit colleges.
Mr. Jefferson? Mr. Thoreau? Thomas Jefferson, the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, and Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and Civil Disobedience. This phrase is used to illustrate that all books and authors are valuable. These two authors are chosen to show who wrote about revolution and fighting opression.
dentrifice any preparation for cleaning teeth. This word is part of the phrase that Montag hears repeatedly in the subway.
Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they In his surreal dash on the subway toward Faber's house, Montag tries to read a line from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of St. Matthew. The line, which is taken from Chapter 6, verses 28-29, concludes, "And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." This quotation reminds Montag that spiritual hunger is greater than material need.
Caesar's praetorian guard a reference to the bodyguards that surrounded the Roman Caesars, beginning with Rome's first emperor, Octavian, later named Augustus. While holding back the mob, the praetorians wielded supreme control over the rulers who they sought to protect, and they are thought to have assassinated Caligula and replaced him with Claudius, a crippled historian who was their choice of successor.
the salamander devours its tail Faber, who creates a way to implicate firemen in their own menace and therefore eradicate them, characterizes his plot with an image of self-destruction.
this electronic cowardice Faber, an old man who is too fearful to confront Captain Beatty, is willing to direct Montag's confrontation through his electronic listening and speaking device.
The Book of Job Faber selects this book of the Old Testament, which describes how Job is tested by God. The upshot of Job's struggle with suffering, loss, and temptation is that he learns to trust.
Vesuvius a volcano near Naples that erupted August 24, 79 A.D., burying the citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Cheshire cat a grinning cat, a character from Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
In again out again Finnegan a common nonsense rhyme indicating Mrs. Phelps' lack of concern about the war and her husband's part in it. The quotation restates "Off again, on again, gone again, Finnegan," a terse telegram about a rail crash from Finnegan (a railroad boss) to Flanagan (his employer).
fire plus water Montag, who perceives the split halves of his being, anticipates the distillation of his fiery self into wine after Faber has molded his intellect with wisdom and teaching.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be a line from John Donne's poem "The Triple Fool," which Beatty uses to confuse and stifle Montag.
the sheep returns to the fold. We're all sheep who have strayed at times Beatty alludes to the prophecy in Isaiah 53:6: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned ever one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The message implies that Montag has betrayed his fellow firemen.
Truth is truth, to the end of reckoning Beatty's montage of quotations rambles on to a verse from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Act V, Scene i, Line 45.
They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts a verse taken from Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, which in turn paraphrases a line from Beaumont and Fletcher's Love's Cure, Act III, Scene iii.
Sweet food of sweetly uttered knowledge a line from Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesy.
Words are like leaves and where they most abound, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found Beatty quotes a couplet from Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism as cynical commentary on his profusely garbled and contradictory recitation.
A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again a famous pair of couplets from Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism, which warns the learner that scholarship requires dedication for maximum effect.
Knowledge is more than equivalent to force an aphorism from Chapter 13 of Dr. Samuel Johnson's Rasselas.
He is no wise man that will quit a certainty for an uncertainty an aphorism from Dr. Samuel Johnson's Idler.
Truth will come to light, murder will not be hid long! from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene ii, Line 86.
Oh God, he speaks only of his horse a paraphrase of "he doth nothing but talk of his horse" from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene ii, Lines 37-38.
The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene iii, Line 99.
This age thinks better of a gilded fool, than of a threadbare saint in wisdom's school a couplet from Thomas Dekker's Old Fortunatus.
The dignity of truth is lost with much protesting a line from Ben Jonson's Catiline's Conspiracy, Act III, Scene ii.
Carcasses bleed at the sight of the murderer a line from Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Part I, Section I, Member 2, Subsection 5.
trench mouth an infectious disease characterized by ulceration of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat and caused by a bacterium; derived from its prevalence among soldiers in trenches.
Knowledge is power a line from Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning, Book I, i, 3.
A dwarf on a giant's shoulders sees the furthest of the two from Democritus to the Reader, Robert Burton's paraphrase from Lucan's Civil War, which is echoed in Sir Isaac Newton's letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675 or 1676.
The folly of mistaking a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself as an oracle is inborn in us a paraphrase of Paul Valery's Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci.
A kind of excellent dumb discourse a line from Shakespeare's Tempest, Act III, Scene iii, Line 38.
All's well that is well in the end a paraphrase of Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Act IV, Scene iv, Line 35.
the tyranny of the majority from John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton's History of Freedom and Other Essays.