So it was the hand that started it all . . . His hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms . . . His hands were ravenous.
This passage from “The Hearth and the Salamander” refers to Montag’s theft of books from the old woman’s house. Montag guiltily portrays his actions as an involuntary bodily reflex. He describes his crime as automatic and claims it involves no thought on his part. He blames his hands for several other crimes in the course of the book, and they become a powerful symbol for Montag’s instincts of rebellion, will, and moral imperative. Montag’s thoughtless actions here are akin to Mildred’s unconscious overdose, as they are the result of some hidden sense of dissatisfaction within him that he does not consciously acknowledge.
Montag regards his hands as infected from stealing the book and describes how the “poison works its way into the rest of his body.” Montag uses the word “poison” to refer to his strong sense of guilt and wrongdoing. Later, the novel incorporates a reference to Shakespeare, as Montag compulsively washes his hands at the fire station in an attempt to cleanse his guilt. His feeling they are “gloved in blood” is a clear reference to Lady Macbeth. Montag’s hands function as a symbol of defiance and thirst for truth.
We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.
Captain Beatty speaks these lines toward the end of “The Hearth and the Salamander” while explaining the revisionist history of firemen to Montag in his home. It is important to note that Beatty’s whole speech has an ironic sound. He defends the disintegration of authenticity in a passionate, almost regretful tone. He is willing to defend the “equalization” of society while still remaining educated himself, and denounces the use of books as weapons while freely using them that way himself. Because of these ambiguities, Beatty is the most complex character in the book, and he uses his book-educated mind, his “loaded gun,” to manipulate Montag mercilessly. One wonders, as Faber does, if he chose his job after a fall from faith in books, as he claims, or to enable himself to gain legal access to books through his position of authority.
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores.
Faber speaks these words to Montag toward the beginning of “The Sieve and the Sand,” as he explains the importance of books. Faber tells Montag that it’s not the books themselves that Montag is looking for, but the meaning they contain. The same meaning could be included in existing media like television and radio, but people no longer demand it. According to Faber, Montag is really in search of “quality,” which the professor defines as “texture”—the details of life, that is, authentic experience. People need quality information, the leisure to digest it, and the freedom to act on what has been learned. Faber’s comment that a book has “pores” also evokes the sieve in the title “The Sieve and the Sand.” Trying to fill your mind by reading books is like trying to fill a leaking bucket, because the words slip from your memory before you can even finish reading anything.
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.
Beatty speaks these lines to Montag outside Montag’s home in “Burning Bright,” right before Montag burns him to death with the flamethrower. He muses about the mystical nature of fire, its unexplained beauty, and the fascination it holds for people. With characteristic irony, Beatty, who has just accused Montag of not considering the consequences of his actions, then defines the beauty of fire as its ability to destroy consequences and responsibilities. What he describes is very nearly a cult of fire, a fitting depiction of their society’s devotion to cleanliness and destruction. Unfortunately, Montag turns Beatty’s philosophy against him by turning the flamethrower on his boss, inflicting an “antibiotic, aesthetic, practical” death.
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!
In this passage, Montag muses on the sun as he escapes the city and floats down the river in “Burning Bright.” Montag sees the stars for the first time in years, and he finally enjoys the leisure to think that Faber told him he would need in order to regain his life. 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 ingrained conceptions of fire and burning, and, therefore, his identity and purpose.