Fahrenheit 451

by: Ray Bradbury

Professor Faber

“I don’t talk things, sir,” said Faber. “I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive.”

As Montag recalls meeting Faber in a park the year before, he remembers Faber saying these words. This excerpt immediately differentiates Faber from other characters, similar to Montag’s feelings about Clarisse. Like Clarisse, Faber thinks of the “why” behind things instead of just the “how.” He prefers to sit in a park, taking in nature and feeling alive, rather than seeking out diversions.

I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. And when finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the firemen, I grunted a few times and subsided, for there were no others grunting or yelling with me, by then. Now, it’s too late.

When Montag visits Faber, the Professor explains how he didn’t take action when books were first banned. Faber sees himself as being guilty of a crime, instead of the people who fought for literature. As Faber did not speak out, he never learned who else was on his side, and doesn’t know how to speak out now. His lack of knowing who his allies were is another example of how unconnected people in this world are.

It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the ‘parlor families’ today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not.

Professor Faber says this to Montag the first time they meet at Faber’s house. Here, Faber contends that the stories and ideas told in books could just as easily be told through different forms of media. But, those types of stories are not what people are interested in. Faber proves here that it is not just books that are absent from society, but knowledge and curiosity about the world in general.

Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.

After Montag gets angry with Mildred’s friends, Faber talks to him through the ear piece about how to act among people who do not see the importance of reading. Although both Montag and Faber despise the ignorance in these people, Faber points out the value of displaying one’s ignorance in the process of learning: you will never learn anything if you don’t make mistakes.

Pity, Montag, pity. Don’t haggle and nag them; you were so recently of them yourself. They are so confident that they will run on forever. But they won’t run on. They don’t know that this is all one hug big blazing meteor that makes a pretty fire in space, but that some day it’ll have to hit. They see only the blaze, the pretty fire, as you saw it.

Faber says this to Montag shortly after Montag tries to read to Mildred’s friends and shame them for their ignorance. Faber reminds Montag that until a few days earlier, Montag was equally as ignorant as Mildred and her friends. He compares their lifestyles to a blaze of fire, distracting and interesting to look at, but ultimately destructive.