1. How plausible is the future envisioned in this novel? Specifically, do you think the author provides a convincing account of how censorship became so rampant in this society?
As noted in the analysis of the “Censorship” theme (in “Themes, Motifs & Symbols”), the future envisioned in this novel is brought about by many different factors that may or may not relate directly to censorship. This society is characterized by fast cars, violent youth, invasive television programming, intolerant special-interest groups, and so on. To answer this question effectively, the reader first has to combine a number of these fragmented factors to form the best explanation of this future that he or she can—Bradbury doesn’t make the connections for us. Then the reader would have to evaluate this explanation by weighing the individual factors. For instance, does it seem accurate to say that special-interest groups exert a great deal of pressure for writers to conform to one norm? Do television and youth culture really threaten to supplant reading?
2. Why do you think Beatty hates books?
It is obvious that Beatty has spent a considerable portion of his life not just reading but passionately absorbed in books. His facility with literary quotations by itself demonstrates this. The first place to look for an answer to this question is in his statements to Montag about why books are dangerous and worthless. For example, he tells Montag that books do not give definite answers, that they contradict themselves and one another, and that different people can “use” them to make absolutely contradictory points. Generalizing from these statements, we can infer that he has become frustrated with books because they don’t have one stable meaning. They are too complex and can be interpreted in multiple ways, so nobody can really be said to have mastered them. Beatty may dislike books because he wants to be the one in control of the answers. This inference can be connected to the major theme of “The Sieve and the Sand”: the process of reading may be likened to a person trying to fill a bucket that has holes in its bottom; it may be frustrating and does not guarantee the reader access to a tangible meaning. While the sieve and sand image is used to describe the frustrations Montag experiences, it might provide clues to Beatty’s frustrations as well.
3. Read the poem “Dover Beach,” by Matthew Arnold. In what ways is it significant that Montag reads this particular poem to Mildred and her friends?
The speaker in “Dover Beach” relates that his world used to be filled with and surrounded by faith, like an ocean (the “sea of faith”), but that this sea has receded, and faith has abandoned his world. There are many ways to interpret the speaker’s statement, but one fairly definite meaning is that the speaker has lost the religious belief that used to sustain him. He tells the woman he is speaking to that they must cling to one another, because all that they have now that faith has abandoned the world is each other. The reader should be able to relate this much of the poem to the novel by comparing the world of the novel with the world of the poem. Is the world of the novel a world that has been abandoned by faith? What would that mean? Next, the reader should ask whether there is a corollary between the couple in the poem and the world of the novel. Is Montag asking his wife for something similar to what the speaker in “Dover Beach” asks for? Is he likely to get it from Mildred, or from any of these women? Why or why not?