There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.
Montag says these words to Mildred after he is called to burn books at a house. The woman who lived within the home remained inside and burned with her books. This event follows Montag’s encounter with Clarisse, the first person he’d met who was curious about the world and other people. The combination of meeting Clarisse and encountering the woman who would prefer to die with her books than live without them, brings Montag to a new realization. There must be something of value in books to cause someone to make such a sacrifice.
Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes!
At the beginning of “The Sieve and the Sand,” Montag and Mildred are reading the books that Montag stole from fires he had been called to. He hears bombers in the sky, wonders why they are up there, and recalls there have been two atomic wars. Montag is angry to realize how little he knows of the rest of the world and its history, and even angrier that no one else is interested in learning more. Montag reaches a key understanding of the benefit of knowledge: preventing society from repeating past mistakes.
We’ll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people. A lot will be lost that way, of course. But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.
Faber escapes the city and discovers a group of people in the woods. Granger explains to him how the group members plan on passing down their knowledge. Granger admits that he and the others in the group burned their books, but they each memorized different ones before doing so. Rather than defying the government in protest of book-burning, Granger’s priority is to keep the information alive, understanding that knowledge can only be passed on to those who are curious enough to want to hear it and learn.
She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing. You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. The poor girl’s better off dead.
Montag asks Captain Beatty what happened to Clarisse after he does not see her for a few days. Beatty explains that Clarisse’s family had been watched carefully, as they were considered “odd ducks.” Beatty’s primary concern was that Clarisse wanted to learn why things were a certain way. In the society of Fahrenheit 451, which is based on censorship of ideas and control of people’s thoughts with entertainment, there is no greater danger to the status quo than a citizen who is curious to learn about the world.