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Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury

The Sieve and the Sand (continued)

Summary The Sieve and the Sand (continued)

Montag opens his book of poetry to “Dover Beach,” which is quite appropriate to his circumstances, as it deals with the theme of lost faith, and of the capacity for personal relationships to replace faith. The poem also deals with the emptiness of life’s promises and the unthinking violence of war. Shortly afterward, Montag has a Shakespearean moment, when he returns to the fire station and compulsively washes his hands in an attempt to clear his guilt, feeling they are “gloved in blood”—a clear reference to Lady Macbeth.

Montag’s impressionability is clear in this section, and Faber’s voice in his ear begins to spur him to bold actions. When Montag gives in to Faber’s command to agree with Mildred, the narrator describes his mouth as having “moved like Faber’s”; he has become Faber’s mouthpiece. After only a short time with the audio transmitter in his ear, Montag feels that he has known Faber a lifetime and that Faber has actually become a part of him. Faber tries to act as a wise, cautious brain within Montag’s young, reckless body. Here again, Bradbury illustrates the contradictory nature of technology—it is both positive and negative, simultaneously beneficial and manipulative.

Bradbury further develops the opposition between Faber and Beatty in this section. Beatty seems vaguely satanic, as if he and Faber are fighting over Montag’s very soul. When Montag returns to the fire station, Beatty spouts learned quotations like mad and uses literature to justify banning literature. He hints again at similarities between himself and Montag, saying that he has been through Montag’s phase and warning that a little knowledge can be dangerous without further knowledge to temper the revolutionary spirit it produces. Faber tells Montag to consider Beatty’s argument and then hear his, and to decide for himself which side to follow. Here he lets Montag make his own decision and stops ordering him around. Beatty’s use of literature against Montag is brilliant; this is obviously the most powerful weapon he has against Montag’s doubts.