Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Section 6

From the opening through Montag’s visit with Faber

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.

Montag spends the afternoon reading with Mildred. The Mechanical Hound arrives at the door and sniffs around. Montag thinks about the things that made Clarissa unique. Mildred refuses to discuss a dead person and says that she prefers enjoying her TV’s pretty colors and people to reading books. Montag believes that the books must in some way be able to assist him out of his ignorance, but he fails to understand the material he is reading. He realizes that he needs a teacher. He remembers an afternoon one year before when he came across an elderly former English professor called Faber in the park. It was clear that Faber had been reading poetry when Montag arrived. The professor had attempted to conceal the book and flee. However, Montag assured him that he was safe and they talked. Faber gave him his phone number and address. Montag now decides to call the professor. He asks how many copies of works by Plato and Shakespeare and of the Bible are still in the country. Faber suspects that Montag wants to trap him, and he says there are none left. He hangs up his phone.

Montag returns to his books. He realizes that one of the books he took from the old woman was what could be the last copy of the Bible to exist. He thinks about giving a substitute to Beatty (who is already aware he has a minimum of one book). However, he suddenly recognizes that if Beatty knows which book he stole, the chief will realize that he has an entire library if he gives him a different one. He decides that he will get a duplicate made. Mildred informs him that a number of her friends will be visiting to watch TV with her. Montag, who is still attempting to make a connection with her, poses the rhetorical question of whether the “family” she sees on TV loves her. She is dismissive of the question. Montag travels on the subway to Faber’s house. While on the way, he tries to commit verses of the Bible to memory. He is distracted by a jingle for Denham’s Dentifrice toothpaste. Eventually, he stands up in front of everyone there and shouts at the radio, telling it to shut up and waving around his book. A guard is called by the shocked passengers. Montag gets away by alighting at the next stop.

Montag reaches Faber. He shows him the book, and this makes Faber less fearful of him. He asks Faber to help him understand what he reads. Faber states that Montag doesn’t understand the real reason why he is unhappy and is only supposing that it is related in some way to the books, as they are the only elements he knows for certain are gone. Faber says it is not the books in themselves that Montag wants, but rather the meaning that they offer. While the same kind of meaning could be incorporated into existing media such as radio and television, people no longer want it. Faber says that their superficial company is like trying to exist on flowers rather than substantive dirt. He explains that people aren’t willing to face life’s unpleasant aspects and realities.

Faber states that people need to have quality information, enough leisure time to digest it, and the freedom required to incorporate what they’ve learned into their lives. He explains that quality information consists of detailed and textured knowledge of life, and understanding of the “pores” on humanity’s face. Faber concurs with Mildred in her belief that TV gives the impression of being more real than books, but he disapproves of it because of its controlling and invasive characteristics. When one reads a book, he or she is able to put it down when he or she wants to. This gives the reader the time he or she needs to think and process the information the book contains.

Montag makes the suggestion of planting books in firemen’s homes in order to discredit their profession, and then watching the firehouses burn. Faber doesn’t believe that this would address the most important aspects of the problem. He laments that the firemen aren’t really required for the suppression of books. This is because the public ceased reading on its own, even before the burning began. Faber asserts that they must simply be patient, as the coming war will at some point mean that the TV families will die. Montag comes to the conclusion that this could be used as a way to bring back books.

Montag tries to push Faber out of his cowardice by tearing out pages from the Bible. He does this page by page until Faber finally says that he will help. Faber confides that he knows someone who has a printing press who once printed college newspapers. Montag requests help with Beatty that evening, and Faber provides him with a two-way radio he has made that is a fit for Montag’s ear. This can be used to ensure that the professor hears everything Beatty says. It can also be used to provide prompts to Montag. Montag decides that he will take the risk of giving a substitute book to Beatty, and Faber says that he will make contact with the printer he knows.


Mildred’s refusal to acknowledge death is seen in her refusal to discuss Clarisse after she has died. This denial of death is characteristic of the society as a whole. It is linked to ignorance of history as well as fear of books, as both history and books make readers connected to the dead. By contrast, Montag is impressed by the fact that books written by dead people in some way bring Clarisse to mind. He accepts and thinks about death openly, confiding in Faber that Mildred is dying. He also tells him that an old friend of his has died, along with another person who could have been a friend (this is in reference to the old woman). Mildred still fails to perceive any potential advantage in reading books, and she is angry because of the danger that Montag has exposed her to. She asks him whether she isn’t more significant than a Bible. Montag is hopeful that reading books will allow him to understand the mistakes that have caused the world to have two atomic wars since 1990, as well as those that have caused the rest of the world to detest his country for its narcissistic culture and hedonism.

In this section, Faber becomes a more significant character. The previous year in the park, Faber may have helped spur Montag’s inner revolution. This was when he informed the fireman that he does not like talking about things but rather discussing the meaning of things. He explained that this is the way he knows he’s alive. One of this book’s central themes is the idea that deeper meaning is a necessary aspect of life. While Montag was aware that there was a book in his pocket, Faber provided him with his address anyway, letting Montag decide whether he wanted to befriend or report him. During Montag’s visit to Faber, he lets the professor know that he is just looking for someone who will listen to him talking until he begins to make sense. He owns up to his own ignorance, and this shows his growing self-awareness. He is eager to learn from Faber.

While Faber is a strong voice of morality in the story, he does have the flaw of cowardice. He is aware of this. It is because of his cowardice that he hesitates in assisting Montag and only agrees to do so through an audio transmitter. He’ll hide behind this technology while Montag puts his life at risk.

The new sense of resolution we see in Montag is also quite fragile at this point in the story. He worries that Beatty will be able to convince him to go back to his former life. Montag pictures Beatty’s description of a book’s burning pages as black butterflies. This image recalls Montag’s feeling of joy when he saw the metamorphosis the fire created in the book’s opening passage.

There is a significant symbol expressed in this section’s title, “The Sieve and the Sand.” It comes from a memory from Montag’s childhood, in which he was attempting to fill up a sieve with sand on the beach in order to get a mischievous cousin to give him a dime. He cried because the task was impossible. He holds this memory in comparison to his current attempts to read the entire Bible as quickly as he can while on the subway. He hopes that some of the material will be retained in his memory if he reads quickly enough. The tangible truth that Montag hopes to find is symbolized by the sand. The sieve is the human mind yearning for the truth. Truth is elusive in nature, and the metaphor suggests that it is impossible for us to hold with any kind of permanence.  

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