Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Section 7
Summary

From after Montag’s visit with Faber through the end of “The Sieve and the Sand”

Montag takes out money from his account for Faber, and he listens to radio reports about the country mobilizing for war. Faber reads from the Book of Job for him over the two-way radio that is in his ear. He heads home, and Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles, two of his wife’s friends, come over and go into the TV parlor. After shutting off the TV walls, Montag attempts to converse with the women. They are reluctant but try to be polite, but he gets angry when they explain the way they voted in the most recent presidential election. They say that they made their decision based only on superficial qualities such as physical appearance. The women talk about their families in cynical and detached ways. They do the same with the topic of the coming war. Montag becomes more and more angry. Montag shows the women a book of poetry, ignoring their objections (as well as Faber’s, which come through the ear radio). Mildred promptly makes up a lie, claiming that a fireman is permitted to bring home a single book each year to show his family how nonsensical books really are. Faber tells Montag to say that Mildred is right.

Montag continues to persist, and he begins reading aloud the poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. A woman who has just been talking about her husband’s departure for the coming war begins to cry. Mrs. Bowles says that her tears have been caused by the evil and emotion of the poetry. She strongly criticizes Montag for reading it. Montag puts the book in the incinerator when Faber tells him to. He angrily tells Mrs. Bowles to go home and ponder the emptiness of her life. Both of the women depart. Mildred goes into the bedroom. Montag finds that his wife has been burning each of the books, and he hides his remaining ones in the backyard. He feels guilty for upsetting their visitors, and he wonders if they might be right for only wanting pleasure. Faber says that if everything in the world were perfect, he would agree, but that the realities of life as it is need attention.

Montag goes to the fire station. On this way there, Faber consoles yet scolds him as well. Montag gives his book to Beatty, and the latter man puts it in the trashcan without glancing at the title. He says that he is welcome back after his time of foolishness. Beatty uses literary quotations to intimidate Montag and make him feel confused. This is to make Montag think that books need to be burned and not read. Montag feels he cannot move his feet: that is how afraid he is of making any kind of mistake with Beatty. Faber says that mistakes refine the mind, and that he shouldn’t be afraid of them. There is an alarm, and Beatty looks at the address. When they get to the destination, Montag realizes it is his own home.

Analysis

Several important religious references are made in this section of the novel. They help to cast light on Montag’s journey of self-realization. First, Faber reads passages from the Book of Job. This is a part of the Bible in which a wager is made between God and Satan about whether Job will be consistent in his faithfulness to God when under the strain of horrible afflictions. It is clear that Faber is giving Montag encouragement not to give up in spite of all the difficulties involved in his endeavors. However, Montag is so tired of mindless obedience of other people’s orders that he finds himself suspicious of what Faber tells him to do. This causes Faber to praise him for developing a better aptitude for independent thought.

After this, Montag makes a comparison between his wife’s friends and religious objects. This is based on the reality that he cannot understand them any better than he can certain religious objects. Mildred’s friends seem empty and artificial to Montag. When Montag pushes them have a conversation, they reveal that they have no concern about the upcoming war, the way suicide is pervasive and treated casually in their society, and the terrible state of family ethics. They bring to mind icons he once came across in a church and was unable to understand. He finds them meaningless and bizarre.

Another use of religious imagery is seen when Faber compares himself to water and Montag to fire. He asserts that when the two come together, they will create wine. The transformation of water into wine enacted by Jesus Christ was among the miracles that established his identity and gave his people faith. Montag wishes he could achieve confirmation of his own identity by way of a similar type of self-transformation. His hope is that when he transforms into this new self, he will have the ability to look back and comprehend the man he once was.

Montag turns to “Dover Beach” in his book of poetry. This seems quite fitting for his circumstances, as it addresses the subjects of lost faith and how personal relationships have the ability to replace faith. Additionally, the poem deals with how empty life’s promises can be and the mindless violence of war. Shortly after this, Montag experiences a Shakespearean moment. This is when he gets to the fire station and washes his hands in a compulsive way, as if to eliminate his guilt. He feels like his hands are “gloved in blood.” This is clearly a reference to Lady Macbeth.

The fact that Montag is impressionable is obvious in this section. Faber’s voice starts to push him to decisive actions. When Montag goes along with Faber’s assertion that he should agree with Mildred, his mouth is described as having “moved like Faber’s.” It seems like he is now Faber’s mouthpiece. After having the audio transmitter in his ear only a short time, Montag feels almost as if he has been acquainted with Faber for a lifetime. It feels like Faber is part of him. Faber seeks to play the part of a wise and cautious brain existing in Montag’s young and potentially careless body. At this point, we again see Bradbury expose technology’s contradictory nature. It has both positive and negative qualities, and can at once be beneficial and manipulative.

The opposition between Faber and Beatty is developed further in this section of the book. Beatty gives the impression of being somewhat satanic, and it appears as if he and Faber are in a contest over Montag’s soul. When Montag goes back to the fire station, Beatty puts forward learned quotations in a frantic manner and makes use of literature in his justification for banning it. He makes more hints at the similarities between Montag and himself, stating that he once went through the phase Montag is experiencing. He warns that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Faber advises Montag to listen to Beatty’s argument and then his, and after that to make up his own mind on which side he should follow. Here we see him letting Montag reach his own decision by refraining from ordering him around. The way Beatty uses literature against Montag is brilliantly manipulative. It is clearly the most effective weapon he could use against the doubts Montag holds.

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