History of the Fireman in Fahrenheit 451
The book is shown in third-person through Guy Montag, a fireman. But, in the story, firemen do not put out fires, since every house is fireproof. Instead, they cause them, burning books and the houses of the people who own them. Montag is walking home one night when he meets Clarisse, a young girl who is different from everyone else. She talks to him about things that he, or anybody else, never think about, removing him from the monotony of his daily life. She asks Montag if he is happy, and he dwells upon this question and knows that he is not. He comes home to his wife, nearly dead from a sleeping pill overdose because she does not know how many she took, due to the unawareness of her surroundings. She is fixed by a pair of engineers with futuristic technology, replacing her blood and cleaning out her stomach. Montag later finds out that Clarisse was killed, and he misses her since she was his only real companion. (Fahrenheit 451)
In another fire, Montag watches as a woman kills herself just to spite the firemen burning her home and her books, and is disturbed. He calls in sick the next morning and his captain, Beatty, comes to check on him. He reveals to Montag the reason they burn the books, and it is so people aren’t disturbed by things that require deep thought, like philosophy. They would be much happier with their silly, meaningless TV shows, without a care in the world, half-asleep. Beatty also talks about how each fireman takes a book with him, just because he was curious as to what was inside. After Montag leaves, he shows his wife his book collection, from all the fires he had started. They start to read them, although Montag’s wife doesn’t want to. They try to understand multiple things written by authors of old, but can’t. Montag goes to see an old professor he had encountered years ago, to help him understand his books. The professor, Faber, teaches him that people need three things for literacy to survive. One, quality of information, not the useless garbage the people are addicted to, two, the leisure to digest the information, or books not being banned, and three, the right to act upon the things learned from books. All those authors took down thoughts, ideas, and mistakes so they wouldn’t have to be rediscovered by later people. From Faber’s house, he goes back to his house, where his wife has friends over to watch TV. Montag shuts off their entertainment, and talks to them about current events, politics, and finally, reads to them from a poem book, upsetting one of his wife’s friends. He later goes back to the fire station for his shift, where he hands in one of his books to Beatty.
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Beatty tries to convince him that books are bad, and put him back in the cultural mindset, but Faber gave Montag an earpiece to help him evade this brainwashing. Montag is saved when the alarm goes off, but they end up in front of his house, where he discovers his wife had sent in a report about him having books. Beatty calls him a fool for being so careless with his books, reading them to people who can’t fully understand them, and forces him to burn his house down. When Beatty threatens Faber, Montag kills him with his flamethrower and knocks out the other firemen. He is attacked by the Mechanical Hound, a machine that can be set to track down any living thing and kill it. The Hound nearly succeeds, but Montag manages to destroy it and escape to Faber’s house. He sees the hunt for him televised when they bring in another Hound to track him down. Faber begins to pack his things and head for St. Louis, where he will be safe. Montag flees, heading for the river. He makes it and floats a long way from the city. He finds railroad tracks that Faber described to have hermits living on them, but the hermits are professors and learned people who had been cast out. Montag finds them, and joins their band, watching the continued manhunt for him. It ends when the Hound finds another unsuspecting innocent victim and kills him. The leader of the group, Granger, tells him that literature is not dead as long as people like them survive, as they had read books and discovered a method to perfectly recall them. Granger tells Montag that it will be a while before they get out of this new “dark age” of learning, but then the books will still be there, in the minds of the people in their network. Later, a nuke hits the city Montag had escaped from, the start and end of the war against the future U.S. The group packs up, and starts to head into the city to help, as they will need it.