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Free Study Guide-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Free Online Booknotes
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Montag shows his books to the neighbors

Summary

After withdrawing money from the bank to fund the reproduction of his books, Montag returns home with Faber's green listening device in his ear. Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles, Millie's friends and insipid neighbors, soon come to visit. With frustration, Montag turns off the television and tries to engage the women in various intellectual conversations about children and politics. The women are ignorant and uninterested, which irritates Montag. In a fit of anger, he pulls out a book and shows it to the women; it is a foolish mistake.

Through his ear device, Faber urges Montag to stop, reminding him of how dangerous it is to show a book to anyone. Millie is panicked over her husband's action, but she manages to save the day. She tells the ladies that once each year the firemen are allowed to bring a book home to show its uselessness to his family members. Montag, having come to his senses, agrees with his wife's explanation. Millie persuades him to read a poem to show the ladies how silly it is. Montag renders the poem beautifully and emotionally; Mrs. Phelps is brought to tears. After the poem is read, Montag drops the book into the incinerator with a flourish.

As the women prepare to leave, Montag challenges them to go home and think about their past, their husbands, and their lifeless present. He then leaves the house, heading for the fire station. On the way to work, he listens to Faber's quiet voice explaining to him the stupidity and idiocy of people who have been blinded and muted by the system. At the fire station, Montag notices that the Hound is missing, which makes him feel uneasy. He immediately goes in to Beatty and returns one of his stolen books, hoping to end the suspicions about him. Montag then plays cards with the other firemen. Suddenly the alarm bell rings. The firemen leave the station and head for the home of the "criminal." Upon arriving, Montag realizes with horror that they are at his house.

Notes

In this scene, Montag breaks in frustration and shows one of his books to Mildred's vapid friends; it is a momentary lapse in control that could ruin both him and Millie. Fortunately, due to Faber's calming words of advice in his ear and Millie's quick thinking, the women are convinced that Montag has been allowed to bring the book home form the fire station. To further convince them of the lie, Montag reads the ladies a poem out of the book and then proceeds to toss it in the incinerator; the women seem to believe the story.


The poem that Montag reads is "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold. Even the foolish and empty-headed neighbors are affected by Montag's emotional reading; Mrs. Phelps is brought to tears, while Mrs. Bowles grows furious. Bradbury is clearly showing the power of poetry to transform even the most shallow of lives. After the ladies leave, Montag realizes the potential catastrophe he has nearly caused; he decides he must cover his tracks. He hides some of his books outside and selects one to take to the station and turn in to Beatty. With Faber reassuring him the whole time through the ear device, Montag begins to execute his damage control.

When Montag gets to the station, suspense once again builds. The absence of the Mechanical Hound is frightening and ominous. In addition, Beatty's cool response to Montag indicates that he is not fooled by the return of one book. Montag, however, manages to stay calm with the help of Faber's quiet and calm reassurances on the earphone. When the alarm bell rings, Beatty is unnaturally calm and unhurried. He glances at the address of the criminal and shoves it in his pocket. When the fireman arrive at the house they are to burn, Montag realizes it is his own. Part Two closes with this shocking turn of events.

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