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Free Study Guide-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Free Online Booknotes
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War is declared and the city is destroyed

Summary

The war has begun. A shriek is heard as jets fly across the sky. Montag thinks about Millie and pictures her television screens going blank, leaving her to stare at a reflection of herself. He imagines that now she may understand his purpose. A bomb is dropped on the city, causing deafening sounds; suddenly Montag remembers where he and Millie first met.

After the dust settles, there is a ghostly silence. The exiled intellectuals know that the city will be gone, completely destroyed. The next morning, after breakfast, they all head into the city to see what remains. From a distance, Granger looks at the burning ruins and comments on the phoenix, the mythological bird that is destroyed by fire and re-born from the flames. Granger says man is like a phoenix, building himself up only to destroy himself and rebuild again. He reminds the men of their duty to pass on the words of knowledge to the future. As Montag looks around him, he realizes that he is leading the way of the intellectuals into the city. He thinks of a verse from Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season. A time to break down, a time to build up." Montag wants to share the verse with the others, but decides to wait until they arrive in the city.


Notes

The last section of the book is a maelstrom of fire and smoke, bombs and destruction. As Granger talks about influence and effect and the changes a man can make in the world, the boom of the bombs ironically echo in the background. After the bomb is dropped on the city, it is aflame. In the silence that follows, Bradbury returns to his favorite symbols of fire and purification; although flames can destroy, they can also purge and purify. The hope at the end of the novel is that the evil world of censorship will be replaced by free one filled with books and intellectuals. To emphasize his theme, Bradbury introduces the symbol of the phoenix, the mythological bird that is reborn from the flames that have at first destroyed it. He then compares mankind to the phoenix and accuses humans of the process of building themselves up for destruction, followed by regeneration.

The hope of the world rests with these exiled intellectuals, who must begin anew the process of creating a society. Determination and intelligence propel them toward the city that nearly destroyed them. From the ashes, they will rebuild a world in their own image, where knowledge is praised and books are welcomed. It is the first note of real hope in Bradbury's tragic and pessimistic novel.

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