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Fahrenheit 451 Part 2: The Sieve and the Sand Summary

Instructor: Valerie Bugni

Valerie has taught secondary literature and composition for eleven years; she has a master's degree in sociology, and she has taught college sociology for seven years.

In ''Fahrenheit 451'' Part 2, Montag learns more about books and concocts a plan to spread their knowledge with the help of an old professor. The summary includes key quotes to explain further the story's events.

Quick Recap of Part 1

Part 1 of Fahrenheit 451 introduces the novel's main character Guy Montag, a 30-year old firefighter. During a chance encounter late one evening, Montag meets a teenager named Clarisse McClellan, whose sense of creative expression causes Montag to question his own existence. Part 1 ends with Montag reading from the novel titled Gulliver's Travels.

Montag and Millie

Part 2 of the novel begins in the same scene where Part 1 ends, with Montag reading from several books that he has stolen while being a firefighter. With the sound of rain and jet bombers outside his home, Montag asks his wife Mildred to help him read the books, but Mildred responds, 'Why should I read? What for?' Mildred's response infuriates Montag, which causes him to rehash the events from the past week, including Clarisse's death. During his tirade, Mildred receives a phone call from her friend Ann who asks Mildred if she would like to watch their favorite show later that night. Montag is lost in his own thoughts recalling an earlier chance encounter with a retired English professor.

Montag Meets Professor Faber for the First Time

A year earlier, Montag met Professor Faber in a park. Faber was reading a poetry book. The two men talked, and Faber made a comment to Montag that caused the firefighter to think: 'I don't talk things, sir,' said Faber. 'I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I'm alive.' During this encounter, Faber gives Montag his phone number and address, and now, a year later, Montag picks up the phone and dials Faber. Faber answers, but he hangs up on Montag fearing that Montag wants to arrest him. In the meantime, Mildred has invited her girlfriends over to watch the 'White Clown,' and Montag boards a subway to find Professor Faber.

The Sieve and the Sand

With the Bible in hand, Montag boards a subway for the ride to Faber's home. While on the train, he wonders how he became so numb to the world's offerings, and he recalls a moment in his childhood: 'Once as a child he had sat upon a yellow dune by the sea in the middle of the blue and hot summer day, trying to fill a sieve with sand, because some cruel cousin had said, 'Fill this sieve and you'll get a dime!' The faster Montag poured the sand, the faster it fell through the sieve. Sitting there that day so long ago in the hot sand, Montag cried.

Now years later, sitting on the subway, Montag realizes the 'terrible logic of the sieve.' Knowledge is like the sand sifting through the sieve. Maybe if he reads fast enough, 'some of the sand will stay in the sieve.' Sitting on the train, Montag begins reading a passage from the Bible. He cannot concentrate because an advertisement for toothpaste interrupts his thoughts via the train's intercom. Everyone on the subway, except for Montag, is enjoying the happy, little jingle, 'Denham's Dentifrice. . .Denham's Dandy Dental Detergent . . .' but it ruins his concentration. Montag bursts out in rage just as the train arrives at Knoll View, which is the stop for Faber's house.

Montag Meets Professor Faber for the Second Time

The two men talk, and Montag realizes that Faber is full of knowledge and innovation. Faber tells Montag why books are important: 'Number one, quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.' Faber says he has been a coward for many years, and he doubts that he and Montag can change society 'this late in the game,' but Montag wants to try to make society a better place.

The two men hatch a three-part plan: Faber will visit an unemployed printer and have a copy of the Bible made; Montag will plant books in firemen's homes and turn in alarms, and Faber will help Montag match wits with Captain Beatty by giving Montag a small electronic ear device he invented called a Green Bullet. The two men part ways, and Montag returns home to Mildred.

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