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Fahrenheit 451 Part 3: Burning Bright Summary

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

When it rains, it pours, and Montag could use a little rain at the beginning of Part 3 as he realizes the firemen have pulled up in front of his house. In this lesson we will finish Fahrenheit 451 by summarizing the main events and resolving all conflicts.

History Repeats Itself

Montag, trying to process the scene in front of him, sees Mildred running from their home with a suitcase in hand, ironically mumbling nonsense about the poor family she is leaving behind. She jumps into a taxi and speeds off without saying a word to her husband. Montag is convinced Mildred called in the complaint, and Beatty confirms this, but then explains that Mildred's friends called first. As if this wasn't bad enough, Beatty tells Montag he must burn his own home, and after he is finished, he will be arrested.

Burning the Evidence

Beatty explains that fire destroys consequences and responsibilities. As Montag turns on the flamethrower, something in him changes. As he burns his home, Montag begins to feel the pleasure of burning return to him. He realizes Beatty is right: fire removes the unwanted things from one's life.

Montag must burn his home, but in the process realizes the action is freeing him.
house fire

After the job is completed, Beatty notices something strange about Montag and realizes he is talking to someone -- Faber. Beatty hits Montag, and the radio falls from Montag's ear. Beatty picks up the earpiece and puts it in his pocket, threatening to find the person on the other end. Montag snaps; he burns Beatty and knocks the other firemen unconscious, then sees the Hound charging at him from the street. As Montag douses the Hound in flames, the Hound's needle-like nose punctures Montag's leg.

Montag curses at himself for his actions, but finds what little hope he can in the pile of rubble. He goes back to his house and finds a few books, but Montag is breaking down. He tries to come to terms with the fact that he killed Beatty. He acknowledges that Beatty was a smart man and wanted to die in acting the way he did. Hearing the sirens and the footsteps coming for him, he musters up whatever strength he has left and runs.

On the Run

Montag drags his numb leg and shattered mind to a gas station to clean up, and hears on the radio that war has officially been declared. He then plants the remaining books in a colleague's home and calls in the complaint at a payphone.

From a payphone, Montag calls in a complaint and frames his co-worker in honor of the people he hurt.
payphone

Montag runs to Faber's house. Faber consoles him, reassuring Montag that even though he has caused destruction, he is doing it for the right reasons. The men hear on the news that they are sending a new Hound after Montag. Montag tells Faber he plans to make a run for it, and Faber advises him to head to the river and follow the old train tracks. There, he will find walking camps of men who are outcasts like him. Faber gives Montag a change of clothes so the Hound will not be able to pick up his scent.

After escaping a search party of neighbors, Montag makes it to the river, puts on Faber's clothing and jumps in. He floats downstream for miles until he is washed ashore.

A New Path

Montag finds his new life path on the train tracks with a walking camp.
train tracks

While blindly walking, Montag's foot soon hits a train track. He sees a fire in the distance and walks toward the flames. A man named Granger calls out to Montag, tells him he is welcome, and gives him some coffee. The group turns to the battery-powered TV and explains to Montag that the Hound started heading in the other direction. Montag watches, confused, as Granger figures out that Montag threw off the Hound, and because losing a suspect would be bad press, the police search the streets for a scapegoat. The police target a man that is out for a walk, and the Hound attacks. The fake Montag is declared dead, and society is avenged.

Granger introduces Montag to the group of former professors and authors, but Montag thinks he does not belong. Granger assures him he is one of them and asks which book Montag has to offer. Montag replies with the Book of Ecclesiastes and some of Revelation. The men tell him those books are now his purpose: Montag represents the books. Granger goes on to explain that each man in connection to this group is a book, from Plato to Lincoln. The men, afraid to get caught, memorized the texts.

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