Fahrenheit 451 Summary

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic work of literature by Ray Bradbury. The novel is set in a dystopia, a world that is ruled by human misery, suffering, or oppression. Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a fireman. However, the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 have little in common with the men in yellow suits, driving red trucks that we picture today. Instead, these firemen are in charge of burning books, which are seen as a threat to society because they cause people think too much. Instead, people are expected to relinquish their individuality and be content with vapid radio and television shows. Thinking is dangerous. The title of the novel is the temperature at which paper burns-a fitting title considering so much of the plot revolves around the burning of books.

At the beginning of the novel, Guy Montag begins to question the life he leads when he meets his free-thinking neighbor, Clarisse. Though only in high school, Clarisse asks him some deep, thoughtful questions that he somehow can't get out of his mind. In particular, she asks if he his happy. He realizes after pondering this for a time that he not at all happy with his life. He finds burning books-and even his relationship with his wife, Mildred-to be unfulfilling..

On the job one day, he encounters a woman who refuses to depart from her collection of books before they are burned. Instead, she chooses to die in the flames. Just before this happens, Guy must listen to Captain Beatty's ranting about the evils of books. Strangely, Beatty quotes quite a bit of literature even though he so passionately hates books.

This whole episode leaves Guy Montag greatly shaken and, without thought, he steals a book from the scene of the crime. Back home, he reveals to his wife that he has a hidden stash of about twenty books, and he enlists her help in reading some. He hopes, desperately, that these books can somehow help him overcome the hopelessness he has been feeling. He even seeks help from a man named Faber, a scholar Montag knew from a chance meeting in the park.

However, Mildred does not share her husband's vision when it comes to books. She turns him in to the firemen, who show up at his home to burn his books. Montag attacks Captain Beatty, even going so far as to kill him. Meanwhile, a devious machine called the Mechanical Hound arrives to hunt Montag. Though he destroys the original, another is quickly sent after him as he flees. His friend Faber tells him to escape the city and follow the railroad tracks. Montag does, and meets up with a group of intellectuals.

Each of the men he meets has memorized a portion of a book. They invited Montag into their midst because he read a few pages of the Bible, and they hope they can recover it from him. As they talk, the city is bombed, and the men see the city destroyed right before their eyes. However, one of the men-Granger-states that he knows that man will, like a phoenix, be able to rise out of the destruction.

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Fahrenheit 451 Quotations
Chapter 1: "The Hearth and the Salamander" Quiz
Chapter 2: "The Sieve and the Sand" Quiz
Chapter 3: "Burning Bright" Quiz
Part 1: The Hearth and the Salamander Summary
Chapter 2: "The Sieve and the Sand" Summary
Chapter 3: "Burning Bright" Summary
Literature Summaries

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