Chapter 3: "Burning Bright" Summary

Montag and the other firemen have stopped the truck in front of his home. Montag finds himself gazing at Clarisse's house and Beatty scolds him for coming under her influence. Meanwhile, Mildred hurries from the house with a suitcase-Montag knows she must be the one who called in the report to the fire station. Beatty orders Montag to go and burn down his own house with his own flamethrower.

Montag does so and, when he returns, Beatty notices that he is listening to something. At this point, he hits Montag's head and finds the earpiece that Montag has been using to communicate with Faber. After Beatty continues to berate him-this time with quotations from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar- Montag turns the flamethrower on Beatty. Horrified, the other firemen only stand by and watch.

The Mechanical Hound appears and, though Montag turns his flamethrower on it, it injects his leg with anesthetic. He eventually destroys it and stumbles away, though his leg is numb. Before he flees the scene, Montag manages to find four books in his backyard that Mildred didn't destroy. After this, he escapes just as he hears sirens approaching. He also puts a seashell radio in his ear-one that people commonly use for communication in his world. He hears that there is a police search gearing up for him and, in addition, he hears an announcement that the nation is officially at war.

Montag stops in a gas station to clean up, then heads to the home of one of his co-workers, where he plants one of the books. He then calls in an alarm using a nearby phone booth.

Montag then continues on to Faber's home. Faber gives him instructions to follow a particular set of railroad tracks and meet up with a group of homeless intellectuals. Faber promises to meet him in St. Louis sometime in the future, after he takes the Bible to his friend with the printing press. He tells Montag he has heard on the radio that a new Mechanical Hound has been sent out to follow Montag. With a suitcase of Faber's clothes, Montag flees.

As he runs, he is able to see glimpses of the Hound tracking him by looking at televisions through people's windows. He sees the Hound move past Faber's house, and he breathes a sigh of relief. Eventually, he wades into a river to try and throw the Hound off his sent. When he emerges from the river, he finds the railroad tracks. After continuing down the tracks for a while, he meets with five men. The leader, a man named Granger, invites Montag to sit with them. He gives Montag some colorless liquid to drink, explaining it will change his perspiration so the Hound cannot track him. They have been waiting for him.

The men have a portable TV with them, and they've been watching the chase. Granger tells Montag that the search has continued in the opposite direction and so the police will soon be looking for a scapegoat. This proves all too true when, as the men watch, the Hound attacks and kills a man on the street. An announcer declares this man to be Montag. The men postulate that this lone man was chosen as a scapegoat because he was walking by himself, a habit that is officials might see as dangerously antisocial.

Granger then turns to Montag and says, "Welcome back to life." This is symbolic of the fact that Montag is being "reborn" into a life that is more meaningful. Granger goes on to introduces Montag to all of the other men, all of whom are intellectuals or professors of some kind. Granger reveals to Montag that they have a method of memorizing literature, word for word. Each of them as a different classic work stored in their memory. Granger tells Montag that he is important because he has a copy of a part of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, stored in his mind. Granger tells Montag that they will hold onto these books until, one day, humanity needs them again.

Suddenly, they see several jets fly over the distant city, dropping bombs. The city is destroyed by the blasts. Granger tries to reassure the others by saying that humankind is like a phoenix. This mythological creature was continually destroyed by fire but, each time, it rose up out of the ashes. In Granger's mind, humans have this same ability to rise up again out of destruction. He thinks humans have it even better than the phoenix because they can learn from their mistakes.

At the very end of the novel, Granger tells Montag that, as they rebuild, humans should create a mirror factory. Here again is another symbol. Mirrors often represent the ability to see oneself clearly. So, in this case, Granger seems to believe that humankind must develop an ability to see itself clearly, to understand its flaws and shortcomings.

With that, the men head toward the city to help any survivors.

Another important aspect of this chapter is the title, "Burning Bright" which could encompass several layers of meaning. On the one hand, Montag has begun to "burn bright," in a sense, with his desire for knowledge and a better life. This could also be a reference to the destruction at the end of the novel as the city is bombed and literally burns bright in the wake of its destruction. Both of these things relate to the idea of fire, and the idea of rising again from the ashes, as the phoenix did.
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Fahrenheit 451



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