Fahrenheit 451 Chapter 1, Part 3 (pages 30-65) Analysis
by Ray Bradbury

The Hearth and the Salamander

When Beatty tells Montag it's his move, he's referring to more than the card game. He is suspicious of Montag and is drawing him out. Stoneman and Black discuss the history of firefighting, but because the story takes place in our society—just further in time than the present—the reader knows the history discussed is a fabrication. This creates dramatic irony: a situation where the reader knows information the characters do not (or understands the implications of the narrative in ways the characters cannot).

Montag is already developing doubts about his work and life because of meeting Clarisse. The woman willing to die with her books pushes Montag even further in the direction he was already headed, so far that he will be unable to continue as a fireman. The other major realization Montag has in this section is that there is a person behind each book. This idea will be expanded when Montag meets (and becomes) one of the exiles who has memorized a book—the literal merging of books and people.

Mildred's behavior is representative of the general populace, and really shows how sick the nation has become without introspection—a skill honed by reading literature. An example of this, one that is terribly clear to Montag, is her forgetting for four days that Clarisse was killed. This demonstrates the frightening lack of empathy within the society.

The scene ends with Montag thinking about the Hound, fearing it may be outside his window. His paranoia is somewhat a manifestation of his guilt, but it is a very real possibility the Hound is actually there, probably sent by Beatty. The reader is left to determine this for him or herself at this point, though in either case, it is further foreshadowing of the Hound coming for Montag.

The final pages of this section are crucial because Beatty explains how books came to be abhorred and argues why people are better off. This argument is geared toward Montag, who doesn't read and can't know the value of literature, but Bradbury cleverly reveals the symptoms of the sick society with Beatty's dialogue. In other words, what might sound reasonable to Montag, illustrates to the reader a dangerous, and even possible reality. It is because Bradbury can so masterfully connect the present with this fictional future that this work remains relevant today.

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