Fahrenheit 451 Chapter 2, Part 1 (pages 67-83) Analysis
The Sieve and the Sand
Usually when an author uses a quote in a work of fiction, the words carry a special significance to the story. This is certainly true with Boswell's quote. Notice the quote is followed both by Montag listening to the rain and a discussion of Clarisse. This idea of something filling up to a final tipping point can be identified in Montag's beliefs and actions, in his relationship to Clarisse, in the degradation of the society, in the approaching war, and in the increase of Mildred's distraction to name a few.
Mildred's fear peaks when she thinks of her "family" being destroyed. She is addicted to media, so distracted from reality that babbling characters are far dearer to her than actual people, like Clarisse, whom she barely remembered was killed by a car. Because Mildred represents the norm, the self-destructive trend of her society is clear: without empathy, survival is impossible.
Montag's defense of reading to Mildred could be read as Bradbury's critique of the American culture of his time, which is perhaps even more valid today than when he wrote it. Montag says, "Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave" (70). This might be an allusion to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", in which unenlightened (uneducated) men perceive the shadows on a cave wall as reality and know nothing of the sunlit world above them. This reading is supported by the passage on the next page: " 'I don't talk things, sir,' said Faber. 'I talk the meaning of things' " (71), as well as references to both Plato (72) and Plato's Republic (144) later in the work. The "Allegory of the Cave" appears in Plato's Republic.
Montag's decision to try to memorize the Bible foreshadows the appearance of, and eventually makes him one of, the exiles led by Granger, who have each memorized a book. Bradbury uses the dialogue between Montag and Faber to further the themes he's established. Faber essentially confirms what Montag has been coming to realize. Faber's statement that their culture must be rebuilt coupled with the men listening to bombers fly by foreshadow America's destruction.