Federal Hill Book & Wine Club Message Board › Fahrenheit 451 Discussion Points
“In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.”
I. The Hearth and the Salamander
a. The hearth as a controlled, warming fire
b. The salamander:
i. a creature that is the product of fire- The Talmud
ii. This has no digestive organs, and gets no food but from the fire, in which it constantly renews its scaly skin. The salamander, which renews its scaly skin in the fire,—for virtue”- Leonardo da Vinci
iii. Numerous legends have developed around the salamander over the centuries, many related to fire. This connection likely originates from the tendency of many salamanders to dwell inside rotting logs. When placed into a fire, the salamander would attempt to escape from the log, lending to the belief that salamanders were created from flames — a belief that gave the creature its name
II. The Sieve and the Sand
a. Montag’s memory as a child of trying to fill a sieve with sand. He recalls this while trying to memorize part of the Bible on the subway, and is continually distracted by announcements.
b. Question--- before cell phones, how many of your family and friend’s phone numbers did you have memorized?
III. Burning Bright
a. Fire burning Montag’s house
c. Light is a common metaphor in books, and particularly in the bible, for knowledge and enlightenment
i. Psalms 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
ii. Psalms 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
“Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.”
• Montag comes to learn that "firemen are rarely necessary" because "the public itself stopped reading of its own accord." Bradbury wrote his novel in 1953: To what extent has his prophecy come true today?
• Beatty tells Montag that firemen are "custodians of peace of mind" and that they stand against "those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought." Is there merit to the idea that eliminating conflict will create a happier more peaceful society?
• If conflicting theory and thought has been eliminated, why are there constant wars in the book?
• Can constant sensory input and technology exist alongside literature?
• Do you think the story is ultimately tragic or hopeful?
• Is there intrinsic value to books in paper form? Have we lost something by reading books electronically, or have we found a happy medium between ideas and technology?
• Why are the earplug radios called seashells?
• Bradbury has said that the book is not about censorship or McCarthyism, but rather is about how television destroys interest in reading literature. “I wasn’t worried about freedom, I was worried about people being turned into morons by tv.” http://www.raybradbur...
The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air! Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.