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Frank Lavallo hosts two readers and the three of them summarize the world’s greatest works of classic literature, giving their reactions along the way. If SparkNotes had an audio best friend, it would be us!

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“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

| S:7 E:1

S7 Ep 1

Host: Frank Lavallo

Readers: Katie Smith and Peter Toomey

Author: Ray Bradbury

Year of Publication: 1953

Plot: Ray Bradbury’s famed novel is set in a dystopian society that burns books in order to control dangerous ideas and unhappy concepts. The novel tells the story of Guy Montag, a fireman who questions the book-burning policy and undergoes extraordinary suffering and transformation as a result.

Frank Lavallo:

Hello and welcome. I'm Frank Lavallo, and this is Novel Conversations. A podcast about the world's greatest stories for each episode of Novel Conversations. I talk to two readers about one book and together we summarize the story for you. We introduce you to the characters. We tell you what happens to them. And we read from the book along the way. So if you love hearing a good story, you're in the right place. This conversation is about the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. And I'm joined by our Novel Conversations, readers, Katie Smith, and Peter Toomey. Katie, Peter. Welcome.

Katie Smith:

Thank you, Frank.

Peter Toomey:

Hey, we're glad to be here. Thanks for that.

Frank Lavallo:

Thanks for coming. Before we start our conversation, let me read just a brief introduction for our novel published by Ray Bradbury in 1952, Fahrenheit 451 is the story of Guy Montag, a fireman, but in the bleak dystopian future of this novel firemen burn, they do not put out fires. They start fires by burning books and the houses in which they're hidden. The story of how those Montag knows and those he meets change his life, make up the story of Fahrenheit 451. Before we start talking about this dystopian story, let me ask you both if you've read this before, or if this is the first time you're reading it, Katie?

Katie Smith:

I've read it before in middle school.

Frank Lavallo:

Do you remember what you thought about it when you read it as a middle school student and how it's different for you now?

Katie Smith:

Well, reading it now in the midst of a pandemic and as an adult and as a teacher, it makes it much more real or a lot closer than I would have thought when I was a 12 year old.

Frank Lavallo:

A little less fictional now, huh? Peter, how about you? Is this the first time you've read a Fahrenheit 451.

Peter Toomey:

Frank, it might be, but at my age, I don't... I also may have read this earlier, but I came to it as a first time reader.

Frank Lavallo:

What's your first response to it?

Peter Toomey:

I loved it first off, but as Katie said in the midst of a pandemic, it had special connotations. We're all stuck at home and they were in this book. That was the goal of the government to keep everybody happy, to keep them at home, to keep them occupied. And we're all trying to do that right now, but it's different, but we'll get into talking about that I'm sure. I enjoyed it.

Frank Lavallo:

Good, good and you can just be sure that we'll get into that discussion. But let's take a step back one moment, Katie. And tell me what's the significance of the title Fahrenheit 451?

Katie Smith:

Well, as the legend goes, Bradbury called his local fire department while he was writing this and asked, "Hello, at what temperature does paper burn?" And the fireman replied, "Fahrenheit 451." And he said, "I have a title."

Frank Lavallo:

I'm curious to know whether that's really an apocryphal author's story when you hear a good story, stick to it. Katie we're also told he wears an orange salamander as a badge, a logo badge. Can you tell me what the orange salamander is about?

Katie Smith:

Yeah. So I think for us, it mainly serves as a symbol for the fireman that they can withstand fire and flame.

Frank Lavallo:

Right, that's the story of a salamander.

Katie Smith:

Right, and I think that we can take that further in general, the salamander was thought to show rebirth and immortality kind of a survival in destruction.

Frank Lavallo:

Very good. Great, great. Thanks for filling us in on those. Okay. Peter, do you now want to go ahead and tell me about Guy Montag?

Peter Toomey:

I'd love to, he is a fireman, as you said, but in a flip of what you and I know today as a fireman, these firemen's job was to burn books. We'll find out later that his captain actually refers to them as the custodians of the peace of mind. But when we meet him, he's at the fire station. He just got back from burning a bunch of books and he leaves to walk home. On the walk he meets a little girl. She's odd, she introduces herself as Clarice McClellan and they walk and they talk. And eventually he becomes irritated by her questions. She keeps probing him. She asks him about work. She asks him how he feels about that.

Peter Toomey:

She names his feelings. And I think it leaves him uneasy. Partly, because there's an innocence about Clarice that we will find as we talk about Guy's relationship with his wife. Yeah, things are very different there. And I believe that really sets Guy up in a sense of attuning his feelings and his emotions.

Frank Lavallo:

It wasn't odd encounter. This is not something that's happened to Guy Montag before at night when he walks home from the fire station.

Peter Toomey:

Absolutely.

Frank Lavallo:

And Katie, when he gets home, the night goes from odd to tragic.

Katie Smith:

When he gets home late at night, he finds his wife has overdosed on sleeping pills. So he calls the emergency hospital and two strange men with strange machines come to his home and they pump her stomach.

Frank Lavallo:

And for the two strange men with strange machines, this is certainly not a strange occurrence for them. They're going on these kinds of emergency runs, I don't know, a dozen times a night now.

Peter Toomey:

Yeah, that's true. And it's interesting because the first machine does indeed pump her stomach. The other Guy is replacing her blood supply, it's crazy, Frank.

Frank Lavallo:

It's a quick insight into the state of society now where it's fairly routine for people to be overdosing on pills and needing emergency resuscitation, if you will, in the middle of the night.

Peter Toomey:

Absolutely.

Frank Lavallo:

But Peter, the next morning?

Peter Toomey:

Oh, the next morning, they wake up, Guy comes out and she's making toast.

Frank Lavallo:

Strange.

Peter Toomey:

Yeah. He addresses Mildred and she says, "well, what?" And he tells her that she overdosed last night. "Oh no, no." She says she doesn't remember a thing about it. She thinks that they had had a party and she was just feeling a little hung over. So he just goes nuts because she had overdosed on her sleeping pills. She denies it, says, "Not in a billion years."

Frank Lavallo:

So Katie, now we know that the wife has some issues, but beyond the sleeping pills, can you describe what her daily life is like?

Katie Smith:

Oh sure. So when she wakes up, she first has to remove her earplugs, her ear thimbles.

Frank Lavallo:

Actually, I think today we call them earbuds.

Katie Smith:

Right. So she takes them out. She sits down on the couch with her script. Now her script will tell her in front of the TV, how to interact with the people. They give her lines that she can put in her own words to interact with the people on the TV.

Frank Lavallo:

This is how they entertain themselves. They're obviously not reading books.

Katie Smith:

Right, but then at other points, she has her family on the screen, sitting in the parlor with her aunts and uncles.

Frank Lavallo:

Peter, do you want to explain a little bit more about the script part?

Peter Toomey:

I do because the aunts and uncles, the family that Katie mentioned, that's all in quotation marks. These people are paid actors that are put up on the screen and Mildred's got a script that reads her into that relationship. She has a role. She has lines that she, as Katie said, that she has to provide. But the interesting thing about the technology is that Guy paid an additional $100 dollars for the device that fills Mildred's name in to blanks that are left in the broadcast. So, when the aunt says, "Well, when Mildred gets up and goes to the..." It's scary.

Frank Lavallo:

Right, let's be clear. It's almost a subscription service where they pay a fee. And periodically Mildred gets sent these scripts that she can read along with whatever's going on her three walls of TV screens. And it makes her part of the narrative. As you said, the characters on the screen, will be talking. All of a sudden, they'll look to Mildred and Mildred has to read her line off of her script. She believes, perhaps more than a little bit, that she's part of this show, that as Katie said, that these people are her friends, her aunts, her cousins.

Peter Toomey:

And that this is her life. And that's the scary part of this. The government has brought this kind of technology into the homes to actually engage people so deeply that they have no time to think.

Frank Lavallo:

Right, and instead of arguing over the remote control, they're arguing over, I want a fourth wall of TVs. Almost, but not quite similar to our experience today, perhaps Peter?

Peter Toomey:

Well, I mean, we do see too many people diving down a six inch by nine inch tablet.

Frank Lavallo:

Or phone.

Peter Toomey:

Or phone, right?

Frank Lavallo:

You don't need four walls to be captured for hours by what's in front of you.

Peter Toomey:

You're right. But this is so much more powerful.

Frank Lavallo:

All right. Well, to continue our story, Peter, the next night he encounters Clarice again and he learns a few things about her.

Peter Toomey:

He does, as he's walking, he discovers that she'll be 17 years old in a month. And she loves to taste the rain and pick dandelions and chase butterflies. As he goes out on the sidewalk, he finds her walking towards him face towards the sky and letting the raindrops fall on her tongue. They talk, she proposes the dandelion love test.

Frank Lavallo:

Oh, I think you're going to have to remind me of that one.

Peter Toomey:

Oh, okay. She picks up what is the last dandelion of the season out of the grass. And she says that, "This will tell you whether you're in love or not." So she holds it underneath her chin. "Do I have any yellow?" "Yes." He says, "You have yellow underneath your chin." "Oh, okay. Well then, so let me try it on you." And she does, and he fails and she calls it. She says, "Oh, you're not in love." "Oh, of course. I'm in love. I've got a wife and I got this." And he's all protesting, but he's also crushed inside. He knows that she called it.

Frank Lavallo:

And Katie, what else do we learn about her at this time?

Katie Smith:

Well, she's actually on her way to the psychiatrist. She goes there once a week. She sits down with the psychiatrist. She's sent there because nobody understands her. Society doesn't understand her because she thinks.

Frank Lavallo:

More importantly, I think than she thinks she asks questions.

Peter Toomey:

Very much.

Katie Smith:

She asks him why he's a fireman. Why he's not like the rest of the firemen.

Frank Lavallo:

Does he give her an answer?

Katie Smith:

He doesn't answer. And they part ways.

Frank Lavallo:

All right, Katie. Now we get to a scene at the firehouse and we're introduced to, I don't know if we want to call it a character, but it's the mechanical hound.

Peter Toomey:

Oh, I think it's definitely a character.

Frank Lavallo:

So Katie, tell me about that mechanical hound.

Katie Smith:

So in the fire station, there's a mechanical hound with eight legs and covered with metal and then small hairs on top and ruby eyes staring at Montag.

Frank Lavallo:

A mechanical hound with eight legs.

Peter Toomey:

And they actually have to keep it in a cage. This isn't something like that you can flip the switch on.

Frank Lavallo:

What's the purpose of this mechanical hound?

Katie Smith:

The hound is given a scent and it sniffs out the scent and it can attack whoever's smell is on it.

Frank Lavallo:

So essentially it has the skills of a real hound. Only if we will superpowers?

Katie Smith:

I think that's a good way to put it in.

Peter Toomey:

Indeed, and it's a hunt and kill device. It's a weapon.

Frank Lavallo:

And the hound scares Montag?

Katie Smith:

Yeah. Montag goes to the chief he says, "Captain Beatty, something's wrong with the dog."

Peter Toomey:

Yeah, because the dog had snarled at Guy as he came into the firehouse that day. But the other fireman sitting at the card table just laugh at him. And "Eh, what's the matter you got something to hide?" We'll find out,

Frank Lavallo:

I guess we'll find out. But a Montag continues to be intrigued by Clarice, she leaves flowers for him and pictures on his doorstep and walks him to the corner every day, each day they continue to talk and to think and connect. But eventually Montag realizes he hasn't seen Clarice for four or five days. And Katie, the conversations with Clarice have caused Montag to start thinking and even more troublesome for him. He's also starting to ask questions.

Katie Smith:

Right? And the fire station, the monotonous day after day starts to wear on him. He begins to ask questions to his fellow fireman about the past.

Frank Lavallo:

I'm sure this isn't going to end well, but I know you have a quote you want to read?

Katie Smith:

Yes I do. So he's asking Stoneman and Black, the other fireman about the history of the fireman. And this is a quote from the book, "Established 1792 burn English influenced books in the colonies, the first fireman, Benjamin Franklin." And then there's a list of rules.

Frank Lavallo:

Do you want to just read a couple of those rules?

Katie Smith:

Sure. Answer the alarm quickly. Start the fire swiftly. Burn everything, report back to the firehouse immediately and stand alert for other alarms.

Frank Lavallo:

So Benjamin Franklin was the first fireman book burner?

Katie Smith:

That's what they say.

Frank Lavallo:

But then suddenly the fire alarm goes off and we get to ride with Montag, I can't say to the fire, I guess I've got to say we ride with Montag to the burning.

Katie Smith:

And then they burn. And in this particular instance, the woman who lives in the house burns with her books by her own choice.

Frank Lavallo:

She actually likes to match herself.

Katie Smith:

Despite Montag trying to save her.

Frank Lavallo:

She figures, I don't know if I want to survive if my books don't survive.

Peter Toomey:

I think that was exactly what happened to her. And I think that affected Montag deeply.

Frank Lavallo:

Oh, I'm sure it does. And Peter, tell me about Montag and after the fire.

Peter Toomey:

Sure. Because he goes back to his empty life and his empty wife. Now Clarice had once asked him a question and he and his wife start to try to remember when they first met, but neither of them could. So Montag goes to bed and he slips a book that he stole under his pillow.

Frank Lavallo:

But Katie, before Montag falls off to sleep, he remembers about not seeing Clarice. And he asks his wife about her.

Katie Smith:

Right. And Mildred replies with the shocking news, she thinks Clarice dead. Got hit by a car, the whole family gone.

Frank Lavallo:

Hmm. Just like that. And from Montag, he's shocked. It's perhaps not so shocking for Mildred, but this really has an effect on Montag. And in fact, when Montag wakes up the next morning, he's bothered and sick and Mildred is stunned and confused because he's never been sick. Peter, is he really sick?

Peter Toomey:

Yes. I think he is sick both physically and psychologically. I think he's sick from the kerosene, from the smoke of the burning books, but also from the burning of the woman who self emulated, rather than live without the books that they'd come to destroy. And on top of that, the loss of this new friend, Clarice. So the husband and wife began to fight over it.

Frank Lavallo:

But Peter, their fight is interrupted by the doorbell. Who's at the door?

Peter Toomey:

It sure is. It's Captain Beatty from the fire station. Because he stops in again like Mildred. He's never known Guy to be sick. He's coming to check up, but he just kind of settles in, sits in the house. And he tells Montag that every fireman hits this wall and wants to know more about the past and begins to have questions about the books and their job. And just to question everything.

Frank Lavallo:

But Katie, Chief Beatty has so much more to say.

Katie Smith:

Right, so he tells Montag all about the times of the past and how it began and how it came to be. That intellect plus books equals misery. And here's a quote. "It didn't come from the government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship to start with, No. Technology, mass exploitation and minority pressure carried the trick. Thank God today, thanks to them. You can stay happy all the time. You are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions or trade journals."

Peter Toomey:

Sure. And that's because you know nobody wanted to offend anybody. Sure. And why? Well quoting Beatty again, "Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog-lovers, the cat-lovers, the doctors, the lawyers, the merchants, the chiefs, the Mormons, the Baptists, the Unitarians, the second-generation Chinese, the Swedes, the Italians, the Germans, the Texans, the Brooklynites, the Irishmen, the people from Oregon or Mexico." End of quote. So what they had done is try to sanitize everything.

Frank Lavallo:

And in fact, I think Ray Bradbury's speaking directly to Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook when he tells him the bigger your market Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that.

Peter Toomey:

Oh, right on Frank.

Frank Lavallo:

But Peter, how do we get from the society that Katie described to a place where fireman burn books?

Peter Toomey:

Great question. In this society Beatty continues in his meeting, "A book is a loaded gun in the house next door, burn it. Take the shot from the weapon." Close quote. I mean, it's a terrible place to be.

Frank Lavallo:

The books are the danger that the firemen are protecting the citizens from.

Peter Toomey:

That's it exactly. This is where I found that quote I gave you earlier. We are custodians of our peace of mind.

Frank Lavallo:

So Katie, while the preacher is preaching a sermon, what's Montag thinking and where's Mildred?

Katie Smith:

Well, Montag is thinking, this is all leading up to the moment where Beatty is going to ask him for that book he took last night.

Peter Toomey:

That's what I was thinking.

Katie Smith:

Meanwhile, Mildred is fluffing his pillow and getting really close to revealing the book, trying to quickly clean up the apartment, fluffing his pillow, watching her TV at the same time.

Frank Lavallo:

So Montag is being assaulted by all these emotions and feelings. He's afraid of what the chief is going to do if he finds this book underneath his pillow. He's afraid of what Mildred's going to do. He's still worrying about Clarice. He's questioning everything, his job, his marriage, simply everything. He is sick. He doesn't feel well. He's really having a rough morning, but Katie, Peter doesn't stop there. This is where things really start to spiral out of control for Montag. And we'll pick back up on just how crazy things get from Montag. Right after this break, you're listening to Novel Conversations. We'll be right back.

Frank Lavallo:

Welcome back. I'm your host, Frank Lavallo. And today I'm having a conversation about the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. And I'm joined in my conversation by our Novel Conversations, readers, Katie Smith and Peter Toomey. All right, Peter, before we took our break, we're going to talk about how this crazy morning gets even crazier.

Peter Toomey:

Sure. After Beatty left, Montag exploded out of bed and he had a meltdown, he raced over to a vent and he pulled out all of the books that he had hidden for years.

Frank Lavallo:

There's more books?

Peter Toomey:

Yeah. There's more and Mildred is just mortified. So they fought about it. And she was in a panic. But Montag comes to the conclusion in order to shake the feeling of anxiousness and this riddled mystery behind the unknown of the books. He figures, he must read them and read them together with his wife. So they did.

Frank Lavallo:

Katie, can you imagine how Montag and Mildred must feel? They're reading books, something they've never done before. They're trying to understand what they're actually reading. Montag hopes he's learning something. But can you imagine the impact that this would have had on people that have never looked at a book before?

Katie Smith:

I have been reading books my whole life. Montag has never read a book, has never cracked one open and started at the beginning and gotten all the way through.

Frank Lavallo:

Never smelled one.

Katie Smith:

He's now trying to take that all in at once by flipping through these books that he's stored up for the past year, he's trying his hardest to understand he's reading everything he can as fast as he can. He wants to understand it, but he can't, he's struggling. He doesn't know what these books mean. And that's making him more and more frustrated.

Peter Toomey:

It's especially frustrating because Mildred is standing there looking at him and cares only for her parlor family.

Frank Lavallo:

She can't wait to put the book down and get back to her TVs.

Peter Toomey:

You got that, right.

Frank Lavallo:

Meanwhile, Ray Bradbury drops in a few lines and this is what he says to us. "Bomber jets fly overhead. War is near." We actually haven't heard anything about this war yet. And then he also tells us the mechanical dog circles their home. Peter it's at this point, that Montag remembers an interaction he had with a professor in the park many years ago.

Peter Toomey:

Ah, yes, he remembers the man, Mr. Faber was angry at his loss of books and Montag still has Faber's phone number. So he rings him up. Maybe Faber can explain what all these books mean and why they're so important.

Frank Lavallo:

Does he actually call him?

Peter Toomey:

He does. And it does not go well. So Montag decides he's just going to go visit the man and get face to face with him.

Frank Lavallo:

I can imagine how Mr. Faber would feel getting a phone call from a fireman.

Peter Toomey:

You're right after all Montag is one of the bad guys, but Montag decides to go visit the professor. Faber opens the door and greets Montag with great apprehension, but they have a lengthy discussion over Montag's plate with the books, which Faber understands.

Frank Lavallo:

And eventually they decide to create a plan. Katie, a plan for what?

Katie Smith:

Mr. Faber has an old friend with a printing press and they plan to take the books that Montag has collected and reprint them and hide them in the houses of other firemen to get them in trouble. But Montag needs to overcome Beatty in his position at the fire station, but he does not have the guts to do this. He's too afraid. He doesn't know how it's going to go. Mr. Faber has an idea that he's created this sea shell-

Frank Lavallo:

One of these earbuds?

Katie Smith:

Right, but these ones work as walkie talkies almost. So he can put it in his ear and Faber can hear him. And he can talk back to Montag and tell him how to confront Beatty in the right way.

Frank Lavallo:

Sort of a technological Cyrano for-

Katie Smith:

Right, exactly.

Frank Lavallo:

For lack of a better phrase. But Peter first Montag has to go home.

Peter Toomey:

Yes. And he has to deal with Mildred as she entertains her friends, Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowls. But he doesn't deal with them well at all. So he gets so frustrated at their ignorant ramblings that he takes out a book and he starts to read it to them. Mildred understandably is mortified. Mrs. Phillips sobs and cries, Mrs. Bowls gets angry and storms out never to return again. And Montag has almost spoiled the plan. And this is all while Faber is screaming in his ear to stop, but Montag just couldn't help himself.

Frank Lavallo:

He's really in a spiral here isn't he? But Katie, he does eventually make it to the fire station doesn't he?

Katie Smith:

Right, and on his way to the fire station, Montag trembles at the thought of having to confront Beatty. But when he walks in, he hands Beatty the book and says, "Okay, I'm done reading it. You can burn it now." Beatty pokes deeply at Montag's plight and welcomes him back to the burning cult with great antagonistic and demoralizing banter.

Frank Lavallo:

But then the fire signal breaks the tension.

Katie Smith:

Right, and they all have to jump up and head out on their orange salamander. And Montag is shocked to find out that they're arriving at his house.

Frank Lavallo:

Peter, his home?

Peter Toomey:

So Beatty just wailed at Montag, screeching his, "I told you so. You should not have read those books. Look at what you've done." He does the whole speech over again at Montag.

Katie Smith:

And while he's berating, Montag, he's throwing in quotes from Shakespeare and Alexander Pope, he's quoting Macbeth and referencing Shakespeare. And he says, "Sweet food of sweetly, uttered knowledge." Sir Phillip Sidney. "Words are like leaves and where they most abound, much fruit of since beneath is rarely found." Alexander Pope. He's adding insult to injury as he does this.

Frank Lavallo:

And Peter, what is Mildred doing as the orange salamander arrives at their house to burn it down?

Peter Toomey:

Well, Mildred runs out of the house with her suitcase, gets into her car and drives off without any interaction with Montag, just muttering words, like a crazy lady. Mildred had unearthed all the books that Montag had hidden in the garden after the interaction with the two women.

Frank Lavallo:

All of his books?

Peter Toomey:

And they are now piled up in the house.

Frank Lavallo:

Katie, time for a fire?

Katie Smith:

Yep. Beatty orders Montag to do the dirty work himself and light his own house on fire with the flame thrower. Montag does as he's told, even as favor is begging him to run in his little earpiece. Montag knows that the hound is nearby and he would not escape without his life lost. So soon, his house burned into rubble and ash.

Frank Lavallo:

Peter, I've got to ask who turned Montag again? It wasn't Mildred was it?

Peter Toomey:

It was Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowls who sounded the alarm first, but Beatty, let that slide still giving Montag a chance. But when Mildred sounded the alarm, Betty knew it was time to finish this.

Frank Lavallo:

His own wife turned him in.

Peter Toomey:

Yeah.

Frank Lavallo:

And Katie, it continues to get even worse from Montag.

Katie Smith:

Beatty struck Montag hard in the face. And his secret seashell went flying in the air. When Beatty picked it up, he realized there was someone on the other end, Beatty threatens Montag that their next stop will be Faber's house.

Frank Lavallo:

And this is where Montag finally completely loses it.

Katie Smith:

He points the flame thrower at Beatty and he lights him up. He dies.

Frank Lavallo:

Do you have a quote?

Katie Smith:

Yeah. Here's the quote, "Beatty flopped over and over and over. And it lasts twisted in on himself like a charred wax doll and lay silent."

Peter Toomey:

Whoa.

Frank Lavallo:

Well, that takes care of Beatty. But what about the hound?

Katie Smith:

Yeah, the hound pounces on Montag.

Peter Toomey:

Yeah. Katie, I've got a great quote here. "It made a single last leap into the air coming down on Montag from a good three feet over his head. It's spidered legs reaching. The procaine needle, snapping on its single angry tooth. Montag caught it with a bloom of flame, a single wondrous blossom that curled in petals of yellow and blue and orange about the metal dog, cladded in a new covering, as it slammed into Montag and threw him 10 feet back against the bowl of a tree, taking the flame gun with him." This is one of those examples of Bradbury's writing that just I loved.

Frank Lavallo:

So the hound has injected Montag's leg with the needle. There's poison in it. So his leg goes limp. But fortunately for Montag, he still got the flame thrower and he lights up the hound as well, essentially killing the mechanical hound, but he's not in the clear he hears even more sirens roaring towards the house. Montag can't run. His leg is still limp. He's thinking, well, I'm done for. Peter, how does he get himself out of this one?

Peter Toomey:

So Montag grabs the last four books that he can find in the attempts to run with his poison leg dragging behind him, but he's fumbling and falling. And meanwhile, those sirens get closer. So after a painful scream from the needles in his leg, the pain subsides some and his fumbling turns to a slow jog. As he somehow makes his way to Faber's. A siren races towards Montag as he walks and then a car picks up speed racing towards him and he begins to panic as he's sure that it's the police coming to arrest him and his doom is nye. The car gets closer and closer and he begins actually to run, but he falls and he knows it's over, but the car dodges out of the way of his body. And it speeds past him. It's a car full of reckless children.

Frank Lavallo:

And in the middle of this panic, in the middle of his escape, Montag's thoughts go to, I wonder if these are the ignorant kids that killed Clarice. Well, Peter does Montag ever get to Faber's house?

Peter Toomey:

Well before he makes it there, Montag makes a stop at Mrs. Black's house. This was the fellow firemen we heard about earlier. And Montag plants the books there and says, all right, this is for all the times, your husband planted books at people's homes and burned them down. It's your turn now Mrs. Black.

Frank Lavallo:

Well, Katie, he does finally make it to Faber's and they agree to go their separate ways. But like some of the movies we've seen lately, they're even watching the chase coming at them.

Katie Smith:

Right, Faber turns on his very small TV screen where Montag, the fugitive is prominently displayed. They release a new mechanical hound. So Montag and Faber drink some whiskey and part ways.

Frank Lavallo:

Peter continue the escape story.

Peter Toomey:

Montag ran and ran and ran and looking at times inside the houses at those parlor TV screens, and continuation of the news feed that he and Faber had watched, he saw that the hound had made it to Faber's house and his breath stopped. But the sprinklers roared in Faber's yard, hopefully concealing his scent. Then the dog kept on.

Frank Lavallo:

Katie, he made it. Thank goodness.

Katie Smith:

Well, he made it to the river. He was 300 yards down the river when the hound made it to the river too. But he tossed and he turned and he fought through the tumultuous river water with the salt and the mud destroying his senses. His mouth is burning. His nose is burning. He's retching. He's screaming too much water, but he did. He made it to new land.

Peter Toomey:

And the hound has lost the scent.

Katie Smith:

Right. And he found the train tracks and he followed them.

Frank Lavallo:

Peter, what does he find at the end of the tracks?

Peter Toomey:

Well, he had a reaction to the tracks. First. He had a sense, he had a sense of scent and a sense that Clarice had actually walked this way at one time in the past, it was an interesting connection I thought to his past, but then he saw a flickering fire and he felt danger there.

Frank Lavallo:

I can understand why.

Peter Toomey:

Sure, because he wasn't sure whether it was from firemen or it was this war that he had heard had broken out. But it turned out to be just a small gathering of men using the fire to warm themselves, which was absolutely 180 degrees from his experience of fire in the past, which was to burn things. But still he hid in the bush for a while and he watched and he listened. And then finally heard a man say, "You can come out now. You are welcome here." Well, Montag revealed himself. And the man who spoke, introduced himself as Granger and offered Montag some coffee.

Frank Lavallo:

Katie, who are these men, these people?

Katie Smith:

These men are outliers. They know who Montag is. They've been watching him on their battery TV.

Frank Lavallo:

I have a little TV that they can watch similar to our tablets I might say.

Katie Smith:

They tell Montag that he lost the helicopters when he got to the river and they watch on the TV together. As the hound captures Montag, this dummy person who they've killed, claiming him to be the real Montag. While Montag sits there with his new friends and watches it.

Peter Toomey:

And Granger says, if they couldn't admit that they'd lost you, they had to close the story.

Katie Smith:

So Granger, after that introduces Montag to the rest of these bums, who are professors, authors, and teachers. Each one of them has memorized books and can recite them. Granger tells Montag of the thousands of bums who walk the tracks and live to themselves. They have burned their books. So as not to cause any trouble, they were not above the rest, but they could simply not live in the world of lies and the parlor families, they headed down the river to find another resting place now with some other fugitive friends.

Frank Lavallo:

But Katie, this war that we've been hearing about soon comes close to home, a bomb lands on the city.

Katie Smith:

Right, as they're walking through, they can see it just level the city in front of them. Montag's thoughts go to his wife. She's probably dead, but he's not entirely sad. He's sad for her, but he's not sad for himself. So the men move on and they walk ahead remembering the past mistakes of man and how to mend it and how to make it better the next time around.

Frank Lavallo:

And essentially Peter, Katie. That's how the novel ends, unresolved. But certainly perhaps with some hope?

Peter Toomey:

Yes, I think so. I was struck by the men he met her on the fire. There's a quotation, "Bums on the outside, libraries inside. Men had clung to the ideas that were in these books." And they'd clung to the process of committing ideas to well, to paper in that case, but now to their memories so that they can continue to be passed on.

Frank Lavallo:

Katie, how about you? Unresolved but some hope maybe?

Katie Smith:

No, I think it does leave us with some hope. Granger has introduced each of these bums as a book or as an author. Each one of them is carrying that inside of them. And even in the last lines of the book, Montag realizes that he can be one of these too. He has tapped into the books that he read. He can remember the lines and repeat them for the men he's with. And I think our hope relies on that.

Peter Toomey:

Agreed.

Frank Lavallo:

And I hope you're right. All right. So let's move into our last segment. And what I'd like from both of you now is some of your favorite moments or a passage from the book or maybe a character we didn't have a chance to talk about? Peter, do you have something for us?

Peter Toomey:

I have several Frank, as I said before, I love this book. It's rather nicely laid out I thought. Captain Beatty's formula for happiness. Quote, "What do we want in this country above all? People want to be happy? Isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life. I want to be happy people say, well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving? Don't we give them fun? That's all we live for isn't it? For pleasure for titillation. And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these." Close quote. They fill people up.

Peter Toomey:

Beatty continues very shortly thereafter. When he's talking about removing negative stuff from people's minds, quote, "Funerals are unhappy and pagan, eliminate them too. Five minutes after a person is dead. He's on his way to the big flu, the incinerators serviced by helicopters all over the country. 10 minutes after death, a man's a speck of black dust. Let's not quibble over individuals with memoriams. Forget them. Burn all. Burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean." Close quotation.

Frank Lavallo:

Those are some really good quotes Peter, thank you for bringing those to us. Katie, do you have something for us?

Katie Smith:

Yeah, I do. I like how in the book, we never have just a blank explanation of this dystopia, how it came to be or where it is, but we get it from different characters along the way, piece by piece. I think this part that we get from Faber is really descriptive and tells us more about how this book is going to end, where it's going to go. But he tells us, he's telling Montag when they're first meeting, "It's not books you need. It's some of the things that once were in books, the same thing could be in your parlor families today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and the televisors, but are not, no, no, it's not books at all you're looking for. Take it where you can find it in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, in old friends. Look for it in nature and look for it in yourself." End quote. So he's pointing out that it's not the books that are the bad thing, it's everything, but they've just watered down life so that it's not significant.

Frank Lavallo:

That's a great one. One of my favorites as well, perhaps my favorite passage is, when Granger's introducing Montag to some of the men in describing some of the books that these men have memorized. And Granger makes the point, these men are now the books. And I have the quote here. "Would you like some day Montag to read Plato's Republic? Montag says, of course. I'm Plato's Republic. Like to read Marcus Aurelius. Mr. Simmons is Marcus. How do you do said Mr. Simmons? Hello said, Mr. Montag. I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book Gulliver's Travels. And this other fellow is Charles Darwin. And this one is Schopenhauer and this one is Einstein. And this one at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed." End quote. So I think Bradbury is making the point through Granger that it's not the form that matters.

Frank Lavallo:

It's the information. It's the content. These men have the content. These men are now the books. It reminds me of the discussion we're having today in our society. When books can be read on phones, Kindles, iPads, and computers. What is a book? And Bradbury's answer, as I said is, a book is the content. It's not the form. And I think that's where we'll end our conversation today about the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I want to thank our Novel Conversations readers, Katie Smith and Peter Toomey. Katie, Peter. Thanks so much.

Katie Smith:

Thanks for having us, Frank.

Peter Toomey:

Thanks Frank. I loved this book discussion.

Frank Lavallo:

You are welcome. And I agree with you. It was a pleasure. Thanks again, Katie and Peter, you've been listening to Novel Conversations. Novel Conversations is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. For more information about upcoming Novel Conversations, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app, or go to our website at evergreenpodcast.com. And if you like the podcast, don't forget to leave us a review. It really helps. Novel Conversations is produced by Julie Think and our audio engineer is Sean Rule Hoffman, a special thanks to our executive producer, Joan Andrews. And I'm your host Frank Lavallo. Until next time, I hope you find yourself in a Novel Conversation.

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