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Help with analysis of important quotes in "The Sieve and the Sand" in...

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konvex | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 16, 2008 at 2:27 AM via web

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Help with analysis of important quotes in "The Sieve and the Sand" in "Fahrenheit 451"?

The quotes are:

"Sweet food of sweetly uttered knowledge"

"The folly of mistaking a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself as an oracle, is inborn in us" 

"A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."

"Carcasses bleed at the sight at the murderer."

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 17, 2008 at 9:04 PM (Answer #1)

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The overall purpose of these quotes is to confuse Montag and show him that books don't all agree; that authors put forth contrasting opinions.  The first one is saying that words and books can teach, which the second and third quotes indicate that it is foolish to uphold quotes, especially quotes out of context, as truisms.  All of this Beatty screams at Montag because he knows that Montag is having doubts about their society and especially the firemen's role in society as book burners. Beatty realizes that Montag not only has and has read books but is beginning to believe some of what he's read in those books and in what some people have said to him (Clarisse and Faber).  While Beatty tries to use these seemingly opposing quotes as proof of the contradictory nature of books and authors, it really only gives fuel to Montag's beliefs.  The quotes show that it is acceptable for people to express opposing viewpoints and books help to illuminate these differences, giving readers the ability to form their own enlightened opinions.  Beatty and the government of "Fahrenheit 451" do not want people thinking for themselves and forming their own opinions.  It's much harder to herd people who think than it is to herd people who simply follow the flashiest speaker.

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