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In Fahrenheit 451, how did the firemen know which houses had books?

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nope | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 15, 2013 at 8:10 AM via web

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In Fahrenheit 451, how did the firemen know which houses had books?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 15, 2013 at 6:18 PM (Answer #1)

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The firemen could receive complaints from other citizens. For example, an informant (a neighbor) gives up the woman who eventually chooses to burn with her books. The neighbor, Mrs. Blake, sent the firemen a "telephone alarm card" saying that she suspected her neighbor had books in the attic: 

"Have reason to suspect attic; 11 No. Elm, City. --- E. B." 

"That would be Mrs. Blake, my neighbor;" said the woman, reading the initials. 

After this episode, Beatty suspects Montag may have stolen a book because Montag has been asking questions about books and the role firemen play. So, suspcion of someone having books can be determined by behavior. Montag begins acting differently and becomes a suspect in Beatty's mind. 

The other way the firemen can determine which houses have books is the Mechanical Hound. The firemen would use tips from other people (i.e. Mrs. Blake) and their own investigations; then they would use the Mechanical Hound to track people and their books. 

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kipling2448 | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 18, 2014 at 3:00 AM (Answer #2)

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In Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451, the firemen find out about hidden caches of books by informants and by people close to those found to be in possession of books contacting the authorities.  In other words, the firemen use snitches.  In the following passage, Bradbury’s firemen have arrived at a home suspected of containing books and, in the process of interrogating the female occupant, Captain Beatty reveals the source of his information:

"Enough of that!" said Beatty. "Where are they?"

He slapped her face with amazing objectivity and repeated the question. The old woman's eyes came to a focus upon Beatty. "You know where they are or you wouldn't be here," she said.

Stoneman held out the telephone alarm card with the complaint signed in telephone duplicate on the back

"Have reason to suspect attic; 11 No. Elm, City. --- E. B."

"That would be Mrs. Blake, my neighbour;" said the woman, reading the initials.

Bradbury’s dystopian society, in which sources of information are tightly controlled and books banned, has turned people against each other, with neighbors and friends informing on anyone suspected of violating that ban.

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