What does the quote "This age thinks better of a gilded fool than of a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school" mean within the novel?
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This quote from "The Sieve and the Sand" section of the story is attributed to Thomas Dekker in the late 16th/early 17th century. Beatty is talking to Montag and knows that Montag is questioning their society and his role in it. Faber is also talking to Montag through the radio "seashell" in Montag's ear. The quote means that people value someone who has wealth and popularity, but is nothing more than a fool, more than they value a poor, honest, but good person. Or, flash wins out over substance. This is true of the society in which Montag and Beatty live. People don't care about substance or truth or other people even. They care about themselves and what they can have for themselves. Beatty is being ironic, but truthful here. He is, however, trying to manipulate Montag into thinking that Montag is wasting his time with trying to change society. Beatty means that no one will care that Montag is trying to do the good, honorable thing by bucking society; that people don't care about such things because there is nothing in it for them and that people would rather be entertained by flash than bothered by substance. Montag, with Faber's help, realizes that Beatty's words, while true, do not change the fact that Montag does not want their present society to continue.
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