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In Fahrenheit 451, what is the significance of the sentence Montag reads about people...

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marioman24 | Student | eNoter

Posted January 16, 2013 at 5:18 PM via web

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In Fahrenheit 451, what is the significance of the sentence Montag reads about people dying rather than breaking the small ends of eggs?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 16, 2013 at 6:58 PM (Answer #1)

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This occurs at the end of the first section, "The Hearth and the Salamander" of Fahrenheit 451. The quote is from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Gulliver's Travels is a fantasy but it is also a political satire of England during Swift's time. It is fitting that the first book Montag reads from is one that criticizes government and society. The quote about the eggs is: 

It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death rather than submit to break eggs at the smaller end. 

The Lilliputians have an ongoing threat from a neighboring island. The cause of the dispute is a disagreement over the way an egg should be broken. Swift is mocking the trivial disagreements in politics and religion (particularly the arguments between Catholics and Protestants). Those persons who have submitted to death have chosen to challenge the idea that an egg must be broken a certain way. Thus, they have challenged authority, albeit in a seemingly silly way (this is part of the satire). 

Montag reads this quote from a book that mocks, via satire, the governing institutions of his time. Montag is also beginning to question his own work as a fireman and questions the burning of books. Like Swift, Montag is challenging the authority of his society. 

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