In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, what parts of the story can help us infer that one of the overall themes of the story is that knowledge is power?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Part Two: The Sieve and the Sand, Montag visits Professor Faber at his home to ask for assistance in understanding the texts he is reading. After Faber briefly mentions that he could support a plan that involves planting books in firemen's homes to take the system down from the inside, Montag becomes excited and wants to try it. Faber comments that he is just joking and says,

"You can't guarantee things like that! After all, when we had all the books we needed, we still insisted on finding the highest cliff to jump off. But we do need a breather. We do need knowledge. And perhaps in a thousand years we might pick smaller cliffs to jump off. The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.'" (Bradbury 82)

Faber is explaining how knowledge of the past can positively impact the way we shape our future. Knowing our past mistakes will help us improve humanity and possibly prevent catastrophic decisions from happening again. Knowledge reminds us of errors that we can fix and possibly prevent in the future.

After Montag reads the poem Dover Beach to Mildred and her friends, he goes to the fire station where he sees Beatty. Beatty asks Montag to join him in a hand of poker and proceeds to rack Montag's brain with famous literary quotes that contradict each other. Montag becomes confused as Beatty says,

"for I was doing a terrible thing in using the very books you clung to, to rebut you on every hand, on every point! What traitors books can be! you think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives." (Bradbury 104)

Beatty depicts the power of knowledge when he displays how authors can challenge valid points with their own intellect. He essentially shows Montag that knowledge can be used as a weapon, and those not bright enough to respond with valid arguments become confused or lose during debates. Montag is not knowledge and almost loses his mind during Beatty's diatribe.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team