In "Fahrenheit 451," how do the firemen spend their time at the firehouse?

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mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In "Fahrenheit 451," the firemen spend a lot of their time playing cards, most likely poker.  Also, as Montag describes upon his arrival there at the beginning of the book, they play "games" with the mechanical hound.  The hound is programmed to track anything that it is given a sample of--a sample of scent, blood, hair, clothes, whatever it may be.  It is so advanced technologically that it can register the person's scent from that tiny thing, and as a result can hunt it down wherever it may have run to or been hiding.  The firemen, in real practice, use it to track down criminals, to hunt down rebels on the run, and to paralyze them with its needle.  But in down time, they arrange "hunts" in the firehouse for the hound with rats, chickens, and cats.  Montag describes,

"there would be betting to see which of the cats or chickens or rats the Hound would seize first."

Montag didn't participate in these games very often, because he had lost a lot of money the one time that he tried, and Mildred had gotten mad at him for it.

So, games to entertain themselves is what most of them do--either through poker and card games, or betting on small animals that the Hound hunts down.

I hope that helps; good luck!

leospengler's profile pic

leospengler | Student, College Senior | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, first published in 1945, Beatty and the other firemen primarily spend their time at the firehouse gambling and watching the Mechanical Hound hunt rats, chickens, and cats around the building.

Of this hunt, Bradbury writes, "At night when things got dull, which was every night, the men slid down the brass poles, and set the ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the Hound and let loose rats in the firehouse area-way, and sometimes chickens, and sometimes cats that would have to be drowned anyway, and there would be betting to see which the Hound would seize first" (11). Bradbury here establishes the firemen's sadistic nature. The firemen take pleasure from watching the Hound capture and inject narcotics into frightened animals. Bradbury emphasizes this sadism by revealing that the firemen would otherwise kill cats by drowning them; this should shock the reader since cats are an ordinary and beloved house pet in modern society and drowning is an archaic and inhumane method of euthanizing animals. This section distinguishes Montag from the other firemen by revealing that Montag does not take part in these cruel practices; Bradbury writes, "Montag stayed upstairs most nights when this went on" (11). This establishes Montag's sympathy for animals and others, and also foreshadows his climactic escape from the Hound.

Furthermore, in the passage where the firemen play poker, the Mechanical Hound is away from the firehouse: "The Mechanical Hound was gone. Its kennel was empty and the firehouse stood all about in plaster silence..." (50). This suggests that the firemen only play poker when they cannot bet on the Hound's hunt around the building, which once more establishes their unsympathetic disposition toward animals and later other human beings as well.

For more information, please check out the eNotes guide to Fahrenheit 451!

 

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