Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover
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In Fahrenheit 451, why is part II called "The Sieve and the Sand"? 

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When Montag was a child, he was at the beach and a cousin of his challenged him to fill a sieve with sand.  If he could do it, he would be given a dime. The faster he poured, the faster the sand fell through the sieve. He was so frustrated that he actually cried.

Later in life, Montag feels the same frustration concerning the knowledge gained by reading books. He knows that books contain knowledge, and that the society has determined that books should be burned.  In fact, he was one of the firemen who burned them. In Part II of the book, he is sitting in the subway with the Bible in his hands.  He knows that he will be expected to hand that book in to his boss, Beatty,  to be burned, so he tries as hard as he can to put as much knowledge into his head in a short period of time. 

“…..if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve.  But he read and the words fell through, and he thought, in a few hours, there will be Beatty, and here will be me handing this over, so no phrase must escape me, each line must be memorized.  I will myself to do it” (Bradbury 78).

The first part of the book is about the beliefs of society concerning books and why they burn books.  The second part is Montag’s attempt to save the knowledge contained in books. That is why the second part is about the sieve and sand.  He seems to be getting nowhere in the attempt to save that knowledge. The more he reads, the more he forgets.  

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