How do Granger and the others preserve books?

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In Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury depicts a future totalitarian state in which ignorance and distractions are promoted, firemen burn books, and preserving works of literature becomes an act of defiance as well as an assertion of the human spirit.

When fireman Montag finally rebels against his job and...

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In Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury depicts a future totalitarian state in which ignorance and distractions are promoted, firemen burn books, and preserving works of literature becomes an act of defiance as well as an assertion of the human spirit.

When fireman Montag finally rebels against his job and escapes to the countryside, he encounters a secret community of rebels. Montag’s act of escaping by river is a literary metaphor referenced from history: he has crossed the Rubicon, a final decision from which there is no turning back.

Granger, the leader of this group of exiled intellectuals, explains to Montag their process of memorizing chapters from the books that had been destroyed:

Each man had a book he wanted to remember, and did. Then, over a period of twenty years or so, we met each other, traveling, and got the loose network together and set out a plan… We’re nothing more than dust jackets for books…

Granger further explains how each person is a chapter and a network of people becomes a book; he hopes that one day, the books they carry in their memories can be written again. Although it seems a futile task on the surface, Granger emphasizes the value of their work.

Montag and the exiles then watch in horror as the city is destroyed in a nuclear attack. Knocked down by the shock waves produced by the bomb, Montag holds onto his memories and realizes he can recall parts of Ecclesiastes.

In a discussion over breakfast the next morning, Granger references a Greek myth:

There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did.

The myth of the phoenix represents the cycle of personal and societal destruction and renewal. Individuals are born, then pass away; societies rise, then fall.

As Granger explained to Montag, the job of the exiles is to keep works of literature alive by memorizing them and passing them down, in hopes of a future renewal. He further relates that unlike the bird, people have consciousness and intent and can break the cycle. People have the capacity to learn from their mistakes, no matter how destructive.

The final scenes in the 1966 film version of the book by French director François Truffaut depict the exiles memorizing and quoting from the books they are assigned to.

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Although Montag at first thinks it is impossible, Granger tells him that he and his loose network of other readers memorize books to preserve them. Granger says that each person is responsible for a certain body of knowledge. Simmons, for example, has memorized the Roman author Marcus Aurelius. Granger introduces Montag to other men who are known by the name of the writer they have memorized:

I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver's Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and this one is Schopenhauer, and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed.

Montag is incredulous, but Granger explains that other methods of preserving books, such as carrying them around on microfilm, were not practical, given how often the men move around. He also explains that the men live as model citizens in their dystopian society so that nobody will suspect what they are doing. When Montag says that he has tried to memorize books but found it impossible, Granger assures him there are ways to do so:

All of us have photographic memories, but spend a lifetime learning how to block off the things that are really in there. Simmons here has worked on it for twenty years and now we've got the method down to where we can recall anything that's been read once.

Granger tells Montag this his group also burns books so that they won't be caught and arrested for having them. He says they are waiting for the war that will destroy the current troubled civilization (the war that will occur shortly after this speech). He also informs Montag that they will teach their children how to memorize the books, too, so that the information won't be lost.

This method of memorization aligns with a theme of the novel: it is not the books themselves that are important, but the knowledge in them. There is no point in having books on a shelf if they are not read and understood.

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After Montag successfully flees the dystopian city, he travels down the river and into the wilderness, where he meets and joins a group of traveling intellectuals. Granger is the leader of the group of hobo intellectuals, who possess significant knowledge and remember important pieces of literature in hopes of one day building a literate society after the dystopian nation is destroyed.

When Granger asks Montag what he has to offer, Montag responds by saying that he can only remember part of the Book of Ecclesiastes and a little bit of Revelation. Granger then assures Montag that he will eventually be able to recall the books he's read verbatim because they have developed a method that helps them remember any book in its entirety. Granger also mentions to Montag that each of the traveling intellectuals has a photographic memory and that Simmons's method for developing a clear memory will work. By the end of the novel, Montag walks towards the decimated dystopian city and begins to remember and recite the books of Ecclesiastes and Revelation.

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In Fahrenheit 451, Granger and the other professors preserve books by memorizing them. Granger explains that they used to read the books and burn them or put them onto microfilm, but neither of these methods worked very well. Instead, they decided to learn every word.

Each man in the group has memorized a single book or group of books by a single author. Granger, for instance, has memorized Plato's Republic. When Montag joins the group, his contribution is the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.

By memorizing the books, Granger and his men have successfully preserved the content of lost books—books outlawed by the government and burned by firemen. When it comes time to rebuild society, they will recite their chosen book, transferring its contents to the next generation.

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