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Both Captain Beatty and Professor Faber make a number of allusions in Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Both men represent modern history, dispatching knowledge and allusions that are a product of their age and experience. Both were alive during an earlier time, before the government determined it was necessary to control sources of knowledge, with books being the main repository of information the attainment of which could undermine social and political stability. Both men represent “corporate memory” – the history of the way society functioned in an earlier era.
Early in Fahrenheit 451, in Part I, Montag suggests to Captain Beatty that the fire station mechanical hound, which “sniffs” out and incapacitates suspects, doesn’t like him. Beatty rejects Montag’s attribution of human or animal emotions to the mechanical hound, responding with an allusion to the cold, passionless mechanics that power all forms of machines, in this case, ballistic missiles:
“Come off it. It doesn't like or dislike. It just `functions.' It's like a lesson in ballistics. It has a trajectory we decide for it.”
As this conversation regarding Montag's paranoia and the mechanical hound between Beatty and Montag proceeds, Beatty again makes an allusion to inanimate objects designed and constructed to perform mankind’s more distasteful tasks:
“Hell! It's a fine bit of craftsmanship, a good rifle that can fetch its own target and guarantees the bull's-eye every time."
Following the burning of yet another home in which were hidden books, Beatty surprises Montag and the other firemen by repeating a quote the homeowner, who chose to stay in her home and burn with her books, even go so far as to light the match, had seemingly incomprehensibly uttered. In doing Beatty again makes an allusion, this time to a long-dead philospher:
" `We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out,"' said Beatty. Stoneman glanced over at the Captain, as did Montag, startled. Beatty rubbed his chin. "A man named Latimer said that to a man named Nicholas Ridley, as they were being burnt alive at Oxford, for heresy, on October 16, 1555."
Hugh Latimer was a late-15th to mid-16th Century clergyman who rose to serve as religious council to King Edward VI. He and Ridley were, as Beatty noted, burned at the stake for the crime of supporting the Protestant Reformation. Beatty’s reference to this event constitutes a historical allusion.
The retired English professor, Faber, represents a more philosophical and humanitarian perspective than that offered by the coldly-efficient Captain Beatty. When Montag, now firmly on the path of moral redemption, but also a traitor to the regime he has served, visits Faber, and reveals the Bible he had stolen, the retired professor makes allusions to religion, contemplating the manner in which the image of Jesus has been subverted for political purposes and deprived of His meaning:
“I often wonder it God recognizes His own son the way we've dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He's a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn't making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshipper absolutely needs.”
So excited to be holding and perusing a Bible, despite an inclination towards agnosticism, Faber makes another allusion, this time to nature and to a more innocent time when the now-old professor was a child:
"Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land? I loved to smell them when I was a boy.”
The discourse that follows is full of metaphors and allusions, as Faber educates Montag on the history of knowledge – the real enemy of the state, the books existing merely to contain that knowledge. In one of his many allusions, Faber summons the myth of Hercules in an effort at enlightening his visitor:
“Do you know the legend of Hercules and Antaeus, the giant wrestler, whose strength was incredible so long as he stood firmly on the earth. But when he was held, rootless, in mid-air, by Hercules, he perished easily. If there isn't something in that legend for us today, in this city, in our time, then I am completely insane.”
As their discussion continues, and a mutual bond of trust develops between the two men, Montag informs Faber of his idea to destroy the system by planting books in the homes of firemen so that the executors of the regime’s repression become the victims and targets. Faber’s reply includes yet another allusion, this time to ancient Rome and the personage of Julius Caesar:
“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.'”
[The question posed by the student included a request for page numbers where the above quotes could be located. Because an on-line version of Bradbury’s novel was consulted, page numbers are nonexistent – and would be entirely irrelevant if included, as different versions or editions entail different pagination. A link to the on-line edition is attached below, however, and simple word searches within the text of the novel will help to locate the quotes.]
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