The title of Part II of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is "The Sieve and the Sand."  REPLY and DISCUSS the scene with Montag's cruel cousin on the beach.  What is a sieve, and what might the...

The title of Part II of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is "The Sieve and the Sand."  REPLY and DISCUSS the scene with Montag's cruel cousin on the beach.  What is a sieve, and what might the sieve and sand represent metaphorically in a larger part of the novel? {Fahrenheit 451}

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is a fireman whose conscience has begun to bother him regarding his profession.  Firemen in Bradbury’s novel, of course, do not put out fires; rather, they ignite them for the purpose of burning books, which are banned in this totalitarian society.  Once exposed to the world of literature, however, he becomes obsessed with reading and absorbing the wisdom he discovers in these contraband items.  One book in particular captivates him:  the Bible.  Knowing that, if caught in the possession of books, he and his family will be severely punished, and knowing that time may be short, he voraciously reads through the Bible trying desperately to remember as much of the content as he can.  As Bradbury describes Montag’s emotions, the fireman’s frantic efforts at reading and absorbing as much as he can is likened to the process by which he once tried to find a dime in the sand by pouring the blazing hot substance through a sieve only to realize his cousin has played a trick on him.  The pertinent passage follows:

“Once as a child he had sat upon a yellow dune by the sea in the middle of the blue and hot summer day, trying to fill a sieve with sand, because some cruel cousin had said, ‘Fill this sieve and you'll get a dime!’ `And the faster he poured, the faster it sifted through with a hot whispering. His hands were tired, the sand was boiling, the sieve was empty. Seated there in the midst of July, without a sound, he felt the tears move down his cheeks.”

A sieve is a simple device used to separate solids from liquid, like a colander or strainer.  Montag recalls that day at the beach while riding on the train, momentarily oblivious to the fact that he is openly holding the Bible for others to see:

“There were people in the suction train but he held the book in his hands and the silly thought came to him, if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve.”

The sieve serves as a metaphor for his brain’s ability to capture some, but not all of the Bible’s passages.

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