In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, what did Montag and the intellectuals believe their mission to be once the war ended?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Ray Bradbury’s science fiction story Fahrenheit 451 comes to a close, Montag has fled the city and joined up with a group of intellectual each of whom has specialized in some area of knowledge and each of whom has now dedicated himself to remembering important works of literature.  The men’s plan, which will now include Montag, is to serve as living, breathing repositories of the great works of literature, including the Bible, that have existed over the ages but have since been outlawed as part of the government’s plan to control all sources of information.  The men know a major war is approaching, with total devastation of the city a near-certainty.  It is their plan to return to that city following its destruction and begin to rebuild, populating it with the knowledge heretofore banned by a totalitarian regime no longer in power.  As the following excerpt from Bradbury’s novella illustrates, these men are under no illusions regarding their prospects for success, but they firmly believe that the survival of knowledge is an eminently worthy goal in itself. Montag is discussing the intellectuals’ purpose with their leader or spokesman, Granger:

“All we want to do is keep the knowledge we think we will need, intact and safe. We're not out to incite or anger anyone yet. For if we are destroyed, the knowledge is dead, perhaps for good. When the war's over, perhaps we can be of some use in the world."

"Do you really think they'll listen then?"

"If not, we'll just have to wait. We'll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people. A lot will be lost that way, of course. But you can't make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can't last."

As these men suspected, the war began and the city was completely destroyed, nothing left but the ashes.  As Fahrenheit 451 ends, they begin their slow trek back to the site of their former homes, Montag assuming the role of leader. 

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Fahrenheit 451

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