Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover
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In Fahrenheit 451, what happens when Montag goes to the woman's house with his crew?

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Shortly after the conversation in which Montag boldly asked Beatty and the others if firemen used to prevent fires (prompted by Clarisse's question), the bell sounds; Montag and the other firemen are called to a woman's house to burn her books. They try to grab the woman but she tries not to escape. Beatty slaps the woman in order to coerce her to reveal where the books are. She replies, "You know where they are or you wouldn't be here." They find the books in the attic on a tip from the woman's neighbor. Usually, the occupant of a house holding books is taken away and the firemen only have to burn the books and possibly the house. But the woman was determined not to leave. Montag steals a book. The firemen continue to burn all books they find. Beatty and Montag attempt to persuade the woman to leave the house. She refuses, and ignites herself amongst her books with a kitchen match. The firemen are silent on the way back to the firehouse.

While the firemen were still invading the house and burning books, the woman says: 

"Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." 

On the way back to the firehouse, Montag recalls "Master Ridley" and asks what it means. Beatty adds, "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." In 1555, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were burned for having beliefs that did not conform to the church. The woman in Fahrenheit 451 quotes this in order to show how she is also (more voluntarily) being burnt for having beliefs that differ from those imposed by the state (government and other social institutions). Latimer meant that his, and Nicholas', sacrifice will be remembered and hopefully avenged or something that might lead to a more free society. The woman in the novel had a similar sentiment; that by some hope, her sacrifice might affect some change in the senseless burning of books. In the end, her gesture did affect Montag and he would eventual rebel from his oppressive society. 

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