In Fahrenheit 451, what is the significance of the Bible verse that Montag tries to memorize?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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While on the subway to see Faber, Montag tries to memorize a verse from the New Testament: specifically, Matthew 6:28. He finds his concentration broken by the constant television ads -- even in a subway -- for toothpaste:

"Denham's Dentrifice."

Shut up, thought Montag. Consider the lilies of the field.

"Denham's Dentifrice."

They toil not--

"Denham's--"

Consider the lilies of the field, shut up, shut up.

"Dentifrice! "
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

The relevant verse reads as follows:

(28) So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.
(Matthew, New King James Version)

The relevance of this verse to Montag's struggle is that he is trying too hard; he has worked himself into sickness through worrying, and is now trying to memorize a whole book in a matter of minutes. Instead of Montag's emotional flailing, which gets him in trouble with his wife and his superior at the firehouse, he would be better served to sit back and think calmly. The lilies do no work and are clothed beautifully in their petals, which protect and facilitate reproduction; Montag should think before acting and try to protect his books, protecting their potential. Montag is worrying too much about the future when he should be worrying about the present. He is worried about "clothing" -- the larger consequences of his crime from the fireouse -- when he should be taking things slowly, creating a plan of action against the society at large. He has no hope of creating massive change all by himself, but an educated man with a small library of books might cause change to ripple out from himself. Instead, he loses his books and wife, and is almost killed because he reacts with superficial emotion (I want to do this) instead of rational consideration (I should do this because of this).

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