What is wrong with the concept of leisure in Montag's world in Fahrenheit 451?

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tmcquade eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The problem with "leisure" in Montag's society in Fahrenheit 451 is that is doesn't really exist.  Acording to Faber, it's one of the three things that are missing from society.

When Montag goes to visit Faber, he brings the Bible and goes with the hope that Faber's can help him understand what he is reading.  He soon begins concocting a plan about how the two of them might reintroduce books into society.  Montag believes that, if only they can do this, life will get better.  Faber recognizes that the mere presence of books is not enough.  He says:

"You're a hopeless romantic.... It would be funny if it were not serious. It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the `parlour families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it's not books at all you're looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us."

Faber goes on to elaborate on what is really missing from their society:

"Number one: Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores.... Quality, texture of information."

But quality of information is not enough.  The second thing that is needed, according to Faber, is "leisure."  When Montag points out that they have plenty of time off from work, thinking this is leisure, Faber corrects him once again:

"Off-hours, yes. But time to think? If you're not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can't think of anything else but the danger, then you're playing some game or sitting in some room where you can't argue with the fourwall televisor. Why? The televisor is 'real.' It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be, right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn't time to protest, 'What nonsense!'"

This is what is wrong with "leisure" in Montag's society: it doesn't truly exist.  The people are constantly bombarded with noise, told what to think by theTV, and caught up in fast-paced activity.  Faber shows Montag the rubber ear plugs he wears on the train two drown out the noise, and Montag recalls the "Denham's Dentifrice" ad that made it so hard for him to read and think on the train.

The third thing their society needs, Faber says, is "the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the inter-action of the first two."  At this piece of wisdom, Montag gets even more excited about getting started with their plan.  He is ready to act - to bring change - to his empty and troubled world.