Who alerts the firemen to the old woman's library at 11 North Elm Street? How does the woman react when the firemen arrive? What effect does this incident have on Montag?

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When the firemen arrive at 11 North Elm Street, they discover that the police have not arrested the homeowner prior to their arrival. Normally, the offender is handcuffed, with mouth duct-taped, and carted away before the firemen arrive to burn the books and house. This night is different because the...

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When the firemen arrive at 11 North Elm Street, they discover that the police have not arrested the homeowner prior to their arrival. Normally, the offender is handcuffed, with mouth duct-taped, and carted away before the firemen arrive to burn the books and house. This night is different because the old woman does not run away when they crash through her door. She does not even try to escape. In fact, she starts quoting something that Beatty later reveals as a man named Latimer speaking to a Nicholas Ridley as they were burned alive in 1555 for heresy.

"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" (36).

Beatty slaps her for saying this and asks where the books are. She tells them they should know by the alarm card they have. She sees the alarm card and complaint, which is signed "E.B." She surmises that the neighbor who reported her is named Mrs. Blake. Apparently, anyone can report someone for having books without providing a bit of evidence.

Once all of the books are piled into one spot in the house, they are about to light everything on fire when the woman won't leave. Not only will she not be moved, she strikes the match that burns herself along with her house. Montag is shocked and can't believe that anyone would burn themselves on purpose over books.

Montag's reaction grows exponentially after seeing the woman burn herself with her books. This is a pivotal moment in the story because this is the beginning of the end—the end of his fireman job and life as he knows it. Montag already had a stash of a few books at his house, so he had the book bug when he went to the old woman's home that night. He even stole one of her books before she killed herself. Once she dies, though, Montag is never the same. He questions his world, his job, and his marriage. He wonders what books have that would be worth dying for. He's got the itch and he must read. Bradbury describes this transitioning time for Montag as follows:

"So it was the hand that started it all. . . His hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms. He could feel the poison working up his wrists and into his elbows and his shoulders, and then the jump-over from shoulder blade to shoulder blade like a spark leaping a gap. His hands were ravenous. And his eyes were beginning to feel hunger, as if they must look at something, anything, everything" (41).

The above passage shows that Montag seems to feel the "poison," or desire to discover books, as if it starts with the hand that stole the book and is now traveling through his whole body to a point of no return. This is exactly the case. After the old woman burns herself, Montag is deeply moved to find out why books are worth living and/or dying for. He's never the same after this event.

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