Why does Montag burn the book of poetry in the wall incinerator in his home?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Part II, Montag reads from books in an effort to understand what the words mean as well as why they have been significant to people, so much so that they have been willing to die with their books. It is not until after he talks with Professor Faber, whom he has sought out to help him understand the significance of the written word, that Montag begins to appreciate the import of books: "They show the pores in the face of life," Faber tells him.

As a safeguard, Montag agrees to wear the small radio device that Faber has designed while he reads to his wife and her two friends upon his return home, in his effort to stimulate their minds and imaginations. But, instead, he finds himself ridiculed as the women stick out their tongues, laughing; then, Mildred suggests, "Let's talk politics, to please Guy!" Mrs. Phelps asks Montag to read one of his poems to them, and "then he'll be happy."  

Concerned with the direction the situation is going, Faber warns Montag to "cover up, pretend you aren't mad at all....walk to your wall incinerator, and throw the book in!" Instead, Montag reads a Matthew Arnold poem, "The Sea of Faith," an evocative poem that bring tears to Mrs. Phelps. Mrs. Bowles angrily accuses Montag,

"You see? I knew it, that's what I wanted to prove! I knew it would happen! I've always said, poetry and tears, poetry and suicide and crying an awful feelings, poetry and sickness; all that mush! You're nasty, Mr. Montag, you're nasty!"

It is then that Montag thinks that he should avoid further suspicion, so he throws away the poetry book,dropping it through the slots into the waiting flames. As Mrs. Bowles threatens to never come into "this fireman's house again, Montag retorts, "Go home....Before I knock you down and kick you out the door!" With shouts of "Fool!" from Faber, Montag pulls the receiver from his eye, finds the stack of books hidden behind the refrigerator and hides them outside in the bushes near the fence that is on the alley.

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