Part 2: The Sieve and the Sand Summary

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Last Reviewed on March 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 844

Montag and Mildred read his books all afternoon, and Montag keeps finding things in the text that remind him of Clarisse and her strange "otherness." As he reads to her, Mildred is unsettled without the company of the parlor walls—she's rarely without them, and to her, they are "family." Without the constant noise and distraction, they can hear bombers flying overhead. Montag wonders why people never remark on their presence when they've been there such a long time.

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As Montag considers whether to return the book Captain Beatty knows about—a bible—he recalls meeting a retired English professor named Faber in the park some time prior. As they'd talked, Faber had recited a poem to Montag—an unusually courageous and unexpected act in a world where all literature is considered illegal contraband. He calls Faber, reminding him of their interaction, and asks if he knows how many bibles are left in the country. Faber tells him there are none, and Montag realizes protectively that his might be the very last.

He visits Faber, book in hand, and Faber is very surprised to see a bible in person. He asks Montag why he came to him, of all people, and Montag replies, "Nobody listens anymore." Faber tells Montag about books and about what's lost without them—their "infinite detail and awareness." He then says, "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." The books have texture, life, pores, honesty—all things their fast, distracted lifestyle no longer allows them to contemplate:

So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers instead of growing on good rain and black loam.

Montag asks Faber what they can do and whether books can still help. The two of them devise a plan to subvert the fire department by printing their own books, planting them in the homes of other firemen, and then reporting them to the authorities. This will sow uncertainty and chaos from inside, ultimately disrupting the stability of the organization. Montag is excited at the prospect of bringing down the system, but Faber eventually tells him it's just a fancy—the people stopped reading on their own, and there's nothing he can do to help. Montag, without thinking, begins ripping pages out of the bible. Faber begs him to stop, and Montag insists that he help him.

Faber reluctantly agrees, and they discuss how to move forward with the plan. Faber knows a printer, he says, and later, Montag should bring back as much money as he can. Before Montag leaves, Faber gives him a small two-way transmitter of his own invention. It resembles one of Mildred's "seashells" but will allow them to communicate securely without detection from other firemen or authorities. Montag, in turn, gives Faber the bible, deciding to return a different book to Beatty that night in the hopes that he won't know the difference.

After Montag returns home, Mildred's friends come over to watch the parlor walls together. Montag attempts to be friendly but is very impatient to get back to Faber. When the women begin arguing about politics and child-rearing, Montag becomes frustrated. Despite Faber's pleas in his earpiece to keep a low profile, he defiantly retrieves a book to show the women.

To cover his tracks, Mildred tells a quick lie—every fireman is allowed to bring home one book per year to show his family how silly and worthless they are. She tells him to read to the women and show them, and he opens the book to a poem called "Dover Beach." As he reads to them, the women become upset. One cries, and another is angry and starts arguing with Montag. Before long, they all storm out. Montag removes his earpiece, through which Faber is scolding him.

When he leaves the house to return the book, his earpiece is back in, and he's comforted by Faber's presence. As he travels back to the station, he contemplates the fight, the women and their perspectives, and how different he is now from how he once was.

Montag returns the book to Beatty, who calls him a fool and welcomes him back. They sit to play cards, and Beatty begins another long lecture on the history and necessity of the fire department. Faber warns Montag through the earpiece that Beatty is deliberately trying to confuse him, and Montag notices that he's right—the captain does seem to be receiving some twisted enjoyment from Montag's anxiety. At one point, he even stops to take Montag's pulse while laughing at him.

As Montag recovers, an alarm rings. The men put on their protective gear and load into the vehicle, ready for a burning. When they finally stop, they're in front of Montag's house.

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Part 3: Burning Bright Summary