Fahrenheit 451 Part 3: Burning Bright Summary
by Ray Bradbury

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Part 3: Burning Bright Summary

As neighbors watch, Captain Beatty confronts Montag about his misconduct. He must have been influenced, Beatty says, by "that little idiot," Clarisse. Montag defends her, but Beatty dismisses him. As they argue, Mildred comes out the front door with a suitcase packed. She ignores Montag and wordlessly climbs into a waiting cab.

Through the earpiece, Faber asks Montag what's happening. When Montag tells him, Faber encourages him to run away. Before he can, Captain Beatty insists that Montag actively participate in the burning using one of the department's most destructive tools: a flamethrower. Montag burns it all: the bedroom, the books, the house, and, finally, the parlor walls. "When you're quite finished," Beatty tells him, "you're under arrest."

As the house burns, Montag asks Captain Beatty if Mildred is the one who turned him in to the authorities. She did, Beatty tells him, but one of her friends did first. Beatty then notices Montag's earpiece and hits him hard in the head. The earpiece falls out, and Beatty picks it up, promising Montag that he'll trace it back and find out who he's been talking to.

Montag, still holding the flamethrower, notices that he has subconsciously undone the safety. As the captain continues to taunt him, Montag hits the trigger one more time and shoots directly at Beatty. Beatty is instantly killed, and Montag shoots it again at the other two firemen and their mechanical hound.

As the authorities draw near, Montag collects a few hidden books from the house's garden. Beatty wanted to be burned, he realizes. Montag had been taunted into it. Hearing footsteps, he runs, realizing that he no longer has his direct connection to Faber. Finding a regular seashell in his pocket, he hears the breaking news alert: Guy Montag, a dangerous fugitive, is on the loose.

While Montag flees, the news breaks that war has been declared. Coming upon a gas station, Montag composes himself and, by walking slowly, manages to blend in and re-emerge looking like a normal customer. As he leaves, he's nearly hit by a car full of speeding teenagers, and he wonders if they might be the ones who hit Clarisse.

Montag disappears into the darkness and eventually stops by another fireman's house to hide his remaining books inside. Finding a phone booth nearby, he calls in the tip to the authorities before continuing on to Faber's house. He tells him what happened, and Faber reassures Montag that he only did "what he had to do." He asks Montag his plans, and Montag responds that he has to keep running.

Faber tells Montag that he should follow the old railroad lines—they might lead to some camps out in the woods where intellectuals and academics live in secrecy. "They say there's lots of old Harvard degrees on the tracks between here and Los Angeles," Faber tells him. "Most of them are wanted and hunted in the cities. They survive, I guess."

Faber takes out a small video receiver, and they check the news. The authorities are moving quickly, and they've brought in another mechanical hound from a neighboring department to track Montag's scent. Montag tells Faber to wash everything he's touched, and Faber gives him a suitcase of his old clothes to change into when he's far enough away for the mechanical hound to lose his scent.

Montag flees again, stopping to peer in at the news report on the parlor walls of a nearby house. He realizes they're very close to catching him and that he doesn't have much time left. Monitoring the chase on the seashell earpiece, he runs as fast as he can to the river on the edge of town. He throws his old clothes into the river and takes a bath, washing his scent off himself as best he can. Then he puts on Faber's clothes and allows himself to be swept downstream.

As Montag floats, he finally has time to consider his recent experiences without distraction. For the first time, he has the opportunity to reflect and contemplate without rushing. He thinks about his own life but also considers the world outside himself...

(The entire section is 1,155 words.)