What does part 2's title mean in Fahrenheit 451?

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The title of part 2 of Fahrenheit 451, “The Sieve and the Sand,” means that Montag has realized the futility of many of his actions. The phrase refers specifically to a memory about a childhood experience at the beach when he was frustrated by trying to accomplish an impossible task.

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Montag is trying valiantly to read the Bible on a packed train. But it proves to be an impossible task, what with a mindless, repetitive advertising jingle for toothpaste blaring in his ear. To be sure, Montag gives it a good go, reading as fast as he can before he finally gives up the ghost. But nothing seems to work. Reading faster only means that nothing from the text sinks in, which defeats the whole object.

Attempting to read a book in a society such as this is like trying to hold sand in a sieve. When he was a young boy, Montag tried to do precisely this in a little competition with his cousin at the beach.

His cousin bet him the princely sum of ten cents that he couldn't fill a sieve with sand. The young Guy foolishly accepted the wager, only to find that he was faced with an impossible task. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how fast he poured the sand into the sieve, he just couldn't fill it up.

And today, he realizes that, no matter how quickly he tries to read the Bible, he will never be able to hold what it contains in his brain, such are the numerous distractions around him.

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Part 2 of Fahrenheit 451 begins after Montag has revealed a hidden book and started reading to Mildred. The title of this part, “The Sieve and the Sand,” refers to the futility of trying to accomplish a specific goal by using the wrong equipment. The goal, the equipment, or both must change. The literal meaning of the phrase is connected to a memory that comes back to Montag. He recalls a childhood incident when he was at the beach. Determined to win a dime from a cousin, he applied himself to trying to fill a sieve with sand. Because he was an inexperienced child, he did not understand that the task was impossible.

As the section begins, Montag is starting to realize that he no longer wants to be a fireman. He now accepts that many things are fundamentally wrong with his society. Burning books, houses, and even people will not correct those problems; in fact, the firemen are contributing to the problem. Montag thought that the books he was secretly collecting might tell him what he wanted to know, but his individual efforts to find answers, such as by quickly and distractedly reading a Bible on the subway, are insufficient to answer his questions. The words run through his head like the sand he remembers. He does not yet have the right equipment to accomplish what he wants to do. A sieve is the wrong tool for holding sand.

Through his conversation with Faber, Montag figures out that the books themselves are not the solutions for society’s problems. He embraces a more radical approach to change. Rather than just save books, he will print more, and instead of just quitting the fire department, he will dedicate himself to destroying it.

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Part 2 of the novel is entitled "The Sieve and the Sand," which alludes to a distant childhood memory that metaphorically represents Montag's difficult situation. While Montag is traveling on a crowded train to seek Faber's advice concerning how to comprehend various texts, he is continually interrupted by the Denham's Dentifrice advertisement. Montag attempts to block out the distraction by reading faster, but he cannot comprehend anything he is reading. Essentially, the faster Montag tries to read, the more information he misses. Montag's inability to capture and understand the meaning of the text reminds him of a time when he visited the beach with his cruel cousin. Montag's cousin bet him a dime that he could not fill a sieve with sand. The faster Montag poured the sand into the sieve, the more the sand would sift through. Montag's childhood experience relates to his inability to comprehend the text by reading faster.

The title alludes to Montag's inability to block out distractions and understand the texts despite the fact that he increases his reading speed. This reminds Montag of his childhood memory at the beach attempting to fill a sieve with sand.

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Part two of Farenheit 451, entitled "The Sieve and the Sand" creates a metaphor between the childhood incident of Montag trying to fill a sieve with sand quickly enough to win a dime and ultimately crying in frustration to the point where he is now in the novel as he attempts to skim through the Bible on the subway, hoping desperately that some of the passages will stick in his memory.

Like the title of Part One, "The Hearth and the Salamander," Bradbury chooses a title for part two of the novel that also connects to the elements with "The Sieve and the Sand," creating an image of earth, but one that is transitory--fleeting like Montag's sand slipping through his sieve; Bradbury's powerful use of imagery reinforces his theme of change and the idea of the 'temporary'--nothing can last forever.

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