Who is Mrs. Black in Fahrenheit 451?

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In Fahrenheit 451, Mrs. Black is the wife of a fireman, Mr. Black. She is a minor character who becomes a pivotal part of a plan devised by Montag and Faber. Montag, seeking to disrupt the book banning regime, plants books in her house and reports her for illegal book ownership. This act is intended to undermine trust in the firemen and is a significant step towards challenging the established system. Mrs. Black represents the mindless compliance with the system.

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We meet Mr. Black, a fireman, when he and Stoneman, who like Beatty, are symbols of social orthodoxy, read Montag the five first rules of the Fireman of America:

  1. Answer the alarm swiftly.
  2. Start the fire swiftly.
  3. Burn everything.
  4. Report back to firehouse immediately.
  5. Stand alert for other alarms.

The rules emerge as a lie, for the book says they were written by Benjamin Franklin in 1790. Readers of the novel will know this is untrue, even if the men don't. It is also ironic that in a society that uses fireman to enforce a book ban, they have a rulebook.

Later, Mr. Black accompanies Montag, Stoneman, and Beatty to the house of the woman who shocks Montag by immolating herself when they burn her books.

Mrs. Black comes into the picture as Montag sneaks into her house to plant books, part of the plan he and Faber have concocted to sow distrust of firemen and help bring down the book banning regime. He thinks, as he sees her sleeping:

This isn't good, but your husband did it to others and never asked and never wondered and never worried. And now since you're a fireman's wife, it's your house and your turn, for all the houses your husband burned and the people he hurt without thinking.

She is, in other words, yet another symbol of people who mindlessly collude with the system. Having planted the book in her kitchen, he calls in his report of her illegal book ownership and contemplates how she will have to stand shivering outside and watch the roof of her house fall in as the fireman burn it down.

It is ironic that none of this will matter, because the city is soon to be destroyed in a nuclear attack.

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Mrs. Black, one of the firemen's wives, is a fairly minor character in the story. But she makes an appearance in one of the book's most important scenes. Montag has taken the morally problematic decision to get Mrs. Black and her husband into trouble with the authorities by sneaking into their house at night and planting books. Once he's done that, he's going to contact the authorities and inform on them.

Montag is all too aware that his actions could be construed in a negative light. After all, Black is a fairly low-level functionary, not a member of the government. It would seem, then, that in informing on him and his wife, he's picking on soft targets.

But Montag knows what he's doing. This isn't a simple act of revenge we're dealing with here. It's the very ordinariness of the Blacks that makes them the ideal target for this cunning act of subterfuge. If people like them can be involved in such subversion, then so can pretty much anyone. Once the Blacks have been outed as readers, the confidence in firemen, supposedly the shock troops of the government's war on books, which will be severely undermined in the eyes of the people. It may be a long time before the regime can be brought down, but this is an important first step in making it happen.

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Mrs. Black is the wife of Black, one of the firefighters Montag worked with.

In the story, we first come across Black during a conversation at the fire station. In response to one of Montag's controversial questions, Black and Stoneman (two firemen) open up their rulebooks to reveal the first five rules of firefighting. We later discover that the rulebooks are a means of facilitating the government's fight against independent thought.

Montag's question is telling, as it demonstrates his rising dissatisfaction with his job. He hints that he much prefers to do what firemen traditionally did, namely, put out fires. From the text, we learn that Montag is often accompanied by Black and Captain Beatty as they work on destroying the homes that harbor secret stashes of books.

Later in the story, Black participates in the burning of Montag's home (after Mildred reports Montag). Montag ends up killing Captain Beatty but merely knocks Black and the other fireman out. Later, Montag makes his way to Black's home. When he gets there, he wonders aloud whether Mrs. Black is inside sleeping. Montag then plants some books in the Black family kitchen. It is intimated that Montag is the one who calls the authorities on the Blacks. He wants the Blacks to be caught unawares about the destruction of their homeā€”just as many others had been.

In the story, Black is the quintessential follower who never questions the actions of his government. He burns houses because it is required of him. By extension, he and Mrs. Black are representative of most of Montag's neighbors. They are content to protect the status quo and are fearful of what the consequences of rebellion will be.

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She is married to one of the firemen with whom Montag used to work.

In Part Three of the novel, Montag kills Captain Beatty and becomes an enemy of the state. After barely escaping the Hound and crossing a dangerous highway, Montag sneaks up to Black's home. Black is the last name of one of Montag's former coworkers. Montag quietly approaches their house and asks himself if Mrs. Black is home. He wonders if she is asleep and mentions that what he is about to do isn't good. Montag justifies his actions by commenting that Mrs. Black's husband destroyed so many people's lives over the years by setting their homes on fire. Montag then creeps into her home and places several books into her kitchen. Montag then enters a phone booth where he calls the authorities on Black's home. The authorities immediately drive towards Black's home, and Montag is able to escape safely to Faber's home.

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