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Part 1 (V)

In the morning, Montag has chills and a fever. Mildred -- who, as usual, has the TV-walls blaring loudly in the living room -- reminds him that he's never been sick before. But Montag thinks that he can still smell the kerosene from last night's burning, and vomits on the bedroom floor.

Montag tries to tell Mildred about the old woman the fireman burned with her books, but Mildred doesn't want to understand what he's saying, and offers him no sympathy. Montag, though, can't stop thinking about it. He says there must be something amazing inside books to make somebody willing to stay in a house and die with them. He tells Mildred he's really bothered by something, for the first time in his life.

Then he suddenly remembers that Mildred, too, must be really bothered by something -- he had almost forgotten about her suicide attempt the week before. But Mildred can't acknowledge what bothers her. Montag thinks of there being another Mildred so deep inside the one he knows, one so deeply unhappy, that the two women have never met each other.

Montag is now two hours late for work, since Montag has not been able to get up the nerve to call in sick and Mildred refused to do it for him. For some reason, Montag is feeling afraid of Fire Captain Beatty.

A car pulls into the driveway, and Beatty comes into the house to visit him. Beatty has a strange, heart-to-heart conversation with Montag. He has guessed that Montag is having a crisis of conscience, and tells him that sooner or later every fireman has this problem. Then he gives Montag a condensed history of the recent past:

After the age of mass media began -- photography, TV, movies -- there was less room left in the word for individual thought. Everyone was reading and thinking the same things, and they wanted things to be shorter and shorter, and faster and faster. Also, people didn't want to be bothered by ideas that were different, or which troubled them and made them unhappy. And no one wanted to offend any minorities -- and nearly everyone counts as part of a minority. So it wasn't a government law, but popular desire, that gradually made books less and less popular. "Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick," Beatty tells him.

Meanwhile, Mildred is trying to be helpful and fluff up Montag's pillow. But Montag is terrified, because he remembers the book he slipped behind the pillow last night. He struggles silently to keep the confused Mildred from moving his pillow, while Beatty pretends not to notice anything is going on.

Beatty goes on with his story: Eventually, books were outlawed. After all, people have never liked intellectuals -- just as nerdy children are tormented in school, people who read too much are considered irritating and dangerous. "A book is a loaded gun in the house next door," adds Beatty. "Take the shot from the weapon... If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides of a question to worry about; give him one. Better yet, give him none." Magazines, comics, and similar entertainment are still legal, but dangerous, unsettling old books? They were outlawed. When all houses were finally fireproofed, firemen were given the new job of "custodians of our peace of mind": it was their responsibility to burn books.

Beatty adds that he's been watching the McClellan family -- there are records on them. He says Clarisse McClellan was a time bomb, and is better off dead. Then Beatty adds that every fireman occasionally gets the urge to find out what a book says. He assures Montag that books are empty -- they're just full of noise, nothing interesting or useful.

Montag asks what happens if a fireman "accidentally" takes a book home with him, and Beatty calmly answers that in such a situation, the fireman would be given twenty-four hours of grace. Then, if he hasn't come to his senses and burned it, the other firemen would come burn it for him. Leaving Montag with that frightening though, he gets up to go, telling Montag he expects to see him later today. Montag says goodbye. But he is thinking to himself that he will never go in to work again.

After Beatty leaves, Montag tells Mildred that he is thinking of quitting his job. He feels as if he is full of things that have been building up in him, and he wants to hold onto this strange feeling. Then Montag pulls a chair into the hallway, climbs up to the ventilator shaft, opens it up, and begins to pull out -- books!! He confesses to Mildred that he's been hiding books there every now and then for the past year -- he didn't even want to admit it to himself. Now there are almost twenty books hidden in the wall. Mildred is terrified, but Montag pleads for her to be patient with him, just for one day, and read with him, in order to find out whether what Beatty said is true.

Mildred and Montag hear somebody at the front door, and freeze in fear. Is it Beatty coming back? With the illegal books all over the floor, Mildred and Montag don't dare to answer. Finally, the person goes away. Picking up a book at random from the floor, Montag slowly starts to read it aloud to Mildred.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Part 1 (I)
Part 1 (II)
Part 1 (III)
Part 1 (IV)
Part 1 (V)
Part 2 (I)
Part 2 (II)
Part 2 (III)
Part 3 (I)
Part 3 (II)
Part 3 (III)
Part 3 (IV)
Part 3 (V)
Part 3 (VI)


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