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Montag gets on the subway, heading for Faber's apartment. On the way, he realizes how numb to the world he has become and wonders if he'll ever regain his sense of purpose. He recalls the frustration he felt as a child when he attempted the impossible task of filling a sieve with sand. He resolves to read and memorize the Bible he carries with him before he must return it to Beatty, but finds himself unable to retain any of what he reads, just as a sieve is unable to retain sand. He becomes increasingly frustrated as his attempts at concentration are foiled by the toothpaste jingle that is incessantly playing over the subway speakers.
Through Montag's own recollection on the train, the reader sees Montag as a young boy, desperately trying to fill a sieve with sand, an impossible task. Likewise, Montag is frustrated to find himself a sieve of sorts, unable to retain what he reads from the Bible, however feverishly he tries. On a larger scale, it becomes apparent that it is not only the words of the Bible, but truth in general that Montag finds difficult to attain. Thus, he is frustrated that he cannot fill himself or feel whole.