Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 Video

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Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

Video Transcript:

Set in the near future of America, in a Midwestern town, Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of fireman Guy Montag, who proudly burns illegal books and the homes of the books’ owners. However, as threat of atomic destruction looms over his town, he begins to question the value of his profession. Throughout the novel Montag struggles with his existence and his place in an oppressive society in which censorship is the norm.

Montag’s resistance grows stronger after developing a friendship with his 17-year-old neighbor, Clarisse McClellan. She is both curious about the world and rejects the technology on which it now depends, including the frequency of gun violence and speeding cars. Soon, Montag realizes he is unhappy and no longer loves his wife, Mildred, who refuses to face reality; the antithesis of Clarisse, Mildred immerses herself in interactive television and seashell radio, and is addicted to tranquilizers.

One night, Montag comes home to find that Mildred has overdosed on sleeping pills. The paramedics arrive to pump Mildred's stomach and give her a complete transfusion with various technological instruments. The medics explain nonchalantly that they perform these same procedures many times each night, and that overdoses are frequent. The next morning, Mildred robotically goes about her daily routine, not recalling the previous night's episode and refusing to discuss it.

Frustrated with a society that seems unconcerned about an impending atomic war, Montag wonders why books are perceived to be so dangerous and why some people are so loyal to them. What power lies in books? Driven by increasing unease and curiosity, Montag steals a book from a collection he is sent to destroy. At the scene of the burning, he is shaken when the owner of the books, an older woman, refuses to leave her home. Instead, she sets fire to her kerosene-soaked house and is herself destroyed by the flames. Witnessing the woman's dedication to her ideals, Montag wonders if happiness can be found in the forbidden literature he is required to burn.

Montag returns home, feeling ill as he relives the woman's horrific death in his mind. Over the past ten years he had thought he was serving society as a fireman, but now he realizes he is an instrument of destruction. That night, in a discussion with Mildred, Montag learns that his friend Clarisse was killed by a speeding car more than a week earlier. He falls asleep feeling sicker, with his stolen book hidden beneath his pillow.

The next day, Montag refuses to attend work, claiming illness. His boss, Captain Beatty, visits him and appears to be aware of Montag’s internal struggle. He suspects that Montag may be hiding books. Beatty lectures him about the offensiveness of books and the superiority of their current society—where homogeneity is mandated, stories are diluted and political narratives are reduced to a simple sound bite distributed by mass media. He dismisses their former society, which encouraged free thought and differing opinions. Meanwhile, Mildred organizes the bedroom and tries to pull away Montag's pillow. When he won't let her, she reaches beneath it and finds the hidden book. Mildred is astonished, but keeps silent.

When Beatty departs, Montag retrieves some 20 books that he has stolen over the years and begins to read. Unsure as to what to do next, he recalls meeting a retired professor, Faber, a year earlier and discussing with him the value of ideas. He visits Faber, who at first fears that he will be the fireman's next victim. However, as the two men grow to trust one another, Faber becomes a mentor to Montag, sharing insights and conspiring with him to make copies of Montag’s books. Faber gives Montag a small two-way radio of his own invention to insert into his ear, so that the two men will always be in communication.

At home, Montag becomes disgusted with his wife and her friends as they sit idly, watching television and gossiping. They lack any awareness of the impending atomic war. As Faber's objections stream through the secret radio in Montag’s ear, Montag engages the women in a debate about family and politics. Next, he reads to them from a book of poetry. Mildred's friends react emotionally to the reading, not understanding the source of their sadness.

The firemen are called to an alarm, and Montag is dismayed to discover that it is his own house that is to be burned. His wife Mildred reported him. He then burns his home and possessions by himself, room by room, as ordered by Beatty.
Beatty chides Montag and as the two men scuffle, Faber's radio is knocked from his ear. When Beatty remarks that both Montag and his "friend" will be dealt with severely, Montag threatens Beatty with the flamethrower. When Beatty keeps at it, Montag flips the switch and kills his boss.

At once, the Mechanical Hound, a computerized attack dog that can track down any human being by scent, pursues Montag. The Hound stabs him in the leg with a procaine needle, but Montag annihilates it with the flamethrower before it can do more damage.

Faber provides refuge for Montag, as both a second Mechanical Hound and the authorities pursue him. Faber provides him with old clothes to mask his scent and thus impede the Hound. Then Faber directs Montag to go to the river and float downstream to the train tracks, where he will hopefully find a hobo camp of intellectual outlaws who can help him.

Montag departs, then floats down the river, successfully avoiding the Hound. He finds the group of former writers, clergymen, and academics by the riverbank. The leader of the group, an author named Granger, welcomes Montag, offering him a concoction to change his pH in order to throw the Hound off his scent.

Granger tells Montag how the men in his camp have memorized literary works so that someday, when it is safe to do so, they can again print books, recreating them from memory. When atomic bombs destroy the city, the men are able to survive in their wilderness camp, then set out to sift through the rubble of the destroyed town and begin anew. They plan to foster a society where books and free thought can flourish.