Study Guide

Fahrenheit 451 Dissatisfaction

By Ray Bradbury


Part One: The Hearth and the Salamander

"Hell!" the operator's cigarette moved on his lips. "We get these cases nine or ten a night. Got so many, starting a few years ago, we had the special machines built." (1.98)

This is the first hint we get that all is not hunky-dory in the future. But Mildred’s quick recovery also proves that such dissatisfaction is repressed, kept below the surface.

"I don't know what it is. I'm so damned unhappy, I'm so mad, and I don't know why I feel like I'm putting on weight. I feel fat. I feel like I've been saving up a lot of things, and don't know what. I might even start reading books. […] Before I hurt someone. Did you hear Beatty? Did you listen to [Beatty]? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. And yet I kept sitting there saying to myself, I'm not happy, I'm not happy."

"I am." Mildred's mouth beamed. "And proud of it." (1.653-4)

How can Mildred be "happy" if she tried to kill herself at the beginning of the novel?

Guy Montag

"If you don't want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none." (1.627)

It is this very lack of options that leaves Montag so unhappy. Books may be challenging, but the alternative is a brainless void – hardly satisfying to the individual.

"I'm going to do something," said Montag. "I don't even know what yet, but I'm going to do something big." (1.655)

Montag’s rebellion is more about personal gratification than any sort of altruism.

Mildred Montag

"Let me alone," said Mildred. "I didn't do anything."

"Let you alone! That's all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (1.558-9)

Fahrenheit 451 reminds us that there are no highs without the lows. Montag can not ever be happy because he’s never been sad.

Part Two: The Sieve and the Sand
Guy Montag

"Millie? Does the White Clown love you?"

No answer.

"Millie, does—" He licked his lips. "Does your ‘family’ love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?" (2.62-4)

Does love exist at all in the world of Fahrenheit 451? Because it seems like Mildred and Montag don’t even love each other…

"I don't know. We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren't happy. Something's missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I'd burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help." (2.127)

Do books allow for happiness, or threaten it? After all, they do challenge and confuse, as Beatty points out. Would books really help Montag through this crisis?

Professor Faber

"Ten million men mobilized," Faber's voice whispered in his other ear. "But say one million. It's happier." (2.231)

If one million deployed soldiers is a happy thing, what does that tell you about violence in this world?

Part Three: Burning Bright

"We're used to that. We all made the right kind of mistakes, or we wouldn't be here. When we were separate individuals, all we had was rage." (3.316)

Do Granger and the other people still have rage now that they’ve banded together? What is the advantage in numbers? Are they any more effective than they would have been alone?

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