Chapter 2: "The Sieve and the Sand" Summary

This section picks up where Chapter 1 left off. Montag and his wife, Mildred, continue to read some of the books that Montag stole while on the job. Mildred complains throughout this task, but Montag continues to feel that these books can help him find what he is looking for and raise him up out of his ignorance. However, the problem lies in that he doesn't understand much of what he is reading.

Montag knows that he needs help to understand these books. He recalls a time over a year ago when met an English professor in a nearby park. It was apparent that the man had been reading a book of poetry, but he quickly put it away when Montag approached. However, Montag had assured him he was not looking to get the man in trouble, and they talked for some time. The man, whose name was Faber, had given Montag a card with his phone number and address. After recalling this scenario, Montag decides to call Faber and ask for help. However, when they speak, Faber believes Montag is trying to trick him, and so he hangs up the phone.

Montag returns to his books, and he realizes that the book he stole from the old woman's house is a copy of the Bible. He finds himself wondering if it might very well be the last copy in existence. He knows that if he doesn't turn it in to Beatty, he might be in trouble, so he decides to have a copy made. For this, however, he needs help. He takes the subway to Faber's home and, while on the subway, he tries-unsuccessfully-to read some of the Bible.

The title of this chapter comes from a memory that Montag relates to his reading of the Bible. The memory is about a time when he played on the beach when he was younger. He would attempt to fill a sieve, or a strainer, with sand because a cousin had promised him a dime as a reward if he could. Of course, Montag is unable to do this because the sand came right out through the holes of the sieve-he was unable to move fast enough to fill the sieve completely at once. As Montag reads the Bible, he hopes that if he reads as much as he can, some of it won't sift through the metaphorical sieve of his mind. This metaphor seems to suggest how truth and information are elusive, just as keeping sand in a sieve would be.

Once Montag arrives at Faber's house with his copy of the Bible, Faber understands that Montag isn't actually trying to trick him. When Montag tells Faber of his unhappiness, Faber can't say for sure what it has to do with books. However, he supposes that what Montag is longing for is quality information, unlike what is provided by the shallow television shows and programming of their world. With this, Faber insists, Montag is probably experiencing a desire to act independently based on the information he learns from books or elsewhere. Faber believes that Montag simply doesn't want to be told what to think any longer.

Faber emerges in this chapter as an important character. Likely, he unknowingly initiated the change in Montag when they met a year prior. Unlike many characters in the novel, he has his own clear set of convictions and morals despite society's expectations for him. He is not without flaw, however, as he admits to his own cowardice. However, he does serve as a guide and mentor for Montag.

While with Faber, Montag has an idea to plant books in the homes of firemen in an attempt to discredit their profession. Faber is hesitant and says, instead, they should just be patient. Here, he reveals his own cowardice. Eventually, Montag bullies him into action by tearing out pages of the Bible. Faber agrees that he will help Montag make a copy of the Bible and that he will help set up Beatty that very night.

Montag goes home, communicating with Faber over a two-way radio. Faber reads to him from the Bible's Book of Job, and Montag reports that he has heard there will soon be another war. When he arrives home, Montag finds two of Mildred's friends have come to visit. During the visit, Faber speaks to him through the ear-piece and can hear everything that is said.

Montag attempts to engage the women in conversation and turns off the TV; however, he becomes frustrated with them when they speak shallowly of a recent election and the upcoming war. At this point, Montag pulls out a book of poetry and, despite their protests, he reads the poem "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold. This is a fitting poem because it deals with the emptiness of life, interpersonal relationships, and the unthinkable violence of war. One of the women, Mrs. Bowles, scolds Montag for reading it. Montag drops the book into the incinerator and tells the women to go home and consider their empty lives.

After they have left, Montag discovers that Mildred has been burning his stash of books, one at a time, so he hides them again in the backyard.

Montag goes to the fire station, taking Beatty the book that he had stolen. Beatty welcomes him back and, oddly enough, uses quotations from literature to justify why books must be burned. Shortly, the alarm sounds, and the fireman take the fire engine to their destination, which turns out to be Montag's own home.
Related Links:

Literature Summaries
Fahrenheit 451
Chapter 3 : Burning Bright

To link to this Chapter 2: "The Sieve and the Sand" Summary page, copy the following code to your site: