Yesterday we had a guest speaker from Mercy College so we didn’t have the opportunity to continue working on our Socratic Seminar class reading and worksheets. Today, however, we finished the assigned reading (posted below and continued from the last post). Tomorrow your Socratic Seminar worksheets are due! I will not be accepting them after tomorrow.
Here’s the reading we completed today. My last two posts have the text before this point, so please read it if you haven’t.
“You like baseball,
don’t you, Montag?”
“Baseball’s a fine game.”
Now Beatty was almost invisible, a voice somewhere behind a screen of smoke
“What’s this?” asked Mildred, almost with delight. Montag heaved back against her arms.
“What’s this here?”
“Sit down!” Montag shouted. She jumped away, her hands empty. “We’re talking ! ”
Beatty went on as if nothing had happened. “You like bowling, don’t you, Montag?”
“Golf is a fine game.”
“A fine game.”.
“Billiards, pool? Football?”
“Fine games, all of them.”
“More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you don’t have to think, eh? Organize and
organize and superorganize super-super sports. More cartoons in books. More pictures. The mind
drinks less and less. Impatience. Highways full of crowds going somewhere, somewhere,somewhere, nowhere. The gasoline refugee. Towns turn into motels, people in nomadic surges
from place to place, following the moon tides, living tonight in the room where you slept this
noon and I the night before.”
Mildred went out of the room and slammed the door. The parlour “aunts” began to laugh at the
“Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more
minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog?lovers, the cat?lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants,
chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second?generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans,
Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this
play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics
anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All
the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock
up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the
damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said.
But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic?books survive. And the
three?dimensional sex?magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the
Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no!
Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks
to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old
confessions, or trade?journals.”
“Yes, but what about the firemen, then?” asked Montag.
“Ah.” Beatty leaned forward in the faint mist of smoke from his pipe. “What more easily
explained and natural? With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers,
grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative
creators, the word `intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always
dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was
exceptionally ‘bright,’ did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many
leaden idols, hating him. And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after
hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the
Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are
happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves agaainst. So! A book
is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s
mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well?read man? Me? I won’t stomach them for
a minute. And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world (you were
correct in your assumption the other night) there was no longer need of firemen for the old
purposes. They were given the new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our
understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges, and executors. That’s
you, Montag, and that’s me.”
The door to the parlour opened and Mildred stood there looking in at them, looking at Beatty and
then at Montag. Behind her the walls of the room were flooded with green and yellow and
orange fireworks sizzling and bursting to some music composed almost completely of
trap?drums, tom?toms, and cymbals. Her mouth moved and she was saying something but the
sound covered it.
Beatty knocked his pipe into the palm of his pink hand, studied the ashes as if they were a
symbol to be diagnosed and searched for meaning.”You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and
stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn’t
that right? Haven’t you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren’t they?
Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it? For pleasure,
for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.”
Montag could lip?read what Mildred was saying in the doorway. He tried not to look at her
mouth, because then Beatty might turn and read what was there, too.
“Coloured people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about
Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The
cigarette people are weeping? Bum the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight
outside. Better yet, into the incinerator. Funerals are unhappy and pagan? Eliminate them, too.
Five minutes after a person is dead he’s on his way to the Big Flue, the Incinerators serviced by
helicopters all over the country. Ten minutes after death a man’s a speck of black dust. Let’s not
quibble over individuals with memoriams. Forget them. Burn them all, burn everything. Fire is
bright and fire is clean.”
The fireworks died in the parlour behind Mildred. She had stopped talking at the same time; a
miraculous coincidence. Montag held his breath.
“There was a girl next door,” he said, slowly. “She’s gone now, I think, dead. I can’t even
remember her face. But she was different. How?how did she happen?”
Beatty smiled. “Here or there, that’s bound to occur. Clarisse McClellan? We’ve a record on her
family. We’ve watched them carefully. Heredity and environment are funny things. You can’t rid
yourselves of all the odd ducks in just a few years. The home environment can undo a lot you try
to do at school. That’s why we’ve lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we’re
almost snatching them from the cradle. We had some false alarms on the McClellans, when they
lived in Chicago. Never found a book. Uncle had a mixed record; anti?social. The girl? She was
a time bomb. The family had been feeding her subconscious, I’m sure, from what I saw of her
school record. She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be
embarrassing. You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep
at it. The poor girl’s better off dead.”
“Luckily, queer ones like her don’t happen, often. We know how to nip most of them in the bud,
early. You can’t build a house without nails and wood. 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. Let him forget there is such a
thing as war. If the Government is inefficient, top?heavy, and tax?mad, better it be all those than
that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the
words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last
year. Cram them full of non?combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel
stuffed, but absolutely `brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a
sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.
Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way
lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most
men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide?rule, measure, and equate the
universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I
know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your dare-devils, jet cars, motor?cycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of
everything to do with automatic reflex. If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is
hollow, sting me with the theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s only a
tactile reaction to vibration. But I don’t care. I just like solid entertainment.”
Beatty got up. “I must be going. Lecture’s over. I hope I’ve clarified things. The important thing
for you to remember, Montag, is we’re the Happiness Boys, the Dixie Duo, you and I and the
others. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with
conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dyke. Hold steady. Don’t let the
torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world. We depend on you. I don’t think
you realize how important you are, to our happy world as it stands now.”
Beatty shook Montag’s limp hand. Montag still sat, as if the house were collapsing about him and
he could not move, in the bed. Mildred had vanished from the door.
“One last thing,” said Beatty. “At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the
books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, Montag, take my word for it, I’ve had
to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing! Nothing you can
teach or believe. They’re about non?existent people, figments of imagination, if they’re fiction.
And if they’re non?fiction, it’s worse, one professor calling another an idiot, one philosopher
screaming down another’s gullet. All of them running about, putting out the stars and
extinguishing the sun. You come away lost.”
“Well, then, what if a fireman accidentally, really not, intending anything, takes a book home
Montag twitched. The open door looked at him with its great vacant eye.
“A natural error. Curiosity alone,” said Beatty. “We don’t get over?anxious or mad. We let the
fireman keep the book twenty?four hours. If he hasn’t burned it by then, we simply come and
burn it for him.”
“Of course.” Montag’s mouth was dry.
“Well, Montag. Will you take another, later shift, today? Will we see you tonight perhaps?”
“I don’t know,” said Montag.
“What?” Beatty looked faintly surprised.
Montag shut his eyes. “I’ll be in later. Maybe.”
“We’d certainly miss you if you didn’t show,” said Beatty, putting his pipe in his pocket
I’ll never come in again, thought Montag.
“Get well and keep well,” said Beatty.
He turned and went out through the open door.
Montag watched through the window as Beatty drove away in his gleaming
yellow flame-coloured beetle with the black, charcoloured tires.”
Be prepared tomorrow.