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Maurice Genevoix

  1. If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.
    -Quotation of Juan Ramón Jiménez, used as an epigraph on the cover page.

Explanation: Social rules define normalcy. Normalcy and conformity may not always be healthy. If society tells you to abide by certain rules and to stay within the lines, consider writing the other way.

This was used as the epigram for Bradbury's book to denote the moral imperative of the citizens of Montag's society to contemplate and disobey the mores of their time. The obligation here is both moral and pragmatic, since acceding to their society's conventions would be both individually and socially destructive.

  1. "What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives." (83)

Explanation: People use texts selectively to support their points. The same books that can be used to support one point of view can also be used to refute that point of view. Famous examples are such sacred texts as the Bible or Koran, which are used by adherents to prove the existence of a merciful God and sophisticated religion. Their critics, meanwhile, use this same literature to combat these arguments.

  1. "I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly. If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he'd say, that’s grass! A pink blur! That's a rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles per hour and they jailed him for two days. Isn't that funny, and sad, too?" (p. 9)

Explanation: People are so caught up in their fast lives that they refrain from relishing the moment. Zooming through life, all becomes a blur. One is constantly pushing toward the future, trying to grasp at transient pleasures. In Montag's time, slow drivers or pedestrians were jailed, killed, or sent for psychiatric evaluation. They were considered abnormal.

  1. "The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisions, but are not. No, no, it's not books at all you're looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself." (82)

Explanation: What is Morgan talking about here? What is this ineluctable element of happiness that Montag thought lies in books, but that Faber said lies elsewhere? It is that indescribable element of something that is authentic, true to life, wild, natural, and untouched by technology. It is spontaneous, raw, innocent, enthusiastic, truthful and real—the spirit of a child. It is the curiosity of Clarissa. Seen another way, it is everything that television and the Internet is not. It is the wholehearted, immediate tête-à-tête with life itself.

  1. "Everyone must leave something in the room or left behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." (156-157)

Explanation: Someone who destroys simply removes something, thereby making the world, at worst, a worse place. Someone who constructs, however, leaves qualities for immortality, even if his contributions are as minor as positive impressions on his grandchild. These influence the grandchild and will be transmitted to others. The lawnmower cuts, but the grass sprouts within a few days. The gardener, however, plants a garden that, if cared for, remains.


  1. "Grandfather's been dead for all those years, but if you lifted my skull, by God, in the convolutions of my brain you'd find the big ridges of his thumbprint. He touched me." (ibid.)
  2. "[Grandfather] was a sculptor. 'I hate a Roman named Status Quo!' he said to me. 'Stuff your eyes with wonder,' he said, 'live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. 'To hell with that,' he said, 'shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.'" (157-158)

Explanation: Granger details his dislike of mediocrity and conformity. Bradbury emphasizes this section, which really is the meat of the book, and ties it to his opening quotation of ruled lines ("If they give you ruled paper, write the other way"). The motif of the book, in Kant's words, is "dare to think," or dare to be different. The status quo only comes about as a result of people longing for security, which they believe comes about through no change. Risk, thus, is feared. Fear of change and the desire for stability are as prevalent now as ever. Granger compares security to the sloth "upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away." Human beings are not supposed to be "beings" but "doings"; hence, he memorably exhorts us to "shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass." These words, while humorous, carry a profound message for humankind.

8. "I want to see everything now. And while none of it will be me when it goes in, after a while it'll all gather together inside and it'll be me. Look at the world out there, my God, my God, look at it out there, outside me, out there beyond my face and the only way to really touch it is to put it where it's finally me, where it's in the blood, where it pumps around a thousand times ten thousand a day." (155-156)

Explanation: Granger says that he wants to absorb himself in experience—real experience, not that of the television. He longs to live it, sink into it, and swallow it so that it penetrates and becomes a part of himself, lest he end up resembling an empty Mildred with a starving, gnawing nothingness of life spent looking at a screen and living through the vicarious experiences of others.

  1. "There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we'll stop making the goddam funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them." (156)

Explanation: Humans have this tendency to reason irrationally and err. We historically reiterate our irrational errors, failing to learn from them. We burn ourselves for our errors, become reborn in the next epoch, repeat those errors and, once again, burn… again and again. It is time, says Granger, to learn from our errors, improve our thinking, and stop making these pyres for ourselves.

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