Fahrenheit 451: Novel Summary: Part 1C
In this summary of Bradbury's part one, Montag, who is playing cards with the other men, realizes that all of the firemen are "mirror images of himself." All of them have "charcoal" hair and blackened faces from the smoke. This realization scares Montag, who is beginning to see who and what he is. Indeed all the men are robots-that's what this society wants. Fortunately, Montag sees this quality of his society and will soon try to break the mold.
Next, Montag is drawn into a conversion with Beatty, the fire chief, and the rest of the men. First, he absent-mindedly speculates about the consequences of a fireman possessing books (obviously thinking about himself). This leads Beatty to question Montag, who of course hides the fact that he has so many books hidden behind the ventilator grille of his home.
Later, Montag, remembering what Clarisse told him earlier, asks Beatty if it's true that at one time firemen put out fires instead of starting them. In response, he shows Montag the fireman's rulebook, which outlines a brief history of the profession. This book champions Benjamin Franklin as the first fireman because he apparently mandated the burning of pro-British books in the newly founded United States. Thus, Bradbury must consider Franklin to be the first American to censor literature.
Soon the alarm sounds and Montag and the other firemen race to a house where books have been reported to exist. Though usually the police come to take away the "victims" before the firemen arrive to torch the place, on this occasion, the owner is still present when Montag arrives. She greatly disturbs Montag, who feels guilty that she is there to see her beloved books and house burn. Amidst the confusion, Montag finds himself snatching up one of the books for himself. Bradbury narrates, "Montag had done nothing. His hand had done it all, his hand, with a brain of its own, with a conscience and a curiosity in each trembling finger, had turned thief." After the firemen have dutifully doused the dark inhabitance with kerosene, the woman strikes a match, willfully destroying her house and books as well as committing suicide in the process.
During Montag's return trip to the fire station, the reader begins to find out that there is more to Beatty than meets the eye. The fire chief seems well-versed in classic literature, being able to quote a sixteenth century heretic who the woman at the house referenced. Indeed Beatty does know the material he chooses to burn. Yet the he shrugs it off as, "I'm full of bits and pieces . . . Most fire captains have to be."