Fahrenheit 451: Novel Summary: Part 3D
What follows is Bradbury's intense account of Montag's struggle to lose the Hound. Despite being sought by the Mechanical Hound, the helicopters, and twenty million television viewers instructed to look for the fugitive fireman, Montag is able to find the river, which we follows for some time before reaching safety on land.
Now safe, Montag starts to reflect over the mistakes he has made over the course of his life as well as the mistakes his world has made. This is one of the most important passages in the book. Montag realizes his own special role in the rebirth of thinking that must occur if the world is to go on. Bradbury narrates, "Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and the keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people's heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from moths, silverfish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches." Montag has changed his attitude 180 degrees from the opening of the novel. Instead of burning books and the knowledge they contain, he is now their arch-protector.
This new land itself feels different to Montag. For the first time, he actually smells-that's right, smells! Here, in this new land of promise, Montag feels truly human for the first time. Bradbury explains his thoughts: "There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough." After a few minutes of following the nearby railroad track, Montag sees the men he is suppose to meet, sitting around a fire that is warming, not burning. Surprisingly to Montag, all the men know his name and seem to be expecting him. These are the men of whom Faber spoke. They live as hobos, staying secluded along the railroad lines outside the cities, away from the police. To keep from being arrested, each man memorizes the texts of as many books as he can, instead of carry the books themselves. The goal is to one day, when the world has changed, be able to re-copy these books into written form again. But in the meantime, the wisdom of these works must be remembered. Granger, the leader of these men, explains their mission to Montag: "All we want to do is keep the knowledge we think we will need intact and safe. We're not out to incite or anger anyone yet. For if we are destroyed, the knowledge is dead, perhaps for good. We are model citizens, in our own special way; we walk the old tracks, we lie in the hills at night, and the city people let us be." Montag, too, has a vital role to play. Granger informs him, "If anything should happen to Harris, you are the Book of Ecclesiastes. See how important you've become in the last minute!"
Watching through a portable television, Montag and his new friends see the Mechanical Hound find a replacement for the real fugitive. The animal closes in on an unsuspecting old man. It seems as though media ratings are more important than actually solving the crime. Bradbury continues to relate nature to the theme of Fahrenheit 451, using the words of Granger: "When we forget how close the wilderness is in the night, my grandpa said, someday it will come in and get us, for we will have forgotten how terrible and real it can be." Soon, the men, now miles away, hear the bombing of Montag's city. The war seems apparently underway. Montag knows that Mildred must be one of the millions of people killed in the massacre, and though he feels some sorrow, he knows that Mildred is emotionally dead anyway. Granger reflects over the city's destruction, saying, "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 goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them." He goes on, "But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn't use what we got out of them." Yet Bradbury leaves the reader with at least some hope that Montag and his friends' point of view will eventually be planted again in the minds of the townspeople. For at lunch, Montag is inspired to share with the men this passage: "And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."