In the years up to and before World War II, many societies, including Germany, become dangerous and intolerant. Even so, their citizens were afraid to speak out against these changes. Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953, just a few years after WWII ended, and is very concerned with the idea of taking action versus standing by while society falters. In particular, the novel shows how Montag learns to take action, in contrast to Faber who is too cowardly to act. At the same time, Faber does help teach Montag the difference between reckless and intelligent action, so that by the end of the novel Montag is ready to act in a constructive rather than destructive way.
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The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Action vs. Inaction appears in each chapter of Fahrenheit 451. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Below you will find the important quotes in Fahrenheit 451 related to the theme of Action vs. Inaction.
Part 1 Quotes
It was a pleasure to burn.
"You're not like the others. I've seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me. When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night. The others would never do that."
The Mechanical Hound slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming, gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel back in a dark corner of the firehouse.
The woman on the porch reached out with contempt to them all and struck the kitchen match against the railing.
"Speed up the film, Montag, quick... Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline!... Whirl man's mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!"
"Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean."
"The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we're the Happiness Boys... 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 dike. Hold steady. Don't let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world."
"At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh?"
Part 2 Quotes
He would be Montag-plus-Faber, fire plus water, and then, one day, after everything had mixed and simmered and worked away in silence, there would be neither fire nor water, but wine.
Part 3 Quotes
"What is it about fire that's so lovely? No matter what age we are, what draws us to it?... It's perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did. Or almost perpetual motion. If you let it go on, it'd burn our lifetimes out."
"Now, Montag, you're a burden. And fire will lift you off my shoulders, clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical."
"We're nothing more than dust jackets for books, of no significance otherwise."
"...We're going to build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them."