Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A selection of The Big Read initiate, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.

"Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleaseure of the midnight runs or hte joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he me a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do..."



Fahrenheit 451 Vocabulary List
Part I—The Hearth and the Salamander
Word
Definition
Page #
Abyss
a very deep gap or hole, a chasm
45
ballistics
the study of flight of bullets or other hurled objects
30
cacophony
harsh, jarring sound; noise
49
cartographer
a mapmaker
61
centrifuge
a machine that separates particles in a liquid by rapidly whirling the liquid around a central axis
49
conjure
to summon, or call up, as if by magic
26
cower
to cringe in fear
52
distilled
purified or concentrated, as if by the processes of distillation
21
feigning
pretending
54
luminescent
glowing
52
mausoleum
a large stately tomb or the building that housed it
15
nomadic
traveling seasonally with no fixed home; wandering
60
noncombustible
not capable of igniting and burning; unexciting
64
olfactory
relating to the sense of smell
28
pagan
not Christian, Moslem, or Jewish; pre-Christian; heathen
63
pratfall
a comical fall on the behind; a humiliating mishap or error
59
proboscis
a long snout or nose
29
rationalize
to offer a self-serving but incorrect reason
67
ravenous
greedy; extremely hungry
45
stratum
layer
18
tactile
related to the sense of touch
65
tallow
hard animal fat used for candles
16
tamped
packed won
16
titillation
excitement, stimulation, often superficial
63
trajectory
the path of a bullet or another object hurled through space.
30

Part II—The Sieve and the Sand

Word
Definition
Page #
aesthetic
relating to beauty and taste; artistic
117
avalanche
a massive slide; a large mass falling down
121
convolution
a coiled shape or part
159
desolation
the result of deviating event; ruin
160
falter
to be unsteady; to stumble
129
guild
an association of people in the same trade
143
illumine
to light up
119
limned
outlined in clear detail; painted or drawn
l36
liquefaction
the act of turning to liquid
121
litterateur
someone devoted to the study of literature
121
metropolis
a major city
161
oblivion
the state of being forgotten
136
pedant
someone who overemphasizes or shows off his or her learning; someone who focuses unduly on minutiae
155
plummet
to fall straight down; to plunge
127
quarry
hunted animals or others
135
ricocheted
bounced from one or more surfaces
140
scapegoat
someone forced to take the blame of others
150
scythe
a bladed tool with a long bent handle, used for cutting or mowing
160
smoldering
burning with little smoke and no flame
119
Part III—Burning Bright
Word
Definition
Page #
beatific
blessedly happy
110
cadence
rhythmic; expressive
77
certitude
certainty, confidence
102
chaos
complete confusion
109
complementing
going well together
92
dentifrice
toothpaste or tooth powder
81
discourse
lengthy discussion in speech or writing
110
exhalation
an emission of air or vapor
74
filigree
delicate, ornamental work made from twisted wire of gold or silver
105
insidious
spreading harm slowly and secretly; treacherous
88
intuitively
through the senses rather than rational thought
85
invigorate
to give energy to; to animate
106
linguist
a language specialist
89
manifest
to show plainly; to reveal
108
moor
an area of poorly drained open land
110
morgue
a place where dead bodies are kept until final arrangements are made
75
oracle
a prophet; a wise person
109
patronage
support; attendance
77
perfunctorily
in a routine manner
111
phosphorescent
glowing
112
profusion
plentiful amount
85
quaver
to speak in a trembling voice
100
rebut
to refute; to offer opposing evidence
110
skepticism
a doubting or questioning attitude
86
strew
to spread; to scatter
83
suffuse
to spread through or over
78
teem
to be full of things; to swarm
75
trifle
a small amount; a little bit
95
verbiage
excess words; wordiness
109
welter
a confused mass; a jumble
92

Fahrenheit 451 Reading Guide Questions

  • What is Montag's job, and how does he feel about it?
  • What do the salamander on Montag's arm and the phoenix disc on his chest symbolize?
  • Who is Clarisse McClellan?
  • What do people do with books in this society?
  • According to Montag, did firemen ever put out fires?
  • What happens if you drive slowly? (approx. 40 mph)
  • Clarise says her uncle was arrested once for being a "pedestrian". What was the crime he committed?
  • What thought provoking question does Clarisse ask Montag and what is his answer?
  • What are the "seashells" in Mildred's ears?
  • How does Montag describe the bedroom that he shares with Mildred? What does this foreshadow?
  • What seems to be wrong with Mildred?
  • What was right and wrong with Mildred's cure?
  • What does Montag do to help him deal with the problems he encounters that night?
  • What is odd about Mildred the next morning? Does Montag tell her what happened? What is her response? What is unusual about their t.v.?
  • What does Clarisse do with the dandelion? Why does Montag become angry?
  • Aside from their obvious differences, like their ages, what is the most significant difference between Mildred and Clarisse?
  • What is unusual about the firehouse dog? How does it worry Montag?
  • Who is Beatty?
  • What type of gifts does Clarisse leave for Montag?
  • What are some of the activities that this society provides for its young people?
  • What does Clarisse mean when she says that museums are all "abstract"?
  • What were they like in the past?
  • What happens to Clarisse?
  • What does a typical fireman look like? What sprays from a fireman's hose?
  • How has the history of the fireman been changed?
  • What was different about burning this particular old woman's house?
  • Why does Beatty refer to the old woman as living in a "Tower of Babel"?
  • Explain the quote the old woman stated, "We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
  • What did Montag take from the old woman's house?
  • What question does Montag ask Mildred? Does he know the answer?
  • Who are Mildred's and Montag's "relatives"?
  • What does Mildred "think" happened to Clarisse?
  • Why does Montag keep thinking about the old woman who died for her books?
  • Why does Beatty come to Montag's house? What does he tell Montag?
  • What does Mildred find under Montag's pillow?
  • Do any types of books still exist in this society that are legal?
  • How does this society change the meaning of the line from the "Constitution" that "all men are created equal"?
  • What does Beatty finally admit about the firemen from the past? What does Beatty think of fire?
  • Does Beatty make any startling confessions to Montag?
  • How long does Montag have to recover (or to keep his book)?
  • When Montag says he has an urge to go smash and kill things why does Mildred tell him to "go take the Beetle"?
  • What does Montag show Mildred that he has hidden behind the ventilator grate?
  • How long do Montag and Mildred spend reading?
  • Why does Mildred understand the one line "That favourite subject, myself"?
  • What appears to be outside their door while they are reading?
  • When Mildred says of Beatty, "He might come and burn the house and the family," to whom does she refer?
  • How many atomic wars have passed? What else does Montag's conversation tell us about what has been going on in the outside world?
  • Who is Faber?
  • What priceless book does Montag have?
  • Why does Montag recall a summer at the beach where he played with a sieve and the sand? What does this have to do with him tryng to read a book while on the subway?
  • Where is Montag headed?
  • Why does Montag tell Faber he came to see him?
  • Why does Faber call Montag a "hopeless romantic"?
  • What are the 3 things Faber describes as missing?
  • What is Faber's and Montag's plan?
  • What does the line mean, "The salamander devours his tail!" ?
  • What does Faber mean when he says that firemen are
  • rarely necessary and that it's a "sideshow" now?
  • Why does Faber warn Montag to have patience?
  • How does Montag force Faber to support him?
  • What does Faber say happened to his drama class and the newspaper?
  • Beatty has obviously read books. Why is Montag still afraid to talk to him?
  • What does Faber's line mean, "Those who don't build must burn. It's as old as history and juvenile delinquents"? Why does Montag respond, "So that's what I am"?
  • Why does Faber find himself contemptible?
  • What does Faber give Montag in order to help him face Beatty? What does Montag give to Faber?
  • How does Montag upset Mildred's guests?
  • How do the women take care of their kids?
  • How does Montag explain the presence of the book in his hands to Mildred's friends?
  • What is significant about the lines from "Dover Beach" that Montag read aloud to Mildred's friends?
  • Why does Clara cry?
  • Why does Faber warn Montag and tell him to "feel old"?
  • What does Montag give Beatty upon his return to the firehouse? Why does Montag get up several times during the poker game?
  • Beatty quotes some great writers of the past, but what do all the quotes say about knowledge and learning?
  • Beatty then beats Montag down unmercifully in what manner?
  • "All's well that is well in the end." How does Beatty change the original quote?
  • Whose house do they next go to to burn?
  • What happens to Mildred?
  • What does Beatty mean when he states, "What is there about fire that's so lovely? No matter what age we are, what draws us to it?" Is this a truism?
  • What doesn't Montag first heed Faber's warning and run?
  • How did Montag feel as he burned his own house, and why?
  • Who turned in the alarm on Montag?
  • What causes Montag to burn Beatty?
  • Why does Montag think Beatty wanted to die?
  • What does Montag do next? What information does the seashell provide for him?
  • What was so hard about crossing a street?
  • Why does Montag leave books in Mrs. Black's house?
  • Where does Faber tell Montag he should head?
  • What do they use to track Montag?
  • How do Montag and Faber try to trick the hound? Does it work? How does the concept of audience participation work against Montag?
  • Where does Montag lose the hound?
  • Why does Montag now think about the sun and other things that "burn"?
  • What scares Montag when he emerges from the river?
  • What impresses Montag the most when he leaves the river?
  • What does Montag find so different about the fire he encountered in the woods?
  • What does Granger give Montag to drink?
  • What happened to the "chase" to find Montag?
  • What do the men in the wood do with their books?
  • What does he mean when he saws "bums on the outside, libraries inside"?
  • What is the difference between the lawncutter and the gardener?
  • How long did the war last?
  • What is the legend of the Phoenix?
  • What does Montag start to remember as they travel upriver?

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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Setting: south of San Francisco in the Salinas Valley of California; probably during the Depression of the 1930s; three specific locations - along the banks of the Salinas River near the ranch, in the ranch bunk house, and in the barn.

Background Information:
George Milton has cared for his mentally slow friend, Lennie Small, since the death of Lennie's Aunt Clara. They travel together to work a various amount of jobs so that one day they will have enough money to live on their own and be their own bosses. Unfortunately, every time they have a job, Lennie gets into some trouble which forces them to run away. This time, they are running from a town called Weed to a ranch where they could work as ranch hands.

Major characters:
George Milton: the small, sharp - witted ranch hand who travels with Lennie, George is a typical, realistic hand who uses his mind to anticipate the future
Lennie Small: a physically large man whose mind is slow; he has a short attention span and acts similar to a child; because of his mental limitations, Lennie never could understand or anticipate the consequences of his actions; travels with and is cared for by George
Slim: a wise, well - respected ranch hand whose word is law; master craftsman who knows things without being told
Carlson: ranch hand who is the exact opposite of Slim; coarse and insensitive, Carlson does not understand the feelings of those around him
Candy: the ranch hand who wanted to join the dream of George and Lennie, Candy's one faithful companion was his dog; anticipates the bleakness of the futures of all the other ranch hands
Crooks: named for his crooked body; proud and independent Negro who also is an outcast on the ranch; bitter against racial discrimination against him, but Lennie and Crooks accept each other as time goes on; also wants to join Lennie and George's dream
Curley: the evil son of the boss, Curley is a small, vicious bully who picks on those smaller than he is and attempts to intimidate those larger than he is
Curley's wife: the bitter wife of Curley attempts to seduce the ranch hands; she has a mean streak and is a vehicle for spreading evil

Themes:
The American Dream: George and Lennie dream to be able to own a place of their own and be their own bosses
Loneliness: Candy's only companion, his dog, is killed
Friendship: George shooting Lennie to help him escape from a brutal lynching
Innocence: Lennie's not understanding why he shouldn't enter Crooks' room
Discrimination: Crooks, as a ranch outcast, lives in a room all alone

Of Mice & Men Chapter Questions

Chapter 1

1) Look at the way both Lennie and George are first described. How is this initial description fitting when we find out more about each man?

2) Is the relationship between George and Lennie one of friendship, or does George only feel obligated to take care of Lennie? What evidence can you find to support either conclusion?

3) Why does Lennie have the dead mouse? Why does George take it away?

4) What happened at the last place where Lennie and George worked?

5) Describe the dream George and Lennie share for their future. Why is it so important to both men?

Chapter 2

1) How is the bunk house described? What does the description tell the reader about the men who live there?

2) What do we find out about Curley, his wife, and his father through George's discussions with others.

3) How would you describe Curley and his wife? What do their actions tell you about each of their characters?

4) Re-read Steinbeck's description of Slim (p. 37). What does this description tell you about Slim's character? Is he a man to be trusted and looked up to?

5) What is Lennie eagerly talking about on page 40?

Chapter 3

1) What are Carlson's reasons for shooting Candy's dog?

2) What are Candy's reasons for not shooting the dog?

3) In what ways is Candy like his dog?

4) What does the fight between Lennie and Curley show about their characters?

5) Why doesn't George help Lennie in the fight?

Chapter 4

1) What does Crook's room and the things in it tell you about his character?

2) What does Crooks say to Lennie about loneliness?

3) Why would Crooks react so negatively to Lennie, then let him in anyway?

4) Why does Crooks torture and taunt Lennie about George?

5) Why is Crooks called "Crooks"? How does this reflect his personality?

Chapter 5

1) How have Curley's wife's dreams for her life changed or been lost?

2) Why does Curley's wife tell Lennie about "the letter"? What do you think the letter symbolizes?

3) How does Lennie's killing of the puppy parallel his killing of Curley's wife and the mice?

4) How does Candy react to the death of Curley's wife?

5) What options do George and Candy discuss after the discovery of the body?

Chapter 6

1) What is the significance of the rabbit appearing at the end of the book?

2) Why did George kill Lennie and was he justified in doing that?

3) Explain what happens to the dream at the end of the novel for both Lennie and George.

4) In what way does Slim show understanding for George's decision? Why does Carlson ask the last question?

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A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

Summary (About.com):
One of the worst child abuse cases in California's history came to an end on March 5, 1973 when Dave Pelzer entered foster care . Dave begins his incredible s tory as an abused child with his rescue in part one of a series, A Child Called "It". Calling this book a "page turner" doesn't give it justice. Easy to read, b ut difficult to comprehend how any mother could treat her child this way.

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Horrific Abuse

Besides being horribly beaten, Dave was forced to eat his own vomit, swallow soap, ammonia, and Clorox. This was just the beginning of his mother's "games."
Dave's childhood wasn't always a nightmare. There were the "good years" in the beginning and Dave devotes a chapter describing the feelings of warmth and safety provided by h
is mother. By the age of 4 these feelings were replaced with fear, starvation and lowliness.

"I was the King"

The "I" statement is used a lot in A Child Called "It" as Dave discovers the power he felt when he stalled his mother from burning him on the stove and "won." Trying to find food, making plans, and succeeding with the prize of eating frozen dinners from his family's deep freeze, Dave was proud of his accomplishments and used the statement, "I was the king." This goes to show the level of neglect he endured to consider frozen dinners to be a prize and hiding in the family's garage to gobble them up. These are less than kingly accommodations.
A Child Called "It" doesn't leave the reader empty as we know that the child survived this abuse. We begin with the rescue and then are led through the happy times, and then into the abuse.
The book is written from the perspective of a child. It is eye-opening to see how Dave perceived the treatment of his mother, as she didn't treat Dave's other brothers this way, and how the abuse impacted his self-worth. Yet, Dave still had this incredible will to not only survive, but to rise above it all.

About the Author

Dave Pelzer entered foster care at the age of 12 due to the severe abuse he endured at the hand of his alcoholic mother. The abuse became so terrible that she actually started referring to Dave as "The Boy," instead of a child, her son, or Dave. At the age of 18 Dave aged out of the foster care system and joined the U.S. Air Force.
Dave has won many awards and personal commendations from Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. In 1993, Dave was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans. In 1994, he became one of the only United State's citizens to be awarded as the Outstanding Young Persons of the World, for his efforts in teaching about child abuse and it's prevention. Dave is also the author of The Lost Boy, A Man Named Dave, The Privilege of Youth, Help Yourself, and Help Yourself for Teens.
Today Dave is a husband and a father and resides in Rancho Mirage, California.

More Information

This is Dave's first book and A Child Called "It" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
You can find a section entitled "Perspectives on Child Abuse" at the end of the book where different key players in this case give their insight or feelings on Dave's abuse as it was unfolding before their eyes. A section with numbers to call for more information on child abuse is also included.

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