“Luckily, queer ones like her don’t happen, often. We know how to nip most of them in the bud, early. You can’t build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the Government is inefficient, top?heavy, and tax?mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year.
Cram them full of non?combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely `brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide?rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your dare-devils, jet cars, motor?cycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything to do with automatic reflex. If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s only a tactile reaction to vibration. But I don’t care. I just like solid entertainment.”
Beatty got up. “I must be going. Lecture’s over. I hope I’ve clarified things. The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we’re the Happiness Boys, the Dixie Duo, 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 dyke. Hold steady. Don’t let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world. We depend on you. I don’t think you realize how important you are, to our happy world as it stands now.”
Beatty shook Montag’s limp hand. Montag still sat, as if the house were collapsing about him and he could not move, in the bed. Mildred had vanished from the door.
“One last thing,” said Beatty. “At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch.
What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, Montag, take my word for it, I’ve had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing! Nothing you can teach or believe. They’re about non?existent people, figments of imagination, if they’re fiction. And if they’re non?fiction, it’s worse, one professor calling another an idiot, one philosopher screaming down another’s gullet. All of them running about, putting out the stars and extinguishing the sun. You come away lost.”
“Well, then, what if a fireman accidentally, really not, intending anything, takes a book home with him?”
Montag twitched. The open door looked at him with its great vacant eye.
“A natural error. Curiosity alone,” said Beatty. “We don’t get over?anxious or mad.
We let the fireman keep the book twenty?four hours. If he hasn’t burned it by then, we simply come and burn it for him.”
“Of course.” Montag’s mouth was dry.
“Well, Montag. Will you take another, later shift, today? Will we see you tonight perhaps?”
“I don’t know,” said Montag.
“What?” Beatty looked faintly surprised.
Montag shut his eyes. “I’ll be in later. Maybe.”
“We’d certainly miss you if you didn’t show,” said Beatty, putting his pipe in his pocket thoughtfully.
I’ll never come in again, thought Montag.
“Get well and keep well,” said Beatty.
He turned and went out through the open door.