Fahrenheit 451 #7- On the death of someone

“Listen,” said Granger, taking his arm and walking with him, holding aside the bushes to let him pass.  “When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor.  He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands.  And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for all the things he did.  I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did.  He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did… I’ve never gotten over his death.  Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died.  How many jokes are mission from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands.  He shaped the world.  He did things to the world.  The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.”

Montag walked in silence.  “Millie, Millie,” he whispered.  “Millie.”

“What?”

“My wife, my wife.  Poor Millie, poor, poor, Millie.  I can’t remember anything.  I think of her hands but I don’t see them doing anything at all.  They just hang there at her sides or they lay there on her lap or there’s a cigarette in them, but that’s all.”

Montag turned and glanced back.

What did you give to the city, Montag?

Ashes.

What did the others give to each other?

Nothingness.

Granger stood looking back with Montag.  “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said.”  A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made.  Or a garden planted.  Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.  It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.  The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said.  The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all: the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

____________________

Conversation between Granger and Montag, p. 156.

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