Next, Montag returns home, appearing sick and delirious as he hides his new book under his pillow. Watching Mildred listen to her beloved seashells, Montag again realizes how alienated he is from his wife and home. He knows that they have no love for one another anymore and that their life together is meaningless. Bradbury explains, "And suddenly she was so strange he couldn't believe he knew her at all. He was in someone else's house, like those other jokes people told of the gentleman, drunk, coming home late late at night, unlocking the wrong door, entering a wrong room, and bedding with a stranger and getting up early and going to work and neither of them the wiser."
Montag identifies Mildred's parlor "family," the automated voices that talk to Mildred from the walls, as a major reason for the falling-out in their relationship. The fireman thinks to himself, "Well, wasn't there a wall between him and Mildred, when you came down to it? Literally not just one wall but, so far, three!"
After awhile, Montag learns from his wife that Clarisse is missing. "Whole family moved out somewhere. But she's gone for good. I think she's dead," Mildred explains. This leads to a discussion between the couple over Montag's career as a fireman. "Mildred, how would it be if, well, maybe, I quit my job awhile?" Montag asks. He goes on, "Last night I thought about all the kerosene I've used in the past ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up." When Mildred becomes frustrated with Montag's personal struggle, he finally releases his anger, charging, "How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"
Soon Captain Beatty comes to Montag's house, pretending to be a caring employer looking out for his sick employee, but really meaning to interrogate Montag. When the chief enters, Montag again hides the book under his pillow. This is a terrifying scene for Montag, who frantically tries to cover-up his illegal activity. Here, Beatty explains the history of book censorship (according to Bradbury obviously). Though before books were censored, and when "the world was roomy," authors were able to put down their true thoughts even though they only appealed to a minority. Yet as the earth's population grew, literature had to be "leveled down to a sort of pastepudding norm." This explains the modern world's demands for censorship, since toleration of others' rights forced the media to abolish books altogether, since books could conceivably offend someone. Yet unlike Brave New World, censorship doesn't originate from the government-quite the opposite: "Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God," Beatty explains to Montag. The captain continues by defending the moral aims of the ideal of censorship: "Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against." Later, Beatty attacks critics of the system, asserting, "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."
In this way, Bradbury asserts his own beliefs about censorship by having the fire captain support the exactly opposite position. Thus, instead of telling the reader what to think, the author lets the reader see the error of Beatty's logic for himself.
After the fire chief leaves, Montag grows reinvigorated in his own position and decides to reveal to Mildred his deep secret-the books he has hidden behind the grille. Mildred, however, doesn't understand her husband and resists his "radical" ideas.