What would you do if an idea of love ran through your body like a virus and changed everything you ever knew? What if that love had a power of its own, and you knew you had to change something? What if that love was for books and the power inside them? In the science fiction book Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury conveyed a message about this concept of books through a character Guy Montag. Throughout the plot, he steadily grows and changes; by the end of the book, he is a completely different person. Montag worked for the government as a fireman, burning the homes of “criminals” who dare to possess books.
At the start of the novel, Montag’s charcoal hair soft-colored brows and blush ash smeared checks, created an unshaven look, that conformed to him to appear in unison to other coworkers. He was a part of the totalitarian system, where he lived without thought or question about his role in society. The book opens with, “it was a pleasure to burn. ” We can infer from the very beginning that Montag is very in tune with what the society has taught him to believe. Montag enjoyed his cruel and destructive work; he was amused when watched the suffering he inflicted upon others.
Despite the seeming pleasure he receives from his job, Montag began to think something was missing in the life. Montag’s life began to change when he met Clarisse, a seventeen-year-old neighbor; he was amazed at her independent thinking and open defiance of convention. She was not amused by their society, which challenged Montag when she asked him if he is happy. When faced with this question, Montag acknowledged that his life had no meaning. The more he thought about it, the more he was dissatisfied with the vacuum of his own life.
He then admitted, “He was not happy,” on page 12. This made him self aware because he recognized his problems within himself. He was aware of his feelings. He felt a deep sense of guilt and pain because of the condition of society. From that point on, he wanted to revolutionize himself. Montag was poised for change, ready for a new, more meaningful existence; he then showed how he was no longer living as “one” within society, which focused a lot on his “happiness”. Thereby, Clarisse was the first who encouraged Montag on his way to self-awareness.
Montag then created an internal conflict within himself. He then changed the way he thought about his job further when he witnessed a women kill herself. Although this woman was caught with her book, she did not kill herself because of that fact. She killed herself to prove that she couldn’t live without her books, and proved that there is a deeper meaning within them. In fact, Montag realized this on page 51 when he said, “there must be something in books, things that we can’t image, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there.
You don’t stay for nothing. ” This proved that Montag reflected on his life, almost as if he had tried to become something better than what he was. He was very analytical. Montag was married to Mildred, an insipid woman who spent her days in front of three television sets. She lulled herself sleep at night with music and sleeping pills. After Clarisse questioned Montag he started to think about his wife, Mildred, and whether they really loved each other or not. Therefore to find out, Montag asked Mildred if she remembered where they met the first time.
The fact that Montag actually asked Mildred if she remembered where they met the first time, showed how Clarisse influenced Montag. Montag would not have asked Mildred about such a thing if he had not interacted with Clarisse. Before he met Clarisse he really did not think about the state of his life. When neither Mildred nor Montag remembered where they met the first time, Montag then realized that was unhappy in his relationship with his wife, Mildred. For the first time this showed that Montag had an external conflict with his wife. He became very frustrated, because his eyes had been opened.
He didn’t like this fact about his marriage. Mildred was unwilling to deal with reality and instead chose to immerse herself in an obsession with her tranquilizers, the virtual world provided by her television and radio. Montag tried to reveal his independent thoughts to his wife, but she was incapable of understanding them. When Montag was unable to discuss his ideas at home, in total frustration, turned to Faber, an old English professor, for friendship and advice. In this moment, Montag proved to the audience for the first time that he is a dynamic character, who caused change for others. He wanted to change the world by having the ill to reintroduce books into society; and the will to plant books in the homes of firemen and in the firehouses themselves. Faber was usually shy and very to himself and Montag transformed him into someone who was willing to move forward Montag’s goal of having books back in their society. The people around Montag grew increasingly alarmed at his behavior. Beatty grew suspicious that Montag was stealing and hiding books instead of burning them. Montag became extremely concerned about the risk of the consequences of his actions. He ran to Faber and told him, “We have everything to be happy, but we’re not happy,” on page 82.
This shows that Montag is not only looking out for himself anymore. When he looked at Beatty, he knew he must destroy the man if he and his plan were to survive. Montag got the last laugh on page 120, when he turned to Beatty’s dead body and said, “You always said, don’t face a problem, burn it. Well, now I’ve done both. Good-bye, Captain. ” This proves that Montag was determined and not afraid of what was to come. Montag finally found the exiles, which then welcomed Montag and shared their plans of saving books and the knowledge with in them. Montag was given the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes to memorize.
Again Montag changed the outcome of the book, no one who that job before him. He was realistic when it came to the fact that he was still hopeful of recreating the city, because he understood that change would not happen over night. Montag also admitted to himself that in his life he did something while feeling one thing else. Montag actually said to himself, “I went around doing one thing and feeling another,” on page 131. He admitted that he had been living his life up to that point without feeling it, and then afterwards acknowledged it took a strong person to admit that.
Montag was astonished by the analysis he did of his life and was confused about how it all happened. Montag said, “It was only the other night when everything was fine and the next thing I know I’m drowning,” on page 131. He actually said to himself how fast he changed – from one day to another – which now means that Montag is analyzing and thinking about his life like never before. Montag had changed from being a “happy” man, to an aware, thinking, and analyzing human, totally different from the society he lived in.
Although Montag had his fights throughout the book, it seemed to me that the right place for Montag to be was the forest, where he ended up. Bradbury created a message that books have no power unless we take the information within the books to change not only ourselves but also the world. He effectively conveys this message, by creating the character Montag. He uses Montag as an everyday person in society. This meant that not only can anyone make a difference, but anyone can take the knowledge from books and create a better world. He used the symbol of fire to describe much of what happens to Montag.
The fire showed how things are destroyed and have to be rebuilt; this is what Montag had to do when he had to start over with a different outlook on life. Bradbury also created the phoenix, which appeared often in the novel, showing how Montag’s life is finally purified and reborn by fire. During the course of the plot, Montag evolved from an apathetic, conformist fireman, the very essence of socially acceptable stagnancy, to a new man filled with strong ideals and beliefs. He had a new purpose in life, to preserve books and the knowledge they contain.
At the end of the novel, he hoped for the future and no longer dreads the present. We must realize from this book that we have the power within ourselves to do whatever we set our mind to. More importantly, we must remember that there were others before us, who made the same mistakes as us. We can relate to Montag in many ways and the power of that is what we can learn not only from his mistakes, but gain from what he did right. Nobody gains the same thing from it. This is the most important thing that Montag can teach us, and that is what Bradbury was teaching us.