Most people know what a fireman’s job is. Common knowledge is that they put out fires and occasionally rescue a pet that’s stuck on top of a tree. In Fahrenheit 451, firemen are a special group who are tasked with burning books and people who read them. Fahrenheit 451 is set in the future, in an American city that is not named. The main character of the story is called Guy Montag, a fireman who rebels against his society after opening his eyes to its horrors. Ray Bradbury, the author of the book, develops Montag’s character through the use of his societies flawed traditions and politics.
The beginning of the novel begins with Montag walking back home from work. On the way there he has a chance encounter with a girl named Clarisse. Ray writes as if Montag has already sensed her presence before laying eyes on her. The girl is unlike anyone Montag has ever met. He describes her gaze as having “a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity.” This look has to be especially rare for the firemen to have to note in his head. This foreshadows how Clarisse is unlike everyone else in the city. Clarisse asks montag if he is fireman and he confirms.
Readers can note a difference in these two as they speak. Even Clarisse points it out that Montag never stops to think what she asks her and answers right off. Clarisse being an odd member of montag’s society is like Ray Bradbury’s way of showing how an outsider would perceive these people. This shows that many people don’t really have meaningful conversations in the city. Clarisse also points out that drivers drive extremely fast so much so that everything is a blur when they drive. This is the norm because Clarisse’s uncle was jailed for two days for driving 20 miles an hour.
Clarisse also reveals a lot of other abnormal things that happens in Montag’s society that the fireman considers normal and doesn’t even think about. Like how there are 200 foot long billboard ads because cars rush so fast that the advertising had to be stretched for it to last. Clarisse asks Guy one last question as their conversation ends “Are you happy?” Montag thinks about this question at home, his eyes moving up towards a ventilator grille in the hall. The author implies that something is hidden up there but doesn’t really get into what exactly it is. As he goes to sleep Montag repeats to himself that he is not happy.
The author states “he wore his happiness like a mask”. This shows that montag has not been happy this entire time, and has instead been acting as if he was. Clarisse takes off montags mask of happiness, and the author alludes to montag never being able to get it back. Montag goes home to see his wife in a bad state. As he stands there jet bombs go off In the distance but montag does nothing but call the hospital for his wife Mildred. There he finds out that she overdosed on sleeping pills.
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We also learn that overdosing is extremely common in the society of Fahrenheit 451 and that there are multiple cases every night. People In montag’s society also do not interact with each other much as Montag says “There are billions of us and that’s too many. Nobody knows anyone.” This goes back to what Clarisse was saying how no one listens to what anyone says. Montag overhears Clarisse’s uncle say “this is the age of disposable tissue.” This means that in montag’s society people merely use each other, and move on after they’re done. Just like how one uses a tissue and throws it away after sneezing. After this the author gives some insight on guy Montags and mildred’s relationship.
Mildred doesn’t do anything but watch the people In the rooms who’s walls are television screens called the parlor. She calls the people In the screen her family. She acts distant to Montag and doesn’t talk to him much except to ask about installing a fourth screen in the room even though they only recently installed the third. The author depicts the twos relationship a lot in this book to explain just how disconnected people are to each other, even married couples like Mildred and montag. Montag can’t rightfully seem to love her and a major part in the story is him trying to remember when they met.
A major symbol in the story is when Clarisse tells Montag that if he rubs a dandelion under his chin and it rubs off it means he is in love. When Clarisse does this to montag it doesn’t rub off meaning montag has no love for Clarisse. This is just another way of the author stating that montag and Clarisse have no emotional bond other than the title of husband and wife. Montag tries to make it work with Mildred attempting to confide in her his secret stash of books and telling her that he is unhappy with life. Mildred however is cold, only caring about her belongings and that the family will be burned if montag gets caught. Mildred calling an alarm on Montag is the final straw of their relationship.This betrayal officially pushes Montag to his breaking point and make him realize that his old life is over and he can never get it back. On the way there In the silence Montag begins to think of what Mildred would say if She was with him in the country. He realizes that Mildred would probably tell him to shut up and this makes him sad.
Montag suffers in this society because he doesn’t feel truly happy. He thought being a fireman made him happy, but when the old woman died protecting her books he realized that this wasn’t what he truly wanted. If people died standing up for their books, montag realized it must have meaning. Before the old woman dying montag had already been subconsciously stealing books and stashing them in his ventilator grille. He even admits to this multiple times by saying the hands are doing it, and he can’t stop. This is Ray Bradbury showing readers that even though Montag physically and maybe even mentally at one point was acting like the rest, he was always subconsciously against the society that he lived in.
When Montag finds out Clarisse dies, coupled In with the fact that his wife is slowly trying to kill herself by taking sleeping pills, he realizes that books must be the solution. Montag begins to pick up on the flaws of his society that he hadn’t seen before and begins to detest the parlor. He calls on a retired college professor who he had met in the past to help him understand what he is reading and retain it. On the way there he attempts to read the Bible he had stolen on the train, but the blasting ads called denihams dentriface prevent him for keeping any of the information. Montag gets mad and screams in the train before going to Faber’s house. Montag tries to get Faber to teach him, but the old man is reluctant because the fear of getting caught. Montag threatens to rip out the pages of the only remaining Bible In the world if he doesnt help him and Faber agrees. Many intellectuals like Faber are forced into hiding because knowledge and information is not preferred in their society. The Faber’s and Clarisses of Fahrenheit 451 have to be secretive otherwise they risk the chance of losing their lives. Faber reveals to montag that all this time he has been wanting to speak up and rebel but he didn’t because he was a coward. Faber and montag come up with a plan to destroy the fireman by the inside by planting books In their homes and sounding the alarm.
Their plan falls apart, however, when Mildred turns an alarm in on Montag. Beatty shows up to Montag’s house and forces him to burn his own house. Montag enjoys burning the house especially the parlor room which most people in his society enjoy the most. Montag grabs the flamethrower from Beatty and points it at him, but the captain of The Firemen continues to tease him. Montag kills him, and reasons in his head that Beatty wanted to die. Montag escapes from the authorities and goes to the outskirts of the city where he joins a team of cast out intellectuals. Towards the end of the story when Montag leaves the city he began to reflect more on his relationship with Mildred. He tries to bring up the memories of them interacting but can only remember her watching television and is concerned that he doesn’t miss her. He is reassured by granger however that he shouldn’t feel bad because people only miss people that have shaped something In the world.
The author shows the complete growth of montag when he remembers the question his been thinking about since the start of the book. Where did he meet Mildred. This is like the author’s way of showing that Montag has finally left the mindset of the flawed society. He remembers that he met Mildred in Chicago. Montag also begins to remember the Bible and the words start coming to his head easily. This is also very significant because earlier in the book, Montag could not retain what he read but now after getting away from the city he is able to recall everything. Along with granger and the other band of intellectual outcasts he goes with them to rebuild the city and teach the remainders of the society.