The Main Character In Novel Fahrenheit 451
Guy Montag is the most powerful character in Fahrenheit 451; he’s dynamic and constantly evolving. Montag’s character changes throughout the story. He evolves into a thinking and introspective man.
Guy Montag is a fireman who has for years been a diligent worker. He is not a traditional fireman. His type of job requires burning instead of putting out fires. The author Ray Bradbury wrote this book about a society that burns books instead of reading them. It is a dystopian look at a perceived culture. In this community the required result is non thinking, robotic humans. They are supposed to be satisfied with little of their own thought and books are in turn illegal. The idea that an individual could be inspired to think is unheard of. Even worse, if he does think, chances are he might have all of his belongings burnt to a crisp and possibly befall the same fate.
At first Montag’s is a model fireman following all instructions. He is a professional. He participates with alacrity in the burning of books and enjoys the power and the heat of the fire. He feels pride in his work.
All this starts to slowly unfurl after he meets a young girl named Clarisse McClellan. She starts to show him a different side to their society. Her living experience is tempered by thought and conversation. She is not one of the many who seem to live in zombified states of oblivion. This sparks another side of Montag’s fire.
She causes him to question his entire existence and way of life. At one point, she asks him a very simple question: “Are you happy?” This question starts the change process in Guy Montag. He starts to consider his unhappy situation at home with his wife, Mildred. He realizes that he isn’t actually very happy or satisfied. He feels no real connection to his wife and her world. She is a walking shell with an attachment to technology. This keeps her from thinking. After a few days, Mildred attempts suicide and Guy comes home in time to discover and save her. The EMT’s come and pump her stomach. The next morning, Mildred wakes up and doesn’t seem to remember the event. This awakens a questioning in Montag. He sees that his wife is just walking through the steps of life without actually living it. It starts to dawn on Montag, that this is the intent of their society.
Shortly after, he is assigned to a book burning at an older woman’s home. As they are preparing the house by spreading kerosene, a book falls and Montag hides it under his coat. During the book burning episode, the older lady kills herself. As they are getting ready to set fire to her home and books, Montag notices the woman clutching a book and a match. He tries to dissuade her from lighting it but she lights it and burns down the house, the books and herself. On this assignment, he has started to change. The book he took from the house he brings home and hides under his pillow. He tries to talk to his wife about the experience but she isn’t interested. He tells his wife, ‘There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.’
The next morning Montag feels sick and does not go to work. His boss Beatty comes to see him and check if he is alright. Beatty tells him not to worry that it happens sometimes after a fire. He asks if he will be going back to work tomorrow and Montag says, “yes”. Mildred finds the book that he is hiding. He convinces her to give him a couple of days just to see what is inside the books. She relents but you get the feeling that she is unhappy in doing so. She thought it was one book and Montag now shows her quite a few that he has been collecting and hiding. It is here that we realize that Montag is slowly morphing. He pulls out a number from an old professor, Faber, that he instinctively saved and calls him. Montag is trying to connect with his intellectual side. He meets Faber, who explains about the small community of people who are memorizing books in hopes of a better future where reading will be allowed once again.
Mildred seems to keep the books a secret, but is actually the one who rats him out to Beatty. The commander confronts him about it. Montag’s next assignment is his very own home. Somewhere, he feels almost elated about burning down his own house. I think it is a foreshadowing of him destroying his fireman image and previous life ties. Montag and Beatty argue. Montag ends up killing and burning Beatty.
After this event, he is chased by a mechanical hound sent to sniff him out and kill him. He runs to Faber’s house to hide from the hound but realizes he must continue to the river to throw off the hound. He wades into the river and avoids the hound picking up his scent. When he exits the river, he realizes that he has stepped out into nature. As Montag walks away from the city horizon he meets Granger.
Granger lives with the group of other men who memorize books. Granger tells him they have been expecting him. Granger gives him something to drink that will change his scent to throw off the hound. The group of men turn on the small tv to watch Montag’s own story unfold. Montag watches as they replace him with an innocent man. The story is orchestrated to show the public the end that befalls Montag (replaced with the innocent man) as a lesson. The TV anchor announces that Montag is dead. Montag watches himself die. This a turning point for Montag, as he witnesses his own death. Since he is now dead, he can be free to reinvent himself into anything he wants. Granger explains that each man is a living embodiment of the book that he has memorized, as they wait for society to once again permit reading. Montag joins Granger and the other men and memorizes a part of the Bible, The Book of Ecclesiastes. Soon, there are jets overhead, and a great war has started in the city. The city has been almost completely destroyed. It will be the responsibility of these men to teach the population that is left about the books they memorized.
Finally, Montag feels as if there is a greater purpose to his life and he is ready to commit. He has become a walking, living book of the Bible. One could go further and use this as a religious rebirth exercize, but I won’t.
Instead, I think I will compare Ray Bradbury’s concerns with censorship and the technology that makes people complacent to our current existence. We are experiencing a not dissimilar moment, brought on by the fervent overuse of technology. Although there is no censorship, we censor ourselves by constantly using technology to overindulge and satiate our senses. Books and magazines are becoming rare in our own society. Our attention has a smaller threshold and reading is almost limited to short phrases or headlines. Everything is online and our engagement is self centered and self censored. Thankfully, we still have High School as our saving grace.
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Guy Montag is the most powerful character in Fahrenheit 451; he’s dynamic and constantly evolving. Montag’s character changes throughout the story. He evolves into a thinking and introspective man. Guy […]