Understanding the Role of Guy Montag as Portrayed by Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451
“Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years and he had never questioned the joy of the midnight runs, nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames…never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think…and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do! (Ray Bradbury-Fahrenheit 451)”. Was Guy Montag the same person at both the beginning and end of Fahrenheit 451? The answer to this question is a definite no. Montag transformed dramatically throughout the story. He started as a person of ignorance, but ended a man of enlightenment and intelligence. Montag embarked on his journey as a fireman who lived to burn and destroy books, but returned a crusader who lived to save them.
“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spouting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of an amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. (Ray Bradbury-Fahrenheit 451, page 3)”. In the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag was happy on the outside. He enjoyed burning books for a living, and believed that his marriage and all-around life fulfilled him. However, deep within, Montag really wasn’t happy. His marriage was far from perfect. He and Mildred seldom spoke of subjects which held any meaning. They showed little or no love for each other. Seemingly, they had little in common. Deep within himself, Montag knew something was wrong. What sparked Montag to change was Clarisse, who was the catalyst of Montag’s huge transformation. Clarisse brought questions and emotions into Montag’s life that he had never experienced or seen in anyone before. She questioned things such as society, the world, other people, and everything around her. She thought about life, looking for real answers and meanings. She noticed tiny everyday things such as rain or the moon, which seemed amazing to her. She held insight and intellect. All these elements were missing in Montag’s life, and deemed wrong or “anti-social” within the world he existed. Clarisse’s imagination, intelligence, and questioning personality rubbed off on Montag as he too began to stop and look at the world around him. This signified the beginning of Montag’s great change.
Many things pushed Montag to further change. The second of these events was the alarm at the old woman’s home. When Montag witnessed the old woman burn herself with her books, he realized that perhaps books really were worth reading. After this significant event, Montag decided to contact Faber, a retired English professor whom he had met in the park. Faber, much like Clarisse, challenged Montag’s mind, questioning the world and seeking the real meanings and solutions to the problems faced by society. Faber educated Montag about books, and introduced him to the hidden world of conformity, dishonesty, and degradation that surrounded them. Faber was really Montag’s bridge over trouble. Had it not been for Faber’s calming advice and explanation, Montag would likely have gone crazy over his confused battle for books. Through the small hearing device, Faber guided Montag through the many obstacles blocking their goal of resurrecting books in the conforming society. At this stage, Montag was midway through his transmogrification. Through the help of Faber and eventually Beatty, Montag would completely change.
Guided by Faber’s voice in the tiny earpiece, Montag explored life through new eyes. He had become two people, Montag, and Faber. Montag was influenced somewhat by Beatty, the fire captain. Through his drawn out speeches, Beatty attempted to confuse Montag, but only pushed Montag further toward discovering what lay within books. Montag began to see the world in a new light. He confronted Mildred and her friends by reading poetry in front of them. After this, Mildred went over the edge, calling in the alarm on Montag. Montag was forced to burn his home, which he did willingly. As he did this, he burnt his old life, the life of conformity, destruction, and ignorance. Montag was torching the life he had spent with Mildred, as well as the life of the fireman. Yet, the action, which would change Montag’s life forever, still waited. As Montag stood in the ashes of his smoldering home, the ashes of his old life, he was confronted by Beatty. Antagonized by Beatty, Montag pulled the trigger of the flame-thrower, instantaneously turning Beatty into a burning mass of flame. The murder of Beatty signified the end of old life for Montag. He could no longer go back. Montag knew he must leave, and this he did. By way of the river, Montag fled from the mechanical hound, firemen, police, and helicopters. He escaped to the country, leaving behind the city, the conforming, ignorant society, as well as the ashes of the old Montag. Montag was a new man. Once he met the Granger and the other men who lived in the forest, he knew he had really found his new life. These men were much like Montag. They too were fighting a war to keep books alive. Within the heads and memories of these men lived books. These men would appreciated Montag for his courage, and would recognize him as a leader. There, Montag would live, waiting for the right moment when people would be ready to accept books again. As Montag led the men back toward the ashes of the city, the city which much like Montag, had been scarred by war, he knew that he would probably never change the world. Immediate action may not follow his arrival. Yet, Montag would do his best to contribute to the rebuilding of a new world, a world of intelligence instead of ignorance, and understanding instead of condemnation. Montag was truly a new man.
Montag changed drastically throughout the book Fahrenheit 451. He began as a lost, empty, sad individual with little knowledge of the fulfillment life could bring. However, Montag became a new man. Through the help of Clarisse and Faber, and eventually Granger, as well as the indirect influence of people such as Mildred and Beatty, Montag became a man of understanding and fulfillment. He had a purpose in life, and realized what the world held for him. He was the new Guy Montag.
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