Guy Montag has an emotional dilemma whether to go against the system or abide by the law. This law forbids the reading of all books. Guy Montag is a fireman who ironically sets books on fire instead of putting fires out. The decision to betray his fellow firemen is encouraged when a women is killed because she is caught possessing books. “She made the empty rooms roar with accusation and shake down a fine dust guilt that was sucked in their nostrils as they plunged about.”(37). Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a futuristic city while a war is taking place. Oddly enough the city has its own problems. The protagonist , Guy Montag, goes against society and steals books to read at home, meets a friend to help him in his brave stand against society but gets discovered, then barely escapes his punishment to join a group of people who attempt to preserve knowledge through memorization.
At the beginning of the novel Guy Montag is described as a “minstrel man” (4). He is a fireman who “never questioned the pleasure of watching pages consumed by flames.” (Back cover). He is a brave individual who decides to rebel against society. Montag meets a crazy and imaginative seventeen-year old girl named Clarisse McClellan. She tells him of a time when firemen used to put out fires instead of making them. After that, Montag and the other firemen burn a house filled with books and burn its owner. “They crashed the front door and grabbed at a women, though she was not running , she was not trying to escape.” (38). This incident makes Montag start to think that there is something important and valuable in those books, for a woman to stay and burn with them. Montag then starts to get curious and reads books, betraying the firemen.
In the middle of the book, Captain Beatty, the antagonist who is the fire captain, detects that Montag is questioning the law. Captain Beatty tries to explain the law ” Every fireman sooner or later hits this . They only need understanding, to know how the wheels run. Need to know the history of the profession.”(53). Montag disagrees with him and meets an old retired English Professor named Faber who helps him understand the books. “The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way an average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.”(80). In doing this he gets wiser and learns more about famous poets and writers. This changes his out look on life. His secret gets discovered and the firemen burn his house which is where the books are thought to be. The climax is when Montag turns to Captain Beatty with the flame thrower and says ” We never burned right” and then sets him on fire, killing him. “Beatty flopped over and over and over, and at last twisted in on himself like a charred wax doll and lay silent.”(119). Montag then barely escapes the fire station’s deadly mechanical hound, by jumping in the river and floating down stream, disguising his scent.
“Then he dressed in Faber’s old clothes and shoes. He tossed his own clothing
into the river and watched it swept away. Then, holding his suitcase, he walked
out in the river until there was no bottom and he was swept away in the dark.” (135).
Finally, down the river, away from all the excitement, Montag starts to feel lonely because it is just him against every one else in the city. (Down the river) Montag then finds a group of friendly homeless people who are there for the same reason, reading books. This group hopes to preserve knowledge for future generations by memorizing passages from books. They do this so they cannot be caught and it also improves their thinking. All the while a war is going on and all of a sudden planes came swooping down and bombed the city. “The city rolled over and fell down dead. The sound of death came after” (160). Montag and his group are safe but the city is leveled. Montag and his group then decided to go back to the city and help rebuild hoping that people realize that their ways are wrong. “When they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up.”(164)
In conclusion Montag, rebels against society with the help of Faber, gets discovered and kills Captain Beatty, and then escapes the mechanical hound to join a group of homeless people in the same situation. The author suggests that people should stand up for what they believe in and never give up. Even though everyone was against Montag’s idea of reading books does not mean it was wrong.