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Montag And The Peril Of The Books English Literature Essay

In the novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, a fireman by the name of Montag is introduced. Once learning more about Montag we find out that he isn’t just an ordinary fireman in our opinion, apparently instead of putting out fires, he starts them to get rid of books found in the homes of people during their time period. Throughout the story, Montag goes through different phases when it comes to how he feels about his job and the books he burns. At first, he loves his job and burning books, but he begins to change once meeting a girl named Clarisse McClellan because she starts to talk to him about his job and books. She talks about her uncle and all the information he tells her about the old times or about books. Eventually Montag’s perspective on books and being a fireman are completely turned around after he actually reads books that he’d taken from homes he’d burned down. By the end of the book it is safe to assume that Montag has a new perspective on life and the way everyone is living their lives.

When the novel begins Montag is happy to be a firefighter. The first line of the book says, “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed” (3). Before meeting Clarisse, he took pride in being a firefighter, he says “Kerosene....is nothing but perfume to me” (6). He didn’t question what they did or what were in the books they burned. The only thing he thought of was the fact that he was keeping people from doing the wrong thing and breaking the law. Being a fireman was what he believed was his duty.

Later on, Montag meets a peculiar 17 year old girl named Clarisse McClellan. Unlike most people Montag knows, Clarisse really thinks about things and has her own perspective on what is going on. Now, when they first meet, Clarisse tells Montag that he is a different kind of fireman, and she is surprised by how he acts. She expects them to be mean, but he seems friendlier than most of them. When she is about to leave she asks, “Are you happy?” which surprises him (10). He replies by saying “Happy! Of all the nonsense” (10). At first he is laughing, but then he stops and starts to think about why she would ask him that. This is when Montag’s “reality check” seems to begin.

The next phase in Montag’s realization is probably one of the most important. His curiosity grows so much that he takes a book from a house he is supposed to burn down. Even though he tries to convince himself that the book fell into his hand and he accidentally grabs it, deep down he knows that it’s what he’d wanted to do. Not only does he take a book from this house though, when a mountain of books falls on him he reads a line from it which says, “Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine” (37). Even though it was just one line, those words stay with him for the rest of the night (37). When they leave the house and return to the fire station all Montag can think about is the book he took, and the woman that burned herself alive with her novels.

Then Montag’s curiosity is at its peak when he gets home and hides his stolen book away. He tries to convince himself that he hasn’t done anything wrong because he hasn’t actually read the book, but then his nerves begin to get the best of him because Captain Beatty, the fire captain, comes to his house because he called in sick. Montag is afraid that he may find the book and put him in jail (52-53). When Beatty and Montag start talking Mildred, Montag’s wife, begins to fluff up the pillows and in doing so finds the hidden book. Even though Beatty realizes what has happened he doesn’t say anything directly to Montag. He just changes the subject and ignores the obvious situation. When Beatty gets ready to leave he tells Montag “one last thing....at least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, Montag take my word for it, I’ve had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing!” (62). Then Montag asks him “Well, then, what if a fireman accidentally....takes a book home with him?” (62). So Beatty tells him, “A natural error. Curiosity alone....We don’t get over anxious or mad. We let the fireman keep the book twenty-four hours. If he hasn’t burned it by then, we simply come and burn it for him” (62). After this brief chat Beatty leaves and Montag is left to ponder what they talked about.

Later on in the story, Montag starts to read books. Now not only does he read them, but he shares them with people, specifically, Mildred’s friends. This is where everything starts to go awry. Mildred’s friends know that reading is against the law and do not agree with what Montag is doing (100). Faber, a man Montag meets who also reads books, tells Montag not to keep reading to them because they will turn him in. Montag tries to act like the whole thing was a joke, but they don’t buy it (99). Later on that night, when Montag is at work, they get a call for them to go to another house that has books. When they get there, Montag realizes something, it’s his house. Captain Beatty explains to him that his wife and her two friends called it in. He knows he can’t run because they already have a mechanical hound on the loose which will attack him. Beatty tells Montag that he must burn down his own house and when he is finished, that he will be arrested. Montag goes on to set the bedroom ablaze in order to take away all the memories he had with his “wife” there. Once Montag finishes, Beatty hits him across the head, in his ear he finds a little green “bug” he’s been using to communicate with Faber. Beatty notices this and takes it from him so that he can find him and put him in jail as well. Montag realizes and aims the flame thrower at Beatty, surprisingly Beatty doesn’t get scared, instead he provokes Montag, and in the end, Beatty is burned alive (119). After this Montag has no choice, but to flee the scene because now, he is a criminal.

Finally Montag is at Faber’s home for the last time. There is a mechanical hound tracking Montag through the city and is on his trail. Montag has come to Faber to say goodbye and to ask for some old clothes to mask his scent. After getting the clothes Faber gives Montag some important information, “You’d better head for the river if you can, follow along it and if you can, and if you can hit the old railroad lines going out into the country, follow them” (132). Before Montag left he told Faber to clear the entire house of his trace so that he would not be taken to jail. He said his final goodbye and was off running towards the river hoping to escape the mechanical hound. Luckily he made it just in time to the river and they stopped searching for him (139). He was able to meet up with other wanted runaways as he reached the railroad tracks. Montag’s life was completely different now that he’d read books.

In conclusion, throughout the story Montag goes through a series of changes whether it be how he saw the world, how he saw books, or how he saw his life. Not only did he realize that books were more important than society thought, but also that he hadn’t actually been thinking during his life, he’d only been doing. After he started to read books, and even after he met Clarisse, he was beginning to think about life and why books were banned. In this story Montag’s entire perspective changes on books as he realizes that books, should not be burned.

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