“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Frederick Douglas once said. Fahrenheit 451 addresses a society that books are to be burned by firemen whenever they were found. Contrasting to his job, Montag finds this inquiring and starts his journey of changing the world to a place full of books and new ideas. In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the characterization of the protagonist, Montag, shows the change of his personality.
Montag is an ordinary looking fireman who is thought to be kind-hearted; however, he ponders the restrictions he has as a member of the society. At the beginning of the story, Montag is introduced just like the other firemen in the firehouse: “He hung up his black beetle-colored helmet and shined it; he hung his flameproof jacket neatly” (Bradbury 8). Ray Bradbury emphasizes the clothes that he wears as a fireman. The black beetle-colored helmet, and his flameproof jacket symbolize the appearance as a fireman. Moreover, when meeting Clarisse, Montag explained, “‘Kerosene… is nothing but perfume to me’”(10). As fireman’s job in his society was to burn books, kerosenes were always part of him. This was common among firemen, as they were all to use kerosene daily. Montag shows his kindness by talking with Clarisse and by accepting her ideas. Clarisse said, “‘The others would walk off and leave me talking… You’re one of the few who put up with me’” (27). Clarisse shares her thoughts about Montag by comparing him to other firemen. As he was one of the few that actually listened to Clarisse and her ideas, and made corresponding reactions to them, Montag was able to show his personality of kindness to Clarisse. As the society do not accept new ideas and knowledge, many of thoughts were ignored and thought to be crazy. However, unlike the others, Montag made connections to her questionings. Montag queried the society multiple times throughout the story. “I’ve been thinking…about the man whose library we fixed. What happened to him?” (37). After Montag had several conversations with Clarisse, he started to question about the actions he has done as a fireman. This included “fixing” libraries. Burning the libraries did not seem right for Montag as he thought of libraries as a place of knowledge and stories. Later in the story, he sets his mind that knowledge and books are important: “Montag was gone and back in a moment with a book in his hand” (100). As books give stories, knowledge, and common sense to people who read them, Montag read a poem to those who were foolish in voting, and even about their families. Even though Ms. Phelps had a strong emotional reaction when the poem was finished, Montag was sure that the contradicting ideas in books about society give a strong sense of community to all people. In conclusion, Montag, the compassionate average fireman, fights for the regulations as a citizen in his society.
I, just like Montag, also have thought differently from others and wanted to fight for my opinion. In a recent Model United Nations activity, I had contrasting opinions on restricting public awareness of countries about a specific issue. At that time, I was the only one who thought that public awareness should not be restricted since it would cause more confusion to the public. This made it difficult to address my opinion to other delegates in the committee just like Montag trying to say that books are beneficial.
Image Citation: “Guy Montag.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Montag.
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