Fahrenheit 451: Change
What is change? Webster’s Second Collegiate Dictionary, defines change
as to cause to become different; alter; transform; convert. Many things, people,
and world events are able to change. Peace may be present for years and
shattered by a disagreement over religion, or shift of political power.
Technology changes the lives of people and how the interact and work in the
world. People also change. Many do not see any wrongdoing internally, and remain
the way they are. However, there might be outside factors that help them realize
what is wrong with them or the lifestyle they choose to take part in. According
to Preston Bradley, “I don’t care how much a man may consider himself a failure,
I believe in him, for he can change the thing that is wrong in his life any time
he is ready and prepared to do it. Whenever he develops the desire, he can take
away from his life the thing that is defeating it. The capacity for reformation
and change lies within.” Throughout Fahrenheit 451, Montag, a dedicated fireman
and book burner, sees pleasure and titillation from burning books and destroying
lifetimes of important ideas. When outside influences put confusion in him, he
begins a series of changes, eventually becoming a revolutionary in a society
where books are valued.
Many factors contribute to the changes found in Montag. One of the first
influences during the story is the exquisitely observant Clarisse McClellan. She
is different from all of the others in society who like to head for a Fun Park
to bully people around,” or “break windowpanes in the Car Wrecker.” She likes to
observe people, and she observes Montag, diagnosing him as a
“strange…fireman.” He is “not like the others” because when she talks, he
looks at her, and when she said something about the moon, he looks at it.
Clarisse tells Montag that he is different from the other people. He has
something inside of him that makes him “put up with” her. Clarisse makes Montag
look at himself for the first time when she asks him, “Are you happy?” Montag
thinks that she is talking nonsense, but he realizes that he truly is not happy.
Something is missing from his life. Looking at his lifestyle, he found that the
“only thing that I Montag positively knew was gone was the books I’d he’d
burned in ten or twelve years.” Clarisse helped Montag to start to think for
himself, instead of letting the society take over and make the decisions for him.
He begins his transformation from a dedicated fireman into a newborn, a reader
of books. He is now able to realize his faults and the faults of the society.
Montag was walking through life blind, and Clarisse opened his eyes, for the
Later, Montag’s changing becomes further amplified. When Montag, his two
comrades, and Captain Beatty answer an alarm, they are usually alone in the
building, able to go about their work which seemed janitorial. They “were simply
cleaning up.” The culprits usually were arrested and taken away, but this time
there was a woman here. This woman was not like the rest. This woman refused to
leave her books, replying Montag’s pleads to leave with, “I want to stay here.”
She is even so bold as to bring her own death, for “in the palm of the her
hand was a single slender object.” An ordinary kitchen match. The woman’s
determination to die with the books rather than succumb to the rest of society
shocked Montag. More and more questions arose in his head. “There must be
something in books, things we Montag and Mildred can’t imagine, to make a
woman stay in a burning house; . . .You don’t stay for nothing.” The woman makes
Montag think about books and about his lifestyle. Montag feels guilty for having
killed a woman, for not making her save herself. His opinion of books changes.
There must be something important in books to make a woman deny her right to
live. He wonders if what he is doing is correct. Montag learns the power of the
meaning in the books.
Montag changes again when he meets the old man that he met in the park a
year ago. The old man was Faber, a retired English Professor, who acts as a
guide to Montag, guiding him in the right way. Montag felt that he should
consult Faber, for he “talked the meaning of things.” He wanted to know what was
in the books. He wanted to see the meaning in the words and writing. Faber’s
comment on books gave way to a new stream of questions in Montag. Montag began
wondering about books. He asked himself, “Are books really that bad? Why are
books bad if Faber feels that books are what I missing from the society? Why are
books bad if the society needs the books?” Faber said that “books such as this
Bible are so important.” Books are important. Faber explained the relationship
between a legend, “the legend of Hercules and Antaueos,” and the society.
Antaueos was a giant wrestler that was strong when on land. “But when he was
held…in midair, he perished easily.” By showing how the legend applied to
their society, how “people” were held in midair to perish by the society, he
showed that books with stories and nonsense have importance in the society.
People were strong when they are “on the earth,” looking at reality. However,
the society is holding them up, and the people are perishing, are committing
suicide and killing others. He showed Montag the importance of knowing the
meaning of books. Montag was now a rebel, a book reader, instead of the fire-
loving book burner. He was no longer siding with the society. He has changed,
realizing the importance of books. Montag’s ears have opened and he is listening.
Montag shows change when an alarm is placed, and the house that he must
burn is his. He burns the house, and confronts Beatty. Montag chose to kill him.
Beatty would trace the “green bullet” and arrest Faber. Montag couldn’t allow
their plan to fail. He chose to keep being a rebel, and fight the society.
Beatty pushed too many of the wrong buttons on Montag. He went “on yelling at
people and making fun of them” until they cracked. Montag was not passive
anymore. He would feel no reluctance to threaten or attack than if he was still
a true fireman, like the rest. When Montag chooses to burn Beatty, it is evident
that Montag has almost completed his change. He no longer conforms with society,
no longer hides himself from society in safety, but rebels! By killing Beatty,
it shows that he is a totally changed person. He wants to change the society. He
wants to teach the people about the books, so that they will not repeat the
mistakes of war and destruction. Montag is not walking blind anymore. He is
seeing 20/20 vision, and sprinting full pace!
Montag’s change is finally stated when he joins the new society that
valued books in the countryside. He could continue the fight better if he was
with a group of people. Montag said he was “blind when he tried to do things his
way,” planting books and sending alarms. He knew he could be helped and taught
in the group. If two heads are better than one, then six heads would work
wonders. His fight against the corrupt views of the society were shared by these
people. They also valued the books and their importance. Montag shows that he
has fully completed his changing. He becomes a part of a society that is totally
opposite from the society of the city. The society outside values books, and by
joining it, Montag shows that he is changed from rebel to the ultimate rebel, a
soldier of an army that has a strong influential power because of it’s
attraction to books and their meanings.
In Fahrenheit 451, Montag, a dedicated fireman and book burner changes
character and opinion through the help of influential characters and events,
gradually transforming into an individualistic person of the society, a
rebellious soldier in an army of readers. Montag first changes when he meets
Clarisse, opening his eyes and being able to see his own faults and those of the
society. He changes further when he questions himself and thinks about his
lifestyle after learning how powerful the meaning in the books are when the
woman insists on dying. Montag learns the importance of books in the society
when he meets Faber, learning how the meaning in books can be applied to what is
happening in society. Killing Beatty shows his change from being a passive
reader and spy to an active revolutionary. Finally, Montag’s changes are
completed when he joins the organization that values books, therefore becoming a
soldier of an influential army.