By Samantha Wang, III Form
How does Montag’s Rashness Impact Him?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a story about banned books and thoughts. People in that society are wholly brainwashed by the government into believing that no reading and thinking can bring them happiness. Montag, one of the firemen responsible for burning books, is curious about them. This leads him to read and think, which are illegal in his society. After realizing the lack of literature and thoughts necessitates the lack of happiness and love in the world, Montag begins to take actions, often rashly, to rebel against the reality. Although Montag’s rashness occasionally hinders him from achieving his goals, his braveness also helps him rebel and builds a human character. His imperfection adds a touch of realism to the story, making it more understandable to readers.
Montag’s braveness sets him apart from others in his society, giving him opportunities to find his meaning of life. Montag first shows distinguishing courage by talking patiently and curiously with Clarisse, a girl whom many others consider insane. Clarisse tells him, “When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night. The others would never do that” (Bradbury 21). Montag’s bravery allows him to talk to Clarisse, who teaches him love, empathy, and how to slow down in life and form independent opinions. This paves the way for him to discover the mystery of books. Additionally, Montag’s boldness helps him further his acts of rebellion. After Montag finds himself unable to understand the books he has stolen, his audacity pushes him to ask Professor Faber for help and talk about his true feelings toward society: “We aren’t happy. Something’s missing” (Bradbury 78). Even though Montag realizes the illegality of his personal feelings and book thefts as a fireman, he longs to find the reasons for his missing happiness despite the risks involved. Montag’s conversing on such sensitive topics with someone who is not that familiar with him proves his courage for understanding the books and the world. As illustrated, Montag’s bravery and curiosity enable him to embark on and continue his exploration of reading and thinking, which helps him prepare for the upcoming rebellion against the banned-book society.
Although Montag’s braveness indeed benefits him, he is often too bold and impulsive to calmly address situations and consider all consequences. After Montag is caught by Captain Beatty for hiding a book under his pillow, he confesses to his wife that this is not his first time taking books home, brazenly assuming that she would take his side. Mildred instead “back[s] away as if she [was] suddenly confronted by a pack of mice that had come up out of the floor” (Bradbury 63). Her astonishment proves that Montag is overconfident in his trusting Mildred to keep this secret. The fact that even his wife cannot be trusted shows how Montag’s bold confessions have the potential to cause him real trouble. Furthermore, when Montag is arrested by Captain Beatty, Beatty tells him that, “But her (Mildred) friends turned in an alarm earlier, that I let ride” (Bradbury 111). Montag is astonished that his wife exposes his secrets to other firemen because he trusts her unconditionally without considering consequences, just as when he takes out the illegal book in front of her gossipy friends. Montag often does not think twice before making decisions, and he cannot control his emotions and behaviors well when he encounters tricky situations. Montag’s shortcomings, especially his boldness, prevent him from achieving his goals.
The rashness of Montag also conveys the idea that while no one can be perfect, people can get better and improve by making mistakes. After Montag grows anxious and irrational because he reads the poem to the ladies in his house, Faber said to Montag: “You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by” (Bradbury 100). Just as Faber tries to relieve Montag’s worry caused by his rash actions after losing control, Bradbury educates readers about how mistakes are common and we can grow from them. Faber also says, “If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn” (Bradbury 100). This advice is meant to encourage Montag to preserve his passion for discovering the world of books, but it also tells the readers that it is better to admit our shortcomings than to hide them, which may lead to an empty and ignorant life. The author gives many life lessons in the book, including Montag’s imperfect personality, which effectively relates the story to readers’ own experiences.
All in all, Montag’s personality enables him to satisfy his curiosity and change the society, but it also brings him problems that hinder his journey. However, no one is perfect, so the setting of Montag’s characteristics makes him more human. It is, thus, easy for the audience to relate to Montag’s thoughts and behaviors, making the characters and the plot of this book more comprehensible.
Samantha Wang is a III Form boarding student from Nanchang, China. She does cross country, robotics and crew, loves doing theater and playing the piano, and enjoys reading and keeping diary in her free time.