“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives” ~ James Madison
Everyone has ignorance and it will always be present. It is a matter of how knowledge intervenes that judges the outcome. James Madison describes a similar aspect. He mentions knowledge as the power that relieves ignorance and allows people to be their own governors. In Fahrenheit 451, the character of Montag is a great example. He is once an ideal, ignorant citizen, but it all changes once he meets Clarisse, who unlocks a vault full of knowledge to him. Moreover, the crave for knowledge grows and Montag meets Faber who helps reveal the meaning of knowledge, allowing Montag to get rid of his ignorance. At last, the conversation with Beatty destroys Montag’s ignorance completely and allows him to be his own governor. Through Montag’s experience with Clarisse, Faber and Beatty, Ray Bradbury establishes the theme of knowledge destroying unquestionable ignorance leading to enlightenment in his novel, Fahrenheit 451.
Montag’s interaction with Clarisse opens a world full of knowledge to Montag when she forces him to remember the past. Initially, Montag is ignorant towards learning about the past but it all changes when Clarisse questions him about the history of firemen:
“‘Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?’ ‘No. Houses have always been fireproof, take my word for it.’ ‘Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.’”(6)
When Clarisse says that firemen used to put out fire, Montag’s ignorant character is expressed immediately through his statement “No…take my word for it.” This demonstrates Montag as an ideal, ignorant citizen. However after a few minutes of thinking, he suddenly realizes that firemen might have actually put out fires instead of starting them. This symbolizes a crack in Montag’s shell of ignorance and shows how he is capable of thinking about the past with the knowledge he gained from Clarisse. Moreover, the shell of ignorance breaks even more when Clarisse compares Montag to other citizens. In her narration, she describes how different Montag is and how she feels it is strange that he is a fireman:
“You’re not like the others. I’ve seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me. When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night. The others would never do that. The others would walk off and leave me talking. Or threaten me. No one has time anymore for anyone else. You’re one of the few who put up with me. That’s why I think it’s strange you’re a fireman, it just doesn’t seem right for you, somehow.”(21)
Clarisse clearly states the attitude of other citizens and their level of ignorance by saying “No one has time anymore for anyone else.” This shows how the others care only about themselves and no one else. Montag, on the other hand,...