Montag as Hero in Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1933, and its story entails a futuristic world in the middle of a nuclear war. The totalitarian government of this future forbids its people from reading or taking a part in other acts that involve individual thinking. The law against reading is, presumably, fairly new, and the government is faced with the enormous task of destroying all of its citizens' books. This disposal of books is the profession of the main character, Guy Montag, who is officially titled a "fireman." He and his crew raid libraries and homes, burning any books they find before dozens of overjoyed onlookers. Throughout the beginning of the novel, Montag appears to be a ruthless, detestable human being. Surprisingly, however, it is Montag who emerges as the protagonist at the end. Montag is a dynamic character; he is constantly learning, changing, and keeping the reader interested. Ray Bradbury is able to incorporate careful details and ideas which change the reader's opinion of Montag and allow him to become the hero of the story.
As Fahrenheit 451 begins, Guy Montag is burning the books of a house, and is thoroughly enjoying his feast of flames. Bradbury places several subtle metaphors in this section that cause the reader to equate Montag with a detestable, serpent-like human being. As Montag stood "with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head. . ." (19). Montag even takes on the appearance of a monster in the line, ". . . and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next. . ." (19). It is difficult to understand why Montag loves burning so much, and the fact that he receives so much pleasure from destruction seems notably abhorrent. Montag is a singed animal with orange eyes and a fierce grin. As he seems nearly inhuman, he is immediately the target of the reader's dislike.
Immediately after the house is burned, Bradbury surprises the reader by showing that the monstrous Montag has an appreciation for that which is beautiful and intellectual. Montag is walking home from work when he meets a young girl, Clarisse, standing on the sidewalk. Montag is awestruck by Clarisse's innocent curiosity: "She was like an eager watcher of a marionette show, anticipating each flicker of an eyelid, each gesture of his hand, the moment before it began" (25). Although Montag is not narrating the story, it is evident that he is an observant, kind person who treats the young girl he meets as any gentleman would. Seeing this side of Montag somewhat neutralizes the reader's opinion of him, and causes him to seem as though he were a more round, interesting character.