Guy Montag  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Guy Montag is the protagonist in Ray Bradbury's dystopian 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. He is depicted living in a futuristic town where he works as a fireman whose job is to cause fires to burn books.

Montag's role in the storyline

At the opening of the novel, he is happy in his work destroying books and sending book hoarders to mental hospitals and never wonders about his role as a tool of thought suppression. Several events cause him to question his existence:

  • First, he meets 17 year old Clarisse McClellan while walking home from work. His talks with her are thought-provoking and assuage Montag's loneliness. Her death spurs him into becoming a radical.
  • Second, he discovers his wife, who prefers television and radio to human interaction, has overdosed on sleeping pills. The callous behavior of the paramedics makes him feel very alienated, while his wife's emptiness disturbs and angers him.
  • Third, he has a call to go to a house owned by an old woman who, rather than be led out of the house before it is burned, decides to set the fire herself, and burn alive.
  • Fourth, he remembers a chance meeting he had one year previously with an old man in the park, who is later identified as an English professor. Montag, who has secretly been hiding books in his own house, eventually makes contact with Faber.

Over the course of the novel, Montag becomes increasingly disillusioned with the hedonistic and unthinking belligerent society around him. Bradbury emphasizes that the U.S. government, in burning books, is merely expressing the will of a people whose short, mouse-like attention spans, indifference, and hedonism have gradually eroded any semblance of intellectualism from public life. Schools no longer teach the humanities, children are casually violent, and adults are constantly distracted by "seashells" (small audio devices resembling earbuds) and insipid television programs displayed on wall-sized screens. Authors and readers are regarded as ridiculously pretentious and dangerous to the well-being of society. He meets many characters that change his outlook on life such as Clarisse and Faber.

After an incident where Montag tries to read a poem to his wife's friends when they are visiting, his wife denounces their house as book-possessing, and disappears from the novel. Montag's fire chief, Beatty, tries to persuade him that books are evil, and urges him to return to the unthinking fireman mentality, but Montag refuses, and sets Beatty and the whole house on fire.

He flees through the city streets to Faber's house, with another firehouse's mechanical hound and television network helicopters in hot pursuit. When he arrives at Faber's home, the old man tells Montag of vagabond book-lovers in the countryside. Montag then escapes to a local river, floats downstream and meets a group of older men who, to Montag's astonishment, have memorized entire books, preserving them orally until the law against books is overturned. The war begins. Montag watches helplessly as jet bombers fly overhead and attack the city with nuclear weapons.

Historical notes

Other notes

Guy Montag is featured in the real time strategy game StarCraft as Gui Montag, a Terran Firebat hero.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Guy Montag" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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