In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is most readily identified as a quester. His journey through the stages of the quest is clear and, when he joins a band of like-minded men, the reader can see that this journey will continue. A quest involves an intellectual, moral, and/or spiritual journey, not just a physical one. Ray Bradbury makes the novel more complicated, however, by including characters who embody some aspects of the quest but do not complete it, either because they are prevented from doing so or because they voluntarily stop. These characters are Clarisse, the old woman, and Faber. In addition, the other book men whom Montag joins have previously entered their own quests and committed to following their chosen path.
As Montag grows increasingly dissatisfied with his society, he decides to make changes. When we meet him, he has already begun hiding books in his house. His commitment to pursuing and sharing the knowledge in them takes a definite turn, showing that he has identified a destination, when he reads “Dover Beach” to his wife and her friends. The old woman’s death and Beatty’s rationalization of the destructive nature of their work both help him find a reason for continuing. He faces challenges including confronting and killing Beatty and running from the Hound. Successfully eluding capture, he joins his fellow questers.
Clarisse’s quest for knowledge and sociability has her family’s support. Even taking a walk and conversing with a stranger—socially unacceptable activities—are elements of her quest. Her disappearance and apparent death represented young people’s thwarted future in the repressive society. In contrast, the old woman who burns with her books, is at the other end of the temporal spectrum. She has chosen the path of knowledge, holding onto her books and what they contain, and sees her final decision as consistent with that earlier choice.
Faber is similar to the woman in keeping books, but as he begins to share them, he embarks on a different, dangerous journey. While he cannot physically continue with Montag, his inner transformation occurs when he makes a new friend and helps him along his path.