In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, when Montag burns books, how does he feel?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of the novel, Bradbury describes Montag's experience burning books. Bradbury writes, "It was a pleasure to burn" (1). Montag enjoys his work as a fireman and takes pleasure in burning books. He firmly believes that he is helping humanity by burning books and is essentially institutionalized. Bradbury writes that Montag is calm as he flicks the igniter and watches as the flames engulf the books. Montag thinks of a relatively enjoyable experience by wishing that he could roast marshmallows over the flames. Bradbury also mentions Montag's "fierce grin." When Montag returns to the firehouse and looks in the mirror, he winks at himself. While Montag lays in his bed at night, his fiery smile does not go away. Bradbury is suggesting that although Montag is unsympathetic about his occupation and appears happy, his feelings are artificial.

After Montag becomes friends with Clarisse and realizes that he is living a meaningless life, Montag feels differently the next time he burns books. When Montag responds to a call suggesting that a woman has a library in her attic, Montag feels guilty about destroying the books. He is not unattached while he sets the novels on fire and even reads a line from one of the pages. He thinks about what he has read the entire time and even steals one of the books. Montag's feelings of guilt reflect his change in perspective.