In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, what are the internal conflicts that Guy Montag struggles with and how does he deal with them?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Guy Montag didn't know he had any internal conflicts until a young 16-year-old girl asked him to think about the world differently. The question that really sets off his internal conflict, though, is when Clarisse asks him if he is truly happy. This gets him analyzing his life compared to her own and he realizes that his life is void of true beauty, laughter and a deep connection with another person. In an effort to discover exactly what his life is missing, he questions if the answers to life's questions lie in the books that he destroys on a daily basis.

Montag goes to his wife Mildred to discuss these questions, but he finds her without empathy. All Mildred says to him is to leave her alone about the subject. He responds as follows:

"Let you alone! That's all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in awhile. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52).

The passage above shows Montag struggling with what he questions inside compared to what society allows him to think or feel. He soon discovers that his wife is the epitome of what their society wants people to be--numb.

Another example of Montag's internal struggle is discussed when he speaks to the old man Faber. Faber says that "Nobody listens any more" because people are either watching TV or listening to music all of the time. People are so distracted with entertainment that they do not pay attention to others in their lives or to the deeper ideas that fuel good human existence. Montag elaborates as follows:

"I don't know. We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren't happy. Something's missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I'd burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help" (82).

This passage shows Montag using his deductive reasoning skills to figure out what might be the key to solving what he feels that he lacks in life. While still on the path to solving his inner conflict, Montag loses it when he watches his wife and her friends mindlessly talk and watch TV one evening. It's as if he sees everything wrong with his society in those three superficial women. Finally, after reading them some poetry and the women rejecting it, Montag yells at them to go home; but, while he's yelling, he spells out everything that is wrong with one of them because of society:

"Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband killed in a jet and your third husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of a dozen abortions you've had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarian sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it? Go home, go home!" (101).

It's as if Montag can't hold in everything he's struggling with anymore and he spills it all out on these women. He sees that the people in his world are missing the mark in life. He sees that they are made up of no more than selfish desire. No one lives for the love of life, for the love of others, or the love of fulfilling their potential. Everything in this world of his is without substance and that is the basis for his internal struggle.

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Fahrenheit 451

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