Fahrenheit 451 Summary
How does Fahrenheit 451 end?
As Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451 comes to an end, Montag has assimilated himself into the small but growing community of refugees who had successful fled the autocratic, repressive society that saw books as tools of dissent and rebellion, and from which this former fireman was now cast adrift. Montag, of course, fled the city to escape the consequences of his actions. He had illegally possessed a book of fairy tales, and was now at risk of being prosecuted for this unspeakable crime. Bradbury’s novel takes place during a time of war, however, and the city from which Montag has fled is destroyed. Among those with whom Montag has taken refuge is Granger, one of the men upon whom the disgraced fireman had stumbled. As the group of refugees begins to break camp and return to the now destroyed city, Granger references the mythical bird Phoenix as a metaphor for the rejuvenation of society that can now take place:
"There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, some day we'll stop making the goddam funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember, every generation."
With this, the group begins its trek north to the begin life anew. As Bradbury describes the scene, though, it is apparent that Montag has assumed the role of a leader:
“Montag began walking and after a moment found that the others had fallen in behind him, going north. He was surprised, and moved aside to let Granger pass, but Granger looked at him and nodded him on. Montag went ahead.”
Fahrenheit 451 ends with Montag reflecting upon the Biblical birth of a new age, and he is destined to play a major role in how the new society they must erect will reflect the idealistic notions that the previous regime had fought.
At the end of Fahrenheit 451, Montag has escaped the city, which has been destroyed by bombs. He has joined a group of survivors who are devoted to memorizing and reciting books, and hopes to become like them with his memories of certain Biblical works.
To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else? Something, something...
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)
This period in Montag's life has come to an end. He has a future to look forward to for the first time in his life, instead of the same days following days that made him so uneasy. He remembers passages from Ecclesiastes, and Revelation, and he knows that his life will be different from now on; not necessarily better, but purposeful, with meaning. Montag has regained his individualism, and finally understands the true evils of his prior society.