In "Fahrenheit 451" how does Montag feel as he burns his own house. Why does he feels this way?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At first, Montag is numb as he contemplates the destruction of his home. When he takes the flamethrower from Beatty to continue burning his house, his feelings change. He starts to feel free from his life and to find pleasure in the act of burning his own home. Still, he's numb to the world until his mentor is threatened. 

In the beginning of this section, as Montag comes to terms with what's happening, he's numb. He's unable to answer Faber when the man asks if Montag can run away. Instead he just murmurs nonsensical answers to Faber and Beatty as the two men speak to him. He watches the firemen break his house with axes, "shattering window-panes to provide cross-ventilation," and feels nothing. Bradbury writes, "Montag walked but did not feel his feet touch the cement and then the night grasses."

When Montag starts to burn the house, things change for him. He's still somewhat dazed and not entirely sensible, but he finds pleasure in what he's doing. Bradbury writes:

He burnt the bedroom walls and the cosmetics chest because he wanted to change everything, the chairs, the tables, and in the dining-room the silverware and plastic dishes, everything that showed that he had lived here in this empty house with a strange woman who would forget him tomorrow, who had gone and quite forgotten him already, listening to her Seashell radio pour in on her and in on her as she rode across town, alone. And as before, it was good to burn, he felt himself gush out in the fire, snatch, rend, rip in half with flame, and put away the senseless problem. If there was no solution, well then now there was no problem, either. Fire was best for everything.

When the house has been fully burned and he's placed under arrest, he feels numb again. The first thing he's cognizant enough to ask Beatty is whether Mildred is the one who turned him in; she did turn him in, but friends of his wife had also turned him in before she did. 

Montag remains somewhat numb, unable to process. He can't decide what to do next and the weight of the situation is heavy on him. Montag stands "there, his knees half-bent under the great load of tiredness and bewilderment and outrage, letting Beatty hit him without raising a hand." It's not until Faber is put at risk that Montag is moved to act, attacking the firemen. 

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you look closely at the beginning of section three of the book, Bradbury has a very descriptive passage about Montag's feelings as he is forced to torch his own house.  Montag feels a strange detachment--you might think that he would be super upset about having to burn down his entire house, and everything that he knew, but he almost seemed relieved.  Bradbury writes:

"he wanted to change everything...that showed that he had lived here in this empty house with a strange woman who would forget him tomorrow, who had gone and quite forgotten him already...and as before, it was good to burn,...[to] put away the senseless problem."

This passage indicates that Montag actually felt good as he burned his house.  It was getting rid of an empty life that meant nothing to him, of a house that no longer represented how he felt about living.  It burned the entire past, including Mildred, who he realizes doesn't really love him, and gives him a fresh slate to start new with.  He has changed so much from the first time we met him, and everything that his old life represented means nothing to him now.  So, burning it is a sort of cathartic experience, unanchoring him from the "senseless problems" of his past.  And, just like in the beginning of the book, burning was a pleasure, but this time, for different reasons.  In the beginning, it was because he enjoyed the pure fantastic thrill of it; now, it is his symbolic phoenix going up in ashes, and he is free to rebuild.  He is now free from it all, to act how he desires.  I hope that those thoughts make sense; good luck!

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Fahrenheit 451

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