How and why does Guy Montags attitude and beliefs towards fire change over the course of the novel?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two events at the beginning of the novel begin to initiate a change in Montag. First, he meets Clarice, a teenaged woman who walks outside (rather than being glued to the television), questions the values of her society, and wonders if Montag can be happy. She also really listens to what Montag has to say. Then, Montag's wife, Mildred, who is addicted to watching television, attempts suicide. She realizes, at least subconsciously, that her life has no meaning. 

Up to this point, Montag has gone along with the system and has been a conscientious book-burning fire fighter. However, after meeting Clarice and almost losing Mildred, he begins to experience his suppressed discontent and question society. Clarice has stirred up feelings inside of him. He realizes how deadened he has become. He sees clearly that the superficial "happiness" of endlessly watching television has made his wife desperate, although after her suicide attempt she falls into a flat denial that anything is wrong. 

Montag begins to explore books instead of simply burning them and becomes friends with Faber, a former professor, who convinces him that the wisdom in books is worth knowing and internalizing. Montag realizes that there is a wider, richer world than the limited one in which he has lived. Thus, he changes from an obedient citizen who thinks of burning books as a social good into a rebel against his society who wants to preserve books and what they represent.

mattbuckley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Character change and transformation is one of the major themes of this novel. Montags response to fire throughout this story shows that change. 

The beginning of this novel starts off with the sentences "It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed." In this opening we see that fire is used as a symbol for change. Montag loves to burn. His change begins shortly after this when he meets Clarisse and she inquires about his happiness. Montag later discovers, upon thinking about it more, that he is not in fact happy and his change begins. As the story continues, Montag questions the role and history of firemen. Finally, fire engulfs his house and he is on the other side. However, due to the changes that have taken place in him, he makes his stand and uses the fire against the oppressors, permanently changing his life forever.