Although in chapter one it appears on the surface that Guy Montag has fully bought into his society’s self-absorbed values and materialistic ways, a series of events reveal that deep down, he hates it all. His soul longs for a deeper, more meaningful existence, which is why he is so...
Although in chapter one it appears on the surface that Guy Montag has fully bought into his society’s self-absorbed values and materialistic ways, a series of events reveal that deep down, he hates it all. His soul longs for a deeper, more meaningful existence, which is why he is so open to change.
The first, critical motivator for this is his meeting with the neighbor girl, Clarisse, who asks him hard questions about his happiness (or lack thereof) and his job as a fireman/book burner. "’Do you ever read any of the books you burn?’” Although he appears shocked at her questions, which are really more suggestions, his realization that he is not happy causes him to begin questioning everything, until finally he steals a book during a call. This would appear to be a turning point for Montag, except we learn that this is actually not the first book he’s confiscated—evidence that he was changing before the start of the novel.
Although Millie’s suicide attempt does have an impact on Montag, further confirming his realization that no one is happy in this society, it is the woman who burns herself alive who is the ultimate catalyst for Montag’s rebellion against his job, the laws, and their entire bind existence. As the firemen are raiding her house, tossing books down around her, her steady gaze on them unnerves Montag as much as the book that’s tucked inside his jacket. The woman says, “‘You can’t ever have my books.’” Despite his pleading, the woman refuses to leave as they prepare to light her house on fire. “‘Go on’ she tells him. ‘I want to stay here.’” Then she lights the match herself. Witnessing this woman’s devotion to books has such an impact on Montag that he becomes physically ill, unable to ever burn another page. It is now that he is ready to begin reading the books he’s hidden in his house.
The bits and pieces of knowledge, wisdom, humanity that he gleans from them forever change his course from thoughtlessly burning books to risking his life and sacrificing all he’s ever known in the pursuit of saving them.