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

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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