In Fahrenheit 451, how does Montag feel about burning his own house?

In Fahrenheit 451, Montag's feelings about burning his own house are conflicted. However, as he directs the flamethrower against his possessions, he feels an overwhelming sense of relief and catharsis in destroying the evidence of a compromised past and an unhappy marriage.

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When Beatty commands Montag to burn his own house at the beginning of part 3 of Fahrenheit 451, he muses about the nature of fire and why it is so appealing to people:

What is fire? It's a mystery. Scientists give us gobbledegook about friction and molecules. But they...

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When Beatty commands Montag to burn his own house at the beginning of part 3 of Fahrenheit 451, he muses about the nature of fire and why it is so appealing to people:

What is fire? It's a mystery. Scientists give us gobbledegook about friction and molecules. But they don't really know. Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it. Now, Montag, you're a burden. And fire will lift you off my shoulders, clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical.

Beatty then instructs Montag to use a flamethrower, even though this is one of the more laborious ways of burning down a house. The use of the flamethrower, however, means that Montag will be directing the fire, actively turning it on each of the objects he burns rather than just setting a match to a random conflagration.

In giving these orders, Beatty both predicts and directs Montag's feelings about burning his house. He knows that Montag will be sorry to lose his books, but he also knows that there will be relief and elation in the act of burning away the past. Life is complex, but fire is simple, and Montag has been in conflict with himself too long not to feel that a burden is being lifted from his shoulders as he burns the house where he and Mildred have been unhappy and where her friends have spied on him. Montag takes pleasure in destroying all the evidence of their life together and feels a sense of catharsis in ridding himself of all these accumulated possessions. He even feels "himself gush out in the fire" as it does his bidding.

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Towards the beginning of part 3, Montag is surprised to arrive at his home during a routine firecall and learns that Mildred called in an alarm on him. Beatty then instructs Montag to use a flamethrower to burn his own house, which is a more tedious, personal experience for Montag. Beatty wants Montag to physically and visually experience the consequences of his actions and knows he will enjoy burning his home. Beatty subscribes to the ideology that burning one's problems is good, and fire is the ultimate antiseptic to cleanse a flawed, unpredictable world.

Although Montag is concerned about his desperate situation, he takes pleasure in burning his home. Bradbury writes that Montag wanted to "change everything" and experienced a sense of relief and satisfaction torching the parlour walls, cosmetics chest, and other pieces of furniture. Wielding the flamethrower gives Montag a feeling of control as he destroys the remnants of his former life. As the flames consume the household objects, Montag frees himself from the depressing memories of an unhappy marriage and unfulfilling lifestyle. Burning his home is a cathartic experience for Montag, who desires to completely erase his past. Bradbury describes Montag's feelings by saying,

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.

Montag does not experience any remorse or guilt while burning his home, because his house possesses nothing but empty, regretful memories. Other than his book collection, Montag is not sentimentally attached to anything in his home and takes pleasure in destroying everything. He feels spiritually cleansed and renewed while torching his home and becomes quite numb when he finishes.

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At the beginning of Part Three, Beatty tells Montag to burn down his house with a flamethrower. Initially, Faber (listening in on the conversation) asks Montag if he can run away, but Montag knows he cannot escape because the Hound is somewhere in the vicinity.

Despite some initial reluctance, Montag has no choice but to go inside with the flamethrower, and his reaction to this task is surprisingly positive, as we see in the text:

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.

Setting fire to his possessions is, perhaps, cathartic for Montag. As he watches his home burn, he is released from the burden of living a double life in which he had to balance his duties as a fireman with his increasing desire to bring censorship in his society to an end. Thanks to the fire, he no longer has to worry about hiding his books, nor does he have to listen to the constant noise of the parlor walls. His marriage, too, is over, since Mildred has already left.

Burning his home gives Montag a second chance. He can now put his plans with Faber into action. But, in order to take that chance, he must first evade Beatty and the Hound.

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When forced to burn his own house by Chief Beatty, Montag feels conflicting emotions. He is sorry to burn the books, sorry to burn his house itself in some ways because it still has happy memories for him. He is also filled with rage about being turned in by Mildred and filled with angry joy at being able to destroy the parlour television screens, which he hates so much.

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!
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

He returns, in a way, to the joy he took in burning at the beginning of the book, but does not have the visceral reaction he had to burning books themselves; instead, he feels the need to destroy everything, since everything -- not just television, not just books -- is part of the problem. The burning is liberating because everything that ties him to the city is destroyed; it is emotionally trying because he feels a connection to the books; it is joyous because he is finally able to escape convention and conformity and do something wrong in public, without condemnation.

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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. 

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This of course happens in the third section of this great dystopian novel, when Montag is confronted with his crimes of book reading by Beatty and, as punishment, is made to burn his own house. What is interesting about this however is the apparent joy in which Montag does this. When he starts burning, the old attraction to fire rises within him once again. Note how this scene is described in the text:

He burnt the bedroom walls and the cosmetics chest because he watned 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 forgethim 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.

The way in which fire is described as a force that purifies and cleanses is thus immensely attractive to Montag. Having identified the emptiness and barren nature of his own life, to finally symbolically burn it represents an ending of that life and its meaninglesness. In addition, burning seems to allow him to "put away" the various doubts and troubles that have been plaguing him. Montag thus responds very positively to burning up his house. Perhaps we can relate this to somebody whose secret is finally out and the relief that they often experience.

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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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Although Montag is very emotionally detached at this point , even though his wife has called the authorities on him, he is actually relieved to see the house burn.

He does not feel bad to see his house burn, in fact the burning of the house frees him of the last connection to his old life.  He is done with his wife, his old life was very unsatisfying. 

He leaves his old life in the ashes of the burned house. 

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