As others have noted, a clear set of plot points drives the action in this novel. As the story opens, Montag believes himself contented with his life. He enjoys watching things burn, which makes his career as a book-burning firefighter satisfying to him. His job is of high status, which also adds to his surface sense of wellbeing. He has the outward attributes of a successful life, such as a nice house and a wife. But a series of events lead him to reject his conventional life.
Meeting the ethereal teenaged girl Clarisse becomes the first precipitating event that causes him to start questioning how happy he really is.
A second event, close on its heels, is his coming home to find out that Mildred has attempted suicide. These two events, so close together, upend his settled beliefs about his life.
A third event that inspires him to change is watching a woman whose books they are burning incinerate herself rather than live without books.
A fourth important turning point that symbolizes an irrevocable step into a new life is Montag's taking of a book for his own, which leads to him taking more books.
A fifth event is his encounter with Faber and their decision to sabotage and subvert society.
A sixth act is reaching out to Mildred, trying to interest her in reading. This leads to her betraying him.
Seventh, Montag kills Beatty, finishing off the repressive "father" figure and freeing himself from the bonds to his old life.
Eighth, Montag's city is destroyed in a nuclear blast, and he becomes part of the group of men committed to preserving knowledge.
- Montag meets Clarisse, a strange girl who causes Montag to question the nature of society and his role in it, his values, and the effectiveness of the existing power structure.
- On the job as a "fireman," Montag and his team raid a house where a woman is keeping contraband books. Rather than suffer on the authorities' terms, the woman instead immolates with her books. This astounds Montag, who is moved to steal a book from the home.
- Montag learns of the death of Clarisse and is suspicious of the circumstances.
- With the help of a retired English professor named Faber, Montag plots to overthrow the current power structure. Beatty, Montag's chief, is suspicious of Montag's activity and tries to make him see reason without direct accusation.
- Montag, furious at the vapid nature of his wife and her friends' lives, reads them the poem "Dover Beach."
- Horrified, his wife contacts the authorities, and Montag is called as a fireman to burn down his own home.
- In a climactic confrontation with Beatty, Montag kills his boss. However, it is implied that Beatty was world-weary himself and allowed his own death.
- Montag escapes the city and lives among a fringe society of scholars who memorize books so that they may rebuild the intellectual world when the society of the book-burners inevitably collapses.
Here are eight key events from Fahrenheit 451:
- Montag meets Clarisse, his seventeen-year-old neighbour, whose way of thinking is very different to his own. She is carefree and non-conformist and more interested in tasting the rain than driving fast in her Beetle.
- At work, Montag attends a house where the lady stays to be burned with her books. Montag is amazed by her sacrifice and steals one of her books.
- After Montag doesn't see Clarisse for a few days, Mildred reveals that she has died. This has a profound effect on Montag: the next day, for example, he develops a fever and misses work.
- Beatty visits Montag at home and explains that the people, not the government, introduced book-burning.
- Montag calls on Faber, a retired English professor, and forms an "insidious plan" to bring down the fireman system.
- Montag reads "Dover Beach" to his wife and her two friends, Mrs Phelps and Mrs Bowles. The poem's message reduces Mrs Phelps to tears because it reveals her empty and shallow existence.
- Mildred reports Montag's hidden collection of books and leaves him. After her departure, Montag kills Beatty.
- After fleeing the city, Montag meets some retired professors who have memorised books for future generations. Together, they watch the destruction of the city and prepare for its rebuilding.
1) Clarisse, Montag's 17 year old neighbor, asks him if he is happy. This leads him to question himself and his life and his state of mind.
2) This is quickly followed by the discovery of Mildred, who has overdosed on sleeping pills. This reinforces Montag's new suspicion that no one in his world is actually happy.
3) The elderly lady burns herself in the pile of books Montag and his fellow firemen have been sent to destroy. Montag is so affected he spares one book to take home with him.
4) Montag goes to see Faber who helps to strengthen Montag's new belief about the importance of books and agrees to help sabotage the work of the firemen.
5) Captain Beatty, who knows of Montag's rebellious ideas, brings Montag to his own house and manages to bait him into burning it down.
6) Montag mistakenly kills Beatty, then turns the flames on the Mechanical Hound. He takes off, a fugitive.
7) Faber takes off for St. Louis and Montag takes off to the forest to keep himself from being arrested.
8) Montag meets the "book covers", a group of rebels who have each memorized an entire book for safe keeping. He turns back towards the city with them, caught up in their belief that civilization needs them.
The first major event in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is Guy Montag’s chance encounter with the teenage girl Clarisse, with whom he becomes friends. When he notices later that she is not around, he assumes that she has been killed. A second event is Mildred’s near death from an accidental drug overdose, which requires the paramedics to revive her. Third, an elderly woman refuses to leave her house when the firemen arrive, and she dies by suicide when they burn down her house. This event greatly disturbs Montag and catalyzes his subsequent decisions.
A fourth major event occurs when Captain Beatty arrives at Montag’s house when he fails to report to work. After he lectures Montag about doubts and duty, a fifth major event occurs: Montag confesses to his horrified wife that he has been collecting and hiding books.
The sixth and seventh events involve Montag’s plan to disrupt the system. He meets with Professor Faber, who agrees to help him. Back at his own house, Montag burns up Captain Beatty with the fire hose after realizing that he has been turned in for owning books.
Faced with no choice but to run, Montag successfully evades the Hound. Meanwhile, war destroys the city. An eighth important event is his meeting and banding together with the other book people. His book identity will be Ecclesiastes.