In the old lady's attic, Montag does the unthinkable: he steals a book. In Montag's world, books are outlawed and burned. It is Montag's job to burn the books. This makes his actions even more surprising. He goes against the job that he has been given, and against the job that he enjoys doing. This act of rebellion happens almost against his will, indicating that he is torn between his responsibilities to his community and his new feelings. Throughout the rest of the book, Montag continues to struggle with this inner conflict. This clearly illustrates the literary conflict of man vs. self. Montag feels himself pulled in opposing directions throughout the book, fueled as well by fear of reproach by his community.
Towards the beginning of the novel, Montag and the firefighters receive a call to burn an old woman's library which is located in her attic. When Montag breaks through the attic door, a fountain of books immediately crashes down on him. As Montag is lighting the books on fire, he reads a line from one of the pages that says "Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine" (Bradbury 34). Montag then does the unthinkable by stealing one of the books in the attic. Montag steals the book by instinct and curses his hand for grabbing the novel. The firefighters then light the rest of the books on fire, and the old woman chooses to die with her novels. After witnessing the woman commit suicide, Montag begins to wonder what is inside books that is so special and powerful. The reader learns that this was not the first book that Montag had stolen, and he begins his search to find meaning to life through reading and analyzing literature.