To what extent has Montag's prophecy come true?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Montag has just witnessed a woman choose to kill herself rather than live without her books. He also found out that Clarisse, the nice neighbor girl who asked him if he was happy, is dead for no apparent reason. These events are a rude awakening for Montag. He wants to know why he's unhappy and if books are the answer to his and society's problems. When he decides that he wants to take some time to read books, and discover what answers they might have for him, he tries to get his wife to help. Mildred doesn't understand why Montag wants to break the law and read books. In an effort to convince her to read with him, Montag says the following:

"Whether we like this or not, we're in it. I've never asked for much from you in all these years, but I ask it now. . . We've got to start somewhere here, figuring out why we're in such a mess, you and the medicine nights, and the car, and me and my work. We're heading right for the cliff, Millie. God, I don't want to go over" (66).

Montag predicts that if they don't do some research and find out what is wrong with them, they will go over a metaphorical cliff. This means that they will engage in such self-destructive behaviors that they could totally ruin their lives or even die. For example, when Montag mentions Mildred's "medicine nights," he's referring to the fact that she uses sleeping pills too much. One night she almost died because of her pills and he had to have someone come over pump her stomach. If Mildred keeps doing that, she'll die. He doesn't want them to continue on their self-destructive paths and go over that metaphorical cliff. Captain Beatty also uses the cliff as a metaphor, for, according to him, reading books can cause one to self-destruct as well: "Read a few lines and off you go over the cliff" (106).

Does Montag's prophecy for falling off the metaphorical cliff ring true? Yes. His world, in fact, is blown over the cliff of self-destruction when an atomic bomb hits. Mildred, Faber, and Captain Beatty all die as a result of war and self-destructive behaviors. Only Montag is left to witness what is left. In a way, he too fell off of the cliff because he winds up alive, but without his wife and past life to rescue. Nothing is left of their hedonistic society because people were not conscious of anything going on in the world around them. They only paid attention to their pleasure-seeking ways, so they paid the ultimate price for it.