What does Guy Montag learn in Fahrenheit 451?

Guy Montag learns in Fahrenheit 451 that his society is wrong to ban books and discourage thinking. He learns that a life of superficial entertainment meant to keep people "happy" is deeply unsatisfying. He learns that society survives by widely transmitting the best of its wisdom and knowledge to the next generation.

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Guy Montag learns many things through the plot developments in Fahrenheit 451, so let's take a stab at some of the major ones:

Guy learns that he is not, in fact, happy. When he talks to Clarisse, she lights a fire within him of imagination and of thoughts he...

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Guy Montag learns many things through the plot developments in Fahrenheit 451, so let's take a stab at some of the major ones:

Guy learns that he is not, in fact, happy. When he talks to Clarisse, she lights a fire within him of imagination and of thoughts he hasn't really considered before. She loves to walk in the rain. She notices that people in their society don't really say much of anything of substance in their conversations. She collects butterflies and watches birds. Guy is fascinated with the way she thinks—until she disappears. But this fire that Clarisse has ignited makes Guy begin to notice other things, like the way his wife only really engages with "the family" and doesn't talk to him about things of substance. He begins to reconsider everything he's understood about being a fireman. He begins to question why they should be so afraid of people who have books in their homes and even tells himself that "maybe it would be best if the firemen themselves were burnt." Once this door of thought opens, there is no going back to the way he lived before.

Guy learns that giving people the power of free-thinking through books and history is not inherently evil. As Faber explains to him, books have the ability to withstand being examined. They contain substance and quality. In their world, "flowers are trying to live on flowers" and people feed on "flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality." In a world where things are always convenient and easy, people have lost the ability to consider the abstract and the difficult, and those are part of a meaningful life experience as well.

Guy learns that most of his closest relationships only exist if he doesn't try to think for himself. When he desperately needs his wife to understand why literature is so important, Millie turns him in to the authorities. When he crosses Beatty, the firemen come and torch his books and his house. Everyone in his closest circle of relationships adheres to the law of the land strictly, and when he begins to break from those thoughts himself, they seek to destroy him.

Eventually, Guy also learns that there are others who have discovered the truth, and this frees him to live a fulfilling life.

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Montag learns a number of lessons throughout Fahrenheit 451. Most striking, perhaps, is the lesson that appearances can be deceptive. For Montag, this lesson becomes apparent from the beginning of the novel, when he realizes his wife, Mildred, is desperately unhappy (as shown by her overdose attempt) and that their marriage is wholly superficial.

This lesson is further reinforced by Montag's relationship with Clarisse McClellan. On the surface, Clarisse is a social outsider; she is kept under surveillance by the authorities and is regarded with suspicion for her free-thinking and non-conformity. Through his conversations with Clarisse, Montag realizes she represents freedom and true happiness and that censorship and book-burning are the real social evils. This realization prompts Montag to rethink the direction of his life and take the first step on the path to rebellion. 

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Guy Montag begins the novel complacent and unquestioning about his life and society. He loves being a fireman. Not only does he love burning things, he has a sense of self-worth that comes from having a high-status job.

However, a series of events calls this complacency into question. First, he meets Clarisse, a teenage girl who asks him probing and unsettling questions. He feels really "seen" by her, and for the first time in years, he feels he is having a real conversation with somebody genuinely interested in his thoughts. Clarisse's countercultural talk of being close to nature, taking walks, and having conversations with her family rather than watching TV startles him. He begins to learn that he is far less satisfied and happy than he had thought.

When he comes home to find that Mildred has tried to commit suicide by taking pills, he begins to further question the kind of meaningless life they have both been living. This is yet another incident that quenches his firefighting enthusiasm.

Not long after, when he encounters a woman who would rather die than live without her illegal books, which the firemen are burning all around her, Montag begins to become interested in the content of books.

Montag learns over the course of the novel that his society, which has rejected books and deep thinking, is seriously flawed. He learns that living superficially by merely being "entertained" in front of a television is a half life filled with boredom and dissatisfaction. He learns as well that books, by conveying the best ideas from one generation to the next, have a central value in society and should not be banned.

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