What important decision does Montag make in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Montag is a fireman. It's his job to burn books and the houses of people who own them. Out of curiosity, he steals a few books to look at, but he never thinks to stop being a fireman until after two events: meeting a girl named Clarisse who challenges his state of thinking, and watching a woman burn herself to death rather than live without her books. After witnessing the woman's suicide and discovering Clarisse might be dead, Montag takes a sick day from work. Montag doesn't feel like going to work because he is conflicted by the horrible realities of the society in which he lives. The decision that he must make at this point is to return to work and act as if he never met Clarisse or witnessed the woman's suicide; or, quit his job and turn to books for answers to what he feels he is missing from his life. As he is debating on what to do, Montag says to his wife:

"It's only a step from not going to work today to not working tomorrow, to not working at the firehouse ever again. . . I haven't decided. Right now I've got an awful feeling I want to smash things and kill things" (64).

Unfortunately, the decision doesn't remain as simple as just quitting his job. As the plot builds and Montag meets with Faber about his problems, Montag and Faber come up with the idea to take on the firemen, and society's system of justice, by planting books in firemen's houses. If firemen start losing their homes because of books, then maybe it would upset the system and start a new way of thinking about society. This second decision Montag makes solidifies the first. Once Montag makes this choice to actively go against the firemen, the plan is for him to go back to work so he can secretly plant books in their houses. Therefore, the important decision that Montag makes is to go against his work and society in an effort to change things. The plan doesn't really have a chance to be played out to fruition, but the fact that he makes these choices separates him from his job, his wife, and society.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Fahrenheit 451, Montag makes many important decisions. Chief among these is his decision to start reading books. After Beatty visits him at home, Montag takes his hidden stash of books, shows them to Mildred, and then decides to start reading them. As Montag explains to his wife, he is no longer content with his life and can no longer make sense of the world:

"We're heading right for the cliff, Millie. God, I don't want to go over. This isn't going to be easy. We haven't anything to go on, but maybe we can piece it out and figure it and help each other."

Montag believes that books might contain some of the answers he is searching for and pleads with Mildred to read with him.

This decision is significant because it sets in motion a number of other key events, including his meeting with Faber and the development of his plan to bring down the fireman system.

For Montag, then, his decision to read books sets him firmly on the path of rebellion from which there is no turning back.