One of the central themes that Ray Bradbury pursues in Fahrenheit 451 is the importance of personal responsibility, in both intellectual and moral terms. In the society in which Guy Montag works as a fireman, entertainment has replaced thinking as a major pursuit. In the first section, a series of apparently unrelated events stimulates Montag to think for himself rather than mindlessly follow those entertainments. These events are a chance meeting with Clarisse, which reminds him of a previous random encounter he had with the elderly former professor, Faber; Mildred’s brush with death; and the self-immolation of the book-loving woman. By the time of the events in section 3, Montag has committed not only to reading books, but to understand what else there is to life beyond the empty entertainments he now finds inadequate.
After Montag kills Beatty and meets with Faber, his escape effort begins in earnest. When he emerges from the river, he realizes that he must be the person who takes responsibility. The actions that will change the world for the better must begin with him. His conscience tells him that he wants to live a genuine life, not one filled with the lies that are shown on the screens.
[H]e knew why he must never burn again in his life…. The sun burnt every day,… without any help from him…. One of them had to stop burning. The sun wouldn’t, certainly. So it looked as if it had to be Montag.