Setting: The story takes place at an undisclosed time and place, but the reader is made to assume that the story is set in a future version of America that is about to be at war with an unknown enemy, shown through the constant military planes that fly overhead. Many US cities are referenced in the text and much of the technology, such as the interactive TV walls, hints at a futuristic, technologically advanced society, more advanced than the year the story was written in, 1953.
Characters: The main character in the story is a man named Montag. He works as a fireman whose job is burning books, which have been deemed illegal in this future version of society. Houses are no longer capable of catching on fire, and everyone is led to believe that burning books has always been the only job of the firemen. Other characters include a teenage girl named Clarisse, who causes Montag to begin to question the status quo, Montag's wife who is happy with the way things are, and Montag's boss Beatty, who is a well-read man who believes that books are meaningless and should remain illegal.
Conflict: The conflict occurs when Clarisse, presumably from a family that secretly rebels against society, meets Montag and begins asking him probing questions, some of which are as simple as asking him if he is happy. Her questions cause him to become introspective and reflective of the way things are in his society and in his life. He becomes unhappy with his life and the rules of his society.
Rising Action: The firemen are called to burn a huge secret library of books in the home of an elderly woman. The firemen urge the woman to get out of the house before they begin using their torches to light the fuel they have poured over her books. She refuses to leave her books behind, and before the men can begin burning the books, she lights a match and kills herself with her books surrounding her. Montag, already questioning the way things are because of Clarisse, wonders what is in books that would cause someone to die for the loss of them, so he steals a book from the house to read. Montag becomes ill, sick from witnessing the woman's death, and calls off work. His boss visits him and sympathizes with him while hinting that he knows that Montag has taken a book and that he has 24 hours to read it and turn it in to him without repercussions. Montag remembers meeting a professor once in the park. He did not turn the man in to the authorities, and the man gave him his contact information, which Montag kept. He contacts the professor and asks him to teach him about books.
Climax: Montag reads a sad poem to his wife's friends and one of them begins to cry and leaves the house. Montag's wife turns him in to the authorities for keeping books. Beatty and the other firemen come to his house to burn all the books he has stolen. Montag helps douse his own house in kerosene, and then he begins to light them on fire, but he also burns Beatty, killing him.
Falling Action: Montag flees the city to hide from the authorities. He was told by the professor about a place outside the city where like-minded people lived in hiding. He follows the railroad tracks out of town until he finds a settlement of book readers who have been watching the manhunt on the news and are expecting him. The authorities kill a random person in the street on live TV once they realize that Montag has escaped. The people in the settlement teach him how to memorize books so that in the future they might be rewritten and reprinted for future people.
Resolution: The city that Montag has just left is bombed by planes, confirming the impending war that the city was preparing for. The reader is left to question who they were at war with. The people of the settlement prepare to rebuild.