Why did Montag steal a book in the old lady’s attic?

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In Part One, Montag participates in a seemingly routine call, which turns out to be traumatic, dangerous, and inspiring. When Montag and the other firemen arrive at an older woman's home, she is still present and begins vehemently criticizing the men as they proceed to burn her house and book...

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In Part One, Montag participates in a seemingly routine call, which turns out to be traumatic, dangerous, and inspiring. When Montag and the other firemen arrive at an older woman's home, she is still present and begins vehemently criticizing the men as they proceed to burn her house and book collection. At this point in the story, Montag has already met Clarisse McClellan and begun to closely examine his life. He has already started to become jaded with his occupation as a fireman and is experiencing second thoughts about continuing to burn literature for a living. As the older woman shouts at the men, Montag begins to experience "immense irritation."

When Montag discovers the woman's library, numerous books fall onto his shoulders and he happens to read a brief sentence from a book written by Alexander Smith that says, "Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine." After dropping the book, another novel falls into his hands and he instinctively grabs it and holds it to his chest. Bradbury writes,

Montag had done nothing. His hand had done it all, his hand, with a brain of its own, with a conscience and a curiosity in each trembling finger, had turned thief ... Now, it plunged the book back under his arm, pressed it tight to sweating armpit, rushed out empty, with a magician's flourish! (35)

Montag's overwhelming curiosity towards literature and his jaded feelings about his destructive occupation motivate him to steal the book during the fire call. It is important to note that this is not the first book Montag has ever stolen during a fire call but reveals his growing dissent towards his oppressive, censored society, which lacks compassion, meaning, and joy.

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