At a Glance
Fahrenheit 451 key characters:
In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is initially a fireman who is tasked with burning books. However, he becomes disenchanted with the idea that books should be destroyed, flees his society, and joins a movement to preserve the content of books.
Mildred Montag is Guy Montag’s wife. She tries to distract herself from her oppressive existence but eventually attempts suicide. She fails to understand Montag’s appreciation of books and turns him in to the firemen.
Clarisse McClellan is Montag’s young and highly intelligent neighbor. Clarisse helps Montag recognize his unhappiness.
Captain Beatty is the Chief Burner and Montag’s boss. He refuses to accept Montag’s defense of books and forces Montag to burn his own house and library.
Guy Montag, a fireman in an era when that job entails burning books. Although he has enjoyed burning books for ten years, his enthusiasm wanes after he smuggles a book out of the home of an old lady whose house and book collection are burned. Convinced that books can prevent humankind from making the mistakes that lead to wars, he joins forces with Faber to arrange for the duplication of books and to eavesdrop on the firemen. After his house and books are burned, Montag kills Captain Beatty and follows the railroad tracks out of town. With the assistance of Faber, he eludes the Mechanical Hounds that pursue him and is taken in by a group of former college professors, all of whom have memorized books. Although Montag initially believes that he does not belong with these people, the destruction of the city jogs his memory, and he is able to recall part of the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation. Like the others, he plans to pass down what he has memorized to others.
Mildred Montag, Montag’s wife. Instead of thinking, as Montag and Clarisse do, she escapes from her stifling existence by driving at excessive speed or by listening to the thimble radios in her ears and watching the wall-to-wall circuit television. Out of frustration, she swallows an entire bottle of sleeping pills and has to have her blood replaced. Because she cannot understand Montag’s appreciation of literature, she turns him in to the firemen. Montag mourns her after she dies in the atomic explosion.
Clarisse McClellan, Montag’s sixteen-year-old neighbor. Psychiatrists classify her as insane because she thinks more than the average citizen does. Montag realizes that he is unhappy after he meets her, and he continues to walk her to the corner on a daily basis because, unlike his wife, she gives him her full attention. She disappears, possibly the hit-and-run victim of joy-riding teenagers.
Captain Beatty, the Chief Burner and Montag’s superior. Having dismissed Montag’s disenchantment with book burning as a phase through which all firemen pass, Beatty provides him with a history of the events that led up to the censorship and burning of all books. Although he has memorized quotations from books he has read, Beatty uses them to refute Montag’s defense of books. After forcing Montag to set fire to his own books and house, Beatty provokes Montag into incinerating him with a flamethrower.
Mrs. Phelps, a friend of Mildred. She is a childless, superficial woman who is happy because she lets her husband, who has just gone off to war, do all the worrying. Although she seems to be cold, she sobs uncontrollably while Montag reads “Dover Beach.”
Mrs. Bowles, a friend of Mildred. Selfish and shallow, she has had three unhappy marriages, twelve abortions, and two Caesarean sections. Incapable of showing or feeling love, she calls Montag’s poetry “mush” and turns him in to the firemen.
Granger, the leader of a group of former college professors with photographic memories. The author of a book dealing with the relationship between the individual and society, he has inherited his grandfather’s disdain for...
(The entire section is 2,834 words.)