Fahrenheit 451 Characters
The main characters in Fahrenheit 451 are Guy Montag, Mildred Montag, Clarisse McClellan, and Captain Beatty.
- Guy Montag is a fireman who is tasked with burning books. He becomes disillusioned with his society and with the idea that books should be destroyed.
- Mildred Montag is Guy Montag’s wife. She tries to distract herself from her oppressive existence and eventually reports Montag to the authorities.
- 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 forces Montag to burn down his own house and goads Montag into killing him.
Last Reviewed on March 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1019
Guy Montag—simply referred to as "Montag" throughout the bulk of the narrative—is the protagonist of Fahrenheit 451. The events of the novel are told from his perspective, and the plot is primarily driven by the evolution of his personal choices as he navigates the rigid, dystopian world around him.
At the beginning of the story, Montag is a third-generation fireman. He spends his workday burning books—all of which are illegal contraband—for the fire department. He is obedient to the fire captain and content in his work, and he never stops to wonder why things are the way they are. When he meets a new neighbor, seventeen-year-old Clarisse McLellan, on his way home from the fire station one night, she challenges his traditional thinking, and Montag's view of the world begins to shift. Clarisse is different than anybody he's met before—she is thoughtful and inquisitive, and she encourages Montag to ask questions about the world around him. Her perspective leaves an impression on him, and he slowly begins to question the established rules of society in ways he never has before.
As their friendship develops, Montag's sense of the world around him changes. The system that used to seem efficient and tidy begins, instead, to feel authoritarian and oppressive. As he becomes more and more disillusioned with the social order of his environment, his outward behavior begins to change, too: he begins hoarding books in secret, acting strangely around others, and actively seeking out the friendship and guidance of those who live in contravention to established norms. These choices ultimately upturn life as he knows it. By the book's close, Montag's perspective on life has shifted dramatically, and he is living outside of society entirely.
Mildred Montag, aged thirty, is Guy Montag's wife. In contrast to Guy's burgeoning discontentment, Mildred is a model citizen according to the norms of their society. Her life revolves around watching the "parlor walls"—large wall-sized screens that show immersive video programming all day. Mildred considers the people onscreen to be her "family," and her time with them is valuable to her. She has little interest in anything else and would prefer to stay busy and occupied with the parlor walls than to think about anything unpleasant or challenging. As Guy experiences his personal awakening, this change creates conflict and distance between himself and Mildred. He begins to express frustration, curiosity, and even anger, and she prefers to avoid all three. When he begins hoarding books at home, Mildred ultimately turns Montag in to the authorities.
In an early scene, prior to the advent of the tension between Guy and Mildred, Mildred attempts to take her own life by swallowing an excess of sleeping pills. This would suggest that life as a "model citizen" in the world of the novel is not as ideal as society would have the characters believe and that Mildred herself is masking a great deal of dissatisfaction behind her idealized front.
Clarisse McLellan is a seventeen-year-old student who, at the beginning of the novel, has just moved in next door to the Montags. On his way home from his shift at the fire station one night, Montag meets Clarisse, and they strike up a friendship.
Clarisse is, by the standards of their society, an eccentric—instead of watching the parlor walls and participating in structured school activities, she prefers walking and hiking. She collects butterflies, goes birdwatching, and asks questions of anybody who will answer them. She is bright, thoughtful, critical, and inquisitive, and Montag has never met anybody else who encourages free thinking in this way. He is deeply affected by her open-mindedness and nonconformity, and as their friendship develops, her influence on him grows.
When she disappears without saying goodbye one day, Mildred tells Montag that she heard Clarisse was hit by a car and killed.
Beatty is Montag's fire captain at the station. He is traditional, authoritative, and long-winded.
When he suspects Montag has secretly taken a book home after a burning, Beatty stops by his house to deliver a thinly veiled warning. After a long lecture on how firemen came to be, he tells Montag that it's perfectly normal for a fireman to become curious about books at some point in his career. But if he does, Beatty cautions, that fireman had better see to it that any book he might have taken is returned and destroyed immediately.
When Mildred calls the authorities on Montag's secret books, Beatty makes Montag burn the house down himself with a flamethrower. In his most dramatic act of rebellion, Montag shoots the flamethrower at Beatty, killing him. Later, Montag realizes that Beatty had wanted to burn.
Faber is a retired English professor whom Montag meets one night in a park. He recites a poem to Montag—a rare and courageous act in a world that forbids literature. When Montag finds himself in possession of a book, he calls Faber for guidance.
Faber is worldly and wise and tells Montag in sorrowful detail about what is lost in a world without books. As they bond, they develop a plan to subvert and destroy the fire department by printing new books and planting them in firemen's homes. Faber is an inventor, and he gives Montag a transmitter he built that resembles the earpieces—called "seashells"—that people use to stay connected to the parlor walls and the radio. As Montag negotiates his unexpected new reality, Faber becomes his only confidant.
When Montag flees the city at the end of the novel, Faber tells him where to find other professors and academics living outside society. With the help of his directions, Montag is able to reach safety in the woods.
When Montag flees to the woods and finds a group of intellectuals living in secrecy, Granger is the one who welcomes him into the group.
Around their campfire, he explains to Montag that each of those living among them has committed at least one book to memory, and they will pass the stories down through the generations until it's safe to write them down again.
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