TRT 2012

Fahrenheit 451


Questions for thought & discussion

  • Guy Montag is the protagonist and fireman who presents the dystopia through the eyes of a worker loyal to it, a man in conflict about it, and one resolved to be free of it.
  • Clarisse McClellan is a young woman who walks with Montag on his trips home. She is an unusual sort of person in the bookless society: outgoing, naturally cheerful, unorthodox, and intuitive. She is unpopular among peers and disliked by teachers for asking "why" instead of "how" and focusing on nature rather than on technology.
  • Mildred Montag is Guy Montag's wife. She is absorbed in the shallow dramas played on her "parlor walls" (flat-panel televisions) and indifferent to the oppressive society around her. Despite Guy Montag's attempts to rouse her, she remains indifferent to her husband and his newly found ideals and eventually turns him in for book ownership.
  • Captain Beatty is Montag's boss and the fire chief.
  • Faber is a former English professor who has spent years regretting that he did not defend books when he saw the moves to ban them.

  1. Montag comes to learn that "firemen are rarely necessary" because "the public itself stopped reading of its own accord." Bradbury wrote his novel in 1953: To what extent has his prophecy come true today?
  2. Why would society make "being a pedestrian" a crime? (Clarisse tells Montag that her uncle was once arrested for this.)
  3. Clarisse describes a past that Montag has never known: one with front porches, gardens, and rocking chairs. What do these items have in common, and how might their removal have encouraged Montag's repressive society?
  4. Captain Beatty quotes history, scripture, poetry, philosophy. He is obviously a well-read man. Why hasn't he been punished? And why does he view the books he's read with such contempt?
  5. Why do you think the firemen's rulebook credited Benjamin Franklin—writer, publisher, political leader, inventor, ambassador—as being the first fireman?
  6. "Don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library," Faber tells Montag. "Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore." How good is this advice?
  7. Montag turns to books to rescue him; instead they help demolish his life- -he loses his wife, job and home; he kills a man and is forced to be a nomad. Does he gain any benefits from books? If so, what are they?
  8. Do you believe, as Montag did, that Beatty wanted to die? If so, why do you think so?
  9. Since the government is so opposed to readers, thinkers, walkers, and slow drivers, why does it allow the procession of men along the railroad tracks to exist?
  10. Once Montag becomes a violent revolutionary, why does the government purposely capture an innocent man in his place instead of tracking down the real Montag? Might the government believe that Montag is no longer a threat?
  11. Unlike Mrs. Hudson, Montag chooses not to die in his house with his books. Instead he burns them, asserting even that "it was good to burn" and that "fire was best for everything!" Are these choices and sentiments consistent with his character? Are you surprised that he fails to follow in her footsteps?
  12. Beatty justifies the new role of firemen by claiming to be "custodians of [society's] peace of mind, the focus of [the] understandable and rightful dread of being inferior." What does he mean by this, and is there any sense that he might be right?
  13. How does the destruction of books lead to more happiness and equality, according to Beatty? Does his lecture to Montag on the rights of man sound like any rhetoric still employed today?
  14. Why does Montag memorize the Old Testament's Ecclesiastes and the New Testament's Revelation? How do the final two paragraphs of the novel allude to both biblical books?
  15. Are there any circumstances where censorship might play a beneficial role in society? Are there some books that should be banned?