Catalysts in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Saint Theresa Catholic Secondary School
In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, there are three characters who act as catalysts in Montag’s life. A catalyst is person or thing that precipitates an event or change (Google). Clarisse initiates the earliest changes in Montag’s character as she subtly forces him to develop his self-awareness. With this self-awareness, Montag is inspired and encouraged by Professor Faber to change his views and habits. Completing Montag’s change in character is Granger, whose wise and uplifting words offer Montag a new perspective on the future. These three individuals are catalysts in Montag’s life as their actions lead to major development of his character.
Clarisse McLellan is a young girl in Montag’s neighborhood who inspires deeper thought in the firefighter, thus initiating a transformation of his character. Previous to meeting Clarisse, Montag is a close-minded man who is content with living his life to model the rest of society; without thinking, and without questioning. When he meets Clarisse, this way of life is challenged as she provokes Montag to think about himself, and reflect on his life. She asks him, “Are you happy?”(Bradbury10) and Montag is forced to ask himself questions that had never crossed his mind before. He considers his relationship with his wife, Mildred, and examines her life as well. Montag becomes aware of the fact that Mildred has grown very distant from him, and that he has no real connection with his wife. He witnesses Mildred overdose on sleep medication, and instead of brushing it off as he might have done before, Montag is troubled by the experience. Montag becomes afraid of the mechanical hound at his work, wary of the fact that it might know of the questioning going on in his head. Because Montag’s mind has been activated by Clarisse, he begins to struggle with the many things that are not right in his life. He concludes that he wore his happiness like a mask, and that Clarisse had run off with that mask. Clarisse is the catalyst that inspires this awareness, and compels Montag forward in his journey of self-realization.
As Montag begins to think about his life and society, Professor Faber behaves as a catalyst, encouraging Montag to turn his thoughts into actions. Before becoming associated with Faber, Montag does nothing more than think these deeper thoughts inspired by Clarisse. He has neither the knowledge nor the means to act on his reflections, or change the things that he discovers are amiss in his life. However, this idle behaviour changes as Faber provides Montag with information, and ideas. Faber inspires Montag saying, “ Now, if you suggest that we print extra books in firemen’s houses all over the country, so that seeds of suspicion would be sown among these arsonists, bravo, I’d say”(Bradbury 85). Montag immediately welcomes this idea, and works with Faber to devise a strategy to put the plan into action. With newly acquired knowledge and inspiration from Faber, Montag slowly becomes a rebel, expanding and acting on Faber’s plan to frame the firemen. He is driven to steal books, kill the fire chief, and phone in an alarm after planting a book in Fireman Black’s. Montag changes from a thoughtful yet law-abiding man to an active and creative rebel due to Faber’s influence.
As a result of his rebellion, Montag meets Granger who is responsible for some of the final alterations in Montag’s character. At the time that he encounters Granger, Montag’s thoughts are jumbled as he struggles to make conclusions about books, knowledge and society. Granger offers clarity for Montag, providing him with explanations, and a purpose in his new life. He explains, “We’ll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people” (Bradbury 153). This idea elucidates things for Montag, giving him a way to deal with everything going on in his head. Instead of blindly burning, running, and acting recklessly out of desperation and confusion, Montag finally has a purpose for the future. He is able to put together all of his knowledge and experience with books and society to pass on information to new generations, and work for a strong society. Granger sparks this change in Montag as he provides Montag with hope, knowledge, and a plan.
In Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse McLellan, Professor Faber, and Granger all act as catalysts in Montag’s life. Clarisse triggers some of the first fluctuations in Montag’s character, as she leads him to think about his life, and society. Following these stirrings of self-examination, Montag is inspired and enabled by Faber to act on his thoughts. As a result of the actions inspired by Faber, Montag meets Granger who compels Montag to transform even further, giving him a purpose for the future. These three catalysts contribute to Montag’s character development, and each play an important role in his great transformation throughout the novel.
Bradbury, Ray. Farenheit 451. New York: Ballantine, 1953. Print.
Cited: Bradbury, Ray. Farenheit 451. New York: Ballantine, 1953. Print.