In the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury the protagonist of the novel Montag, represents a symbolic character throughout the novel. The catalyst of the novel Clarisse jolts Montag into awareness. Both of these characters in the novel represent certain types of people. Montag represents the people that are destructive in society but as the novel progresses he changes to an understanding person. Clarisse represents the inquisitive people and does not change throughout the novel. She does however; influence Montag, which leads to his change in the novel. Clarisse is unafraid to express her ideas and challenges Montag by asking him why he is a fireman, burning books. As a result of her questioning throughout the novel, Montag begins to examine the ethics of his job and the meaning of his life; he realizes that he truly needs a change.
Montag’s faith in his profession and his society begins to decline almost immediately after the novel’s opening passage. Faced with the enormity and complexity of books for the first time, Montag is often confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. “While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning. Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame” (3-4). At times Montag is not even aware of why he does things, feeling that his hands are acting by themselves. The destructive type of person that Montag represents in the beginning of the novel changes drastically as the novel progresses. Clarisse compels Montag forward in his journey of self-realization by questioning his job. “Are you happy? She said. Happy! Of all the nonsense. He stopped laughing. Of course I’m happy. What does she think? I’m not? he asked the quiet rooms” (10). A simple question Clarisse addresses to Montag stirs his mind and will ultimately lead him to examine the ethics of his job and modify his life in order to become an understanding person.
Clarisse McClellan is the