Characters make up the main story of a literary piece. They convey the author’s ideas, beliefs, and relationships of the world as well as of the human beings around them. Major characters in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury are interesting as well as deeply disturbing despite the futuristic setting. Some of the major characters in Fahrenheit 451 have been discussed below.
Characters in Fahrenheit 451
Guy Montag, the protagonist of the novel, Fahrenheit 451. He is a firefighter by profession. At the beginning of the story, he sets the houses on fire and burns the books as per the protocols. He is shown satisfied and seeks pleasure from his duty. As soon as he meets a secret book lover such as Clarisse McClellan, he starts to conflict with his role in the destruction of books. Eventually, he begins to read and hide books. He is forced to destroy his own house. To save Faber, he kills Captain Beatty. He is also on the run from the mechanical Hound. He is positively impacted by Faber, developing his mental capacity and accepts that books are beneficial for society. Clarisse and Faber assist him in understanding life. This transformation in his character makes him save the world of books.
Called lovingly as Millie, Mildred Montag is Guy Montag’s wife. She is cold and ignorant. She likes to watch family programs and listening “ear-thimbles.” Her constant entertainment and passive enjoyment turn her against her husband. She tries to commit suicide, grows further distant. However, during this accident, the conversation of the plumber shows that society is forcing such women to take pills for the burden of living in such a suppressing regime. In order to stay alive, she must immerse herself in the world of entertainment. She informs the authorities about Montag’s secret books.
Beatty is another major character of the novel, Fahrenheit 451. As the captain of the firefighters, he ensures that protocols of duty are followed duly. Ironically, he seems educated and well-read, yet he moves to destroy books and does not brook any rebellion or violation of rules. He has good knowledge but chooses to stay ignorant. Although he was once a rebel who defied authorities, he sees that knowledge made people timid and skeptic. That is why he works with passion and hates books that have failed him. Being an antagonist, he soon faces his fate at the hands of his subordinate, Guy Montag, who burns him to protect Faber and hide their location.
Clarisse plays a major role in Guy Montag’s change. As his neighbor, she comes across him quite often and influences him effectively. Her youthful curiosity shows her resistance to the collective oppression of society through a ban on books. Her questions force Guy Montag to review his obligations to society and change his mind toward his job of burning the books. She seeks knowledge and uses it to make people aware of themselves as well as the environment around them. Despite her absence from the later part of the story, her influence is prominent on Montag.
Professor Faber is another important character who seems a fresh change in the oppressive setting of Fahrenheit 451. He loves books and stages resistance against their complete annihilation. He seems to position himself opposite to Beatty to save books, contrary to his job of destroying books at all costs. With an independent thinking and reading habit, he advises Montag to save books by joining his group. Although cautious in the beginning, he resolves to help Montag to save books and stays in constant contact with him which later saves the life of Montag. In fact, Faber is the representation of the knowledge and intellectualism that comes at the expanse of sacrifices.
Granger is a leader of the drifters and meets Montag when he is escaping the city. The mechanical Hound is after Montag when he meets him. Granger represents the people who reject the idea of keeping the society ignorant. His main task in the novel is to show how the preservation of knowledge keeps a society stable and consistent. He knows that a society has to go through such cycles, but a sound social fabric is always built on the growth and preservation of the knowledge of the previous generations.
The Old Woman appears when Montag and his colleagues are going to set her home on fire for keeping books. She represents the old civilization of knowledge and respect. She has high self-respect and love for books. While the firefighters began to burn the house, she sets herself on fire in her library. She leaves a lasting impression on Montag, who steals the Bible from her home and keeps it with him until he escapes the Hound.
Black and Stoneman
Black and Stoneman are two minor characters who represent the common workers who have independent thinking and rebellious spirit. They work with Montag and share his job of burning the books. When they come near Montag after seeing Beatty killed, Montag threatens them with dire consequences. He executes his threat when later he places a book in the house of Black to punish him.
Mrs. Bowels is Millie’s friend, who only knows how to enjoy life by watching television programs with her. Her life seems miserable, having divorced one husband and another getting killed in the accident. Her two children hate her. She represents a typical woman ignorant of time but trying to kill her own time by visiting her friends.
Uninspiring and almost unemotional, Mrs. Phelps is another minor character. She has befriended Mildred Montag to enjoy television programs with her. It seems that following the departure of her third husband to the battlefield, she has lost a sense of emotions. That is why when Montag reads a poem, she breaks down and starts crying.