The novel's protagonist, Guy Montag, takes pride in his work with the fire department. A third-generation fireman, Montag fits the stereotypical role, with his "black hair, black brows...fiery face, and ...blue-steel shaved but unshaved look." Montag takes great joy in his work and serves as a model of twenty-four century professionalism. Reeking of cinders and ash, he enjoys dressing in his uniform, playing the role of a symphony conductor as he directs the bass nozzle toward illegal books, and smelling the kerosene that raises the temperature to the required 451 degrees Fahrenheit-the temperature at which book paper ignites. IN his eight years of employment, Montag even joined in the firemen's bestial sport of letting small animals loose and betting on which ones the Mechanical Hound would annihilate first.
In the last two years, however, a growing discontent has grown in Montag, a "fireman turned sour" who cannot yet name the cause of his emptiness and disaffection.
He characterizes his restless mind as "full of bits and pieces," and he requires sedatives to sleep. His hands, more attuned to his inner working than his conscious mind, seem to take charge of his behavior. Daily, he returns to a loveless, meaning less marriage symbolized by his cold bedroom furnished with twin beds. Drawn to the lights and conversation of the McClellan family next door, he forces himself to remain at home, yet he watches them through the French windows.
Through his friendship with Clarisse McClellan, Montag perceives the harshness of society as opposed to the joys of nature in which he rarely partakes. When Clarisse teases him about not being in love, he experiences an epiphany and sinks into despair that characterizes most of the novel. He suffers guilt for hiding books behind the hall ventilator grille and for failing...