In the first stage, Montag, the protagonist is introduced as a fireman, who starts fires rather than puts them out. He burns books for a living. In this society, books are an abomination. When we first meet him, he is confident in his career and enjoys it maybe a little too much. "...he hung his flameproof jacket neatly; he showered luxuriously, and then, whistling, hands in pockets, walked across the upper floor of the fire station and fell down the hole." -pg. 4. He doesn't question society and rules much. He meets a young and questioning girl named Clarisse who later ends up turning his life upside down, but even then, initially, he remains the same.Montag is average to society and believes everything that everyone else believes such as books should be burned. When Clarisse asks about firemen that used to put out fires, Montag responds with, "'No. Houses have always been fireproof. Take my word for it.'" (pg. 8), showing that he believes what he's told and is unquestioning. Montag doesn't stay like this for long, though. Eventually, Clarisse will have an impact on Montag.
Montag Becomes a Student
In this stage, character changes in Montag begin, starting with Clarisse's simple question: "'Are you happy?'" - pg. 10. Montag begins to view his life and himself under a more critical eye when asked whether or not he's happy. "He felt his smile slide away, melt, fold over and down on itself... He was not happy. He was not happy. He said the words to himself." pg- 12. When Mildred, Montag's wife, overdoses early on in the stage, his true questioning attitude begins to show as he wonders whether or not it was intended, and if it was, why. As Clarisse and Montag's relationship grows, Montag's curiosity grows too. His growing curiosity mainly centers around books. "Montag gazed beyond them to a wall with the typed lists of a million forbidden books. Their names leapt in fire..." - pg. 34. One of the major turning points in the novel occurs at the end of this stage. Montag, guided by the wonders of Clarisse and his own mind, steals a book while helping to burn an old woman's home, which is a bold action. And after that, the old woman chooses to burn herself, her own home, and her own books which is an event that follows Montag into the latter stages.
After Montag steals the book, his life begins to crumble. His relationship with Mildred especially comes to a halt, as he begins to view her in a different light, a negative one. "She talked to him for what seemed like a long while and she talked about this and she talked about that and it was only words..." - pg. 41. Montag also finds out from Mildred that Clarise is most likely dead. Montag grows increasingly impatient with Mildred. Montag continues to question the practice of burning books too. "'It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around at the world and life, and then I come along in two minutes and boom! it's all over." - pg. 52 After stealing the book, he begins to feel ill as well. Beatty pays Montag a visit and explains to Montag the evils of books in his own eyes, which does not actually help Montag to think any clearer. Montag becomes bolder and even tries to get Mildred to read books with him. His actions and speech are slightly more erratic. He' nearly unpredictable at this point. "'I don't know what it is. I'm so damned unhappy. I'm so mad, and I don't know why. ... I might even start reading books." -pg. 64
Montag Finds Fulfillment
At this point, Montag feels very strongly about his beliefs and is ready to defend them. He feels that reading and protecting books could be right, insinuating that society is wrong. "'Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes.'"- pg. 74. Montag's pride and sheer hunger for truth guide him to the man he once encountered in a park, Faber. A strange man he was, but this time, Faber does not confuse Montag but intrigues him and gives him insight. "'I just want someone to hear what I have to say. ... And I want you to teach me to understand what I read.'" - pg. 82. At this point, Montag is burning with passion while burning for truth. When Faber warns Montag about getting more books, he responds with, "'That's the good part about dying; when you've nothing to lose, you run any risk you want.'" - pg. 85. Montag also had referred to himself as numb while on his way to see Faber.He befriends Faber and works with him to help achieve his goals.
This is the stage where Montag fully turns against authority. In this stage, Montag is fed up and nearly enraged by the world that's around him. He shows us his defiance by going as far as reading poetry to Mildred's friends, attempting to show them some truth. "...he was all fire, he was all coldness; ... Then he began to read in a low, stumbling voice that grew firmer as he progressed from line to line..." - pg. 99. During this stage, Beatty gradually becomes more suspicious of Montag, while Faber and Montag's relationship grows. Eventually, we reach the climax of the novel: Mildred reports Montag, and Montag is essentially forced to burn his own home and his own books. When the attention turns to Montag himself, he makes the life-altering decision to kill Beatty and flee the scene, automatically making him a wanted criminal. The chase that follows sends Montag into a new world and a matured state. During this stage, Montag is rebellious and angry. He's bold as well. When Faber asked Montag what he wanted to accomplish by reading poetry to Mildred's friends, he responded with, "'Scare hell out of them, that's what, scare the living daylights out!'" (pg. 98), revealing his rebellious and bold attitude and angry disposition. Montag is also guilty at times during this stage. "In Beatty's sight, Montag felt the guilt of his hands. His fingers were like ferrets that had done some evil and now never rested..." -pg. 105.
In the last stage of the novel, Montag endures a long chase. After Montag rebels, the entire city is searching for him, and a Mechanical Hound is chasing after him. He's headed for the river that will bring him into the countryside. Before he finally leaves, he visits Faber for the last time, and Faber shows Montag on his small television that his hunt has been turned into entertainment. He also plants books in Mr. Black's (a firefighter) home and tips off the authorities. The first half of this stage is simply filled with fear, and Montag's state is like that until he reaches the river and floats to the countryside. However, when Montag reaches the countryside and finds a group of fugitives, it's as if he reaches his matured state. He isn't quite angry nor frustrated. He is definitely relieved and quite at peace. "...for all the warm odors and sights of a complete country night would have rested and slept him while his eyes were wide and his mouth, when he went to test it, was half a smile." - pg. 143. He feels somewhat fulfilled by the nature around him. "He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough." - pg. 144. Montag is just simply more mature as a character at this point. "To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak." - pg. 165. The novel ends with the bombing of the city. Montag and his friends return to it to rebuild a new society.