Appropriately named after a paper-manufacturing company, Montag is the protagonist of Fahrenheit 451. He is by no means a perfect hero, however. The reader can sympathize with Montag’s mission, but the steps he takes toward his goal often seem clumsy and misguided. 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, he is often confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. As a result, he has difficulty deciding what to do independently of Beatty, Mildred, or Faber. Likewise, he is often rash, inarticulate, self-obsessed, and too easily swayed. At times he is not even aware of why he does things, feeling that his hands are acting by themselves. These subconscious actions can be quite horrific, such as when he finds himself setting his supervisor on fire, but they also represent his deepest desires to rebel against the status quo and find a meaningful way to live.
In his desperate quest to define and comprehend his own life and purpose by means of books, he blunders blindly and stupidly as often as he thinks and acts lucidly. His attempts to reclaim his own humanity range from the compassionate and sensitive, as in his conversations with Clarisse, to the grotesque and irresponsible, as in his murder of Beatty and his half-baked scheme to overthrow the firemen.