Fahrenheit 451

by: Ray Bradbury

Five Key Questions

3) Why does Montag want to read books?

Montag wants to read books because he believes they might help him understand what’s wrong with society. Following his initial encounter with the free-spirited Clarisse, Montag begins paying attention to his own emotional state and realizes that he is, in fact, quite unhappy. He spends the first third of the novel reflecting on the aspects of his social and personal life that contribute to his unhappiness, and he grows curious about books. When Mildred asks him why anyone would want to read or discuss books, Montag replies passionately, pointing to a number of troubling recent events: Mildred’s sleeping pill overdose, the accident that killed Clarisse, the suicide of the woman who refused to part with her books, and the ongoing threat of nuclear war. All of these events contribute to Montag’s overwhelming sense of unhappiness, and, as he proposes to Mildred, reading may help alleviate the pain by offering knowledge and understanding: “Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave.”