Fahrenheit 451

by: Ray Bradbury

What Does the Ending Mean?

Summary What Does the Ending Mean?

The novel ends with Montag escaping the city in the midst of a new declaration of war. Once he’s deep in the country, Montag meets a band of roving intellectuals who have elected to preserve significant works of literature in their memory. Soon after these men welcome Montag into their community, an atomic bomb falls on the city, reducing it to rubble and ash. The next morning Montag leads the men on foot back toward the city. On a thematic level, the novel’s conclusion functions to bring the prevalent violence to its logical conclusion. Violence infiltrates nearly every aspect of the world Bradbury depicts in Fahrenheit 451. The firemen violently destroy people’s property and lives. Television programs present gruesome violence for viewers’ entertainment. Pedestrians regularly get mowed down by speeding vehicles. Now, a war takes these forms of violence to a new extreme, destroying society and its infrastructure altogether. The novel’s ending depicts the inevitable self-destruction of such an oppressive society.

Yet the ending also offers a specter of hope. Now that he’s in the country, Montag has the leisure to think for himself for the first time in his life. He remembers the lines of Ecclesiastes because he doesn’t have to contend with loud advertisements or “families” on television screaming in his ears. Furthermore, despite having believed that he and Faber were the only citizens committed to resisting the firemen, Montag now finds an entire community of rebels already exists. Indeed, this community has formed a wide network of like-minded individuals, all of whom dedicate themselves to preserving the knowledge contained in books. In addition to belonging to this new community, Montag will help lead the charge to rebuild his old community, the one that has just so violently annihilated itself. Though the novel’s ending certainly isn’t utopian, it does propose a sliver of hope for a more thoughtful and just future, one that can rise like a phoenix from the literal ashes, as Granger suggests.