Guy Montag heads home after work and bumps into Clarisse McClellan, who introduces herself and her “crazy” approach to life.
Montag is at a loss when asked whether or not he’s happy; Clarisse leaves before he can decide.
Back at home, Montag can’t stop thinking about Clarisse. Then he discovers his wife has taken thirty or so sleeping pills.
He calls in the emergency and is dismayed that the men sent are more like plumbers than doctors. Once they’re gone, he takes a sleep lozenge and dozes off.
The next morning, Montag is shocked to find that his wife remembers nothing from the night before.
He walks outside and encounters Clarisse, who encourages him to taste the rain and informs him that, according to her dandelion, he is not in love.
Montag suffers an identity crisis, feeling that his body has divided in two halves.
At the firehouse, the Mechanical Hound seems to threaten Montag. Captain Beatty tells him this is impossible.
Montag continues to meet Clarisse and learn more about her philosophy. He is intrigued by her and thinks her older and wiser than those his own age, including his wife.
Montag is left at a loss when Clarisse disappears.
While playing cards at the firehouse, Montag asks if firemen used to put out fires, as Clarisse claimed earlier. He uses the phrase “once upon a time,” which he once glimpsed in a book before he burned it.
Beatty makes him look at the rule book, which explains that firemen go way back to the earliest colonies in the U.S.
The alarm goes off and the men rush to a big house with a woman out front quoting Hugh Latimer. Inside, Montag grabs a book before the place is burned.
That night, Montag hides the book under his pillow.
He wakes up in the middle of the night and wonders how he and his wife met.
The next morning Montag is feeling ill and wants his wife to call in sick for him. She won’t. They argue; Montag doesn’t want to be a fireman anymore, and Mildred thinks this is ridiculous.
Captain Beatty comes to visit Montag. He explains that all firemen go through crises like this one. He admits that the rule book is lying and explains how and why their occupation exists.
Montag doesn’t say much. After Beatty is gone, he tries talking to Mildred about his unhappiness, but she is not receptive.
Then he goes to the ventilator grill and pulls out the collection of books that he’s hidden away. He makes Mildred read them with him.
Montag flips out and decides he needs a teacher. He remembers meeting Faber in the park one day and decides the old man will do just fine.
Montag calls Faber, but the man is reluctant to talk over the phone. Montag takes his copy of the Bible and heads over there in person.
On the subway, he tries to memorize some of the text but is distracted by an advertisement.
Once Montag is at Faber’s, the old man explains to him that books themselves aren’t important, but the information they contain is.
Together the men plot how to bring down the system. They talk about destroying the firemen structure from the inside by planting books in the firemen’s houses. Faber commits to contacting a friend of his who used to print books. He also gives Montag a two-way radio for his ear.
That night, Montag has to deal with his wife’s insipid friends. He reads them some poetry out loud, and they run away crying and angry.
That night at the firehouse, Beatty taunts Montag with contradictory quotes from literature before driving them all to the site of an alarm: Montag’s house.
Montag burns his own house.
Montag burns Beatty.
Montag burns the Mechanical Hound, but not before getting stabbed in the leg by its needle.
Montag limps, then runs like hell.
After planting a book at a fellow fireman’s house, Montag is nearly hit by a car.
At Faber’s house, he watches his own pursuit on TV and leaves for the river with Faber’s smelly old clothes to mask his personal scent from the Mechanical Hound.
At the river, Montag ditches his own gear, bathes, and puts on Faber’s clothes.
After some heavy duty floating in the river, accompanied by some equally heavy duty pondering on the nature of the universe, Montag finds a fire that is amazingly not destroying stuff. It’s actually a friendly fire.
Along with the campfire, he finds the book people, the leader of which is a guy named Granger. Granger explains to Montag who they are.
Very early in the morning, the city is destroyed by bombs. In the aftermath, Montag recalls a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes and readies himself to rebuild and create, à la the tree of life.