Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
“It was a pleasure to burn.”
Montag is a fireman. He enjoys being a fireman. Everything is hunky dory. We hope something happens soon – like a conflict.
Clarisse McClellan shows up; Mildred tries to kill herself. Oh, and there’s that Mechanical Hound threat, too.
As soon as Clarisse starts asking the tough questions (“Why did you become a fireman?” “Are you happy?”), Montag starts to doubt himself. We see the beginnings of his identity crisis (he feels himself divided in two) and it’s clear that this girl awoke some latent dissatisfaction in our hero. Mildred’s near-death and the nonchalance of the rescue team indicate that he is not the only Guy (Get it? “Guy”?) with problems; this is a deeply flawed society.
Faber comes into the mix; Montag reads Dover Beach aloud. (Good poetry; bad decision.)
As Montag becomes more and more the renegade figure, he seeks out accomplices. Mildred, being vapid and television-obsessed, doesn’t work out. That’s where Faber comes in. When Guy puts the two-way radio in his ear, he adds another layer to the identity crisis introduced in the Conflict stage. When he reads the poem out loud, his private rebellion becomes public, which can only spell trouble in this rigidly policed society.
This is the climax of so many different threads: Mildred’s growing fear of her husband’s renegade activities boils over and she turns him in. Beatty’s suspicions of his underling surface. Montag faces his own guilt and his nemesis (Beatty). The Mechanical Hound finally shows up (and ends up in cinders). It’s a big flaming climax. Literally.
The chase scene
Yep, this is classic suspense, complete with almost getting run over by a car – twice. There’s also pursuit by a maniacal Mechanical Hound, a televised helicopter search, and, of course, whiskey.
Some poor scapegoat is killed by the Mechanical Hound, and Granger explains how intellectual rebellion really works.
In all fairness, this is probably a climax for the poor schmuck who gets killed. Or maybe even his conclusion. But for Montag, it’s the “Relax, everything’s over” moment. When Granger tells Guy how it is, it’s that classic explanatory piece that always indicates the denouement stage.
The tree of life
The conclusion to Fahrenheit 451 is surprisingly optimistic, considering the city was just bombed and mostly everyone is dead. Montag thinks not of the past, but only of the future, of the people he can help and of the new life he can build with the knowledge he has gained.