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The crisis of identity is at the core of Fahrenheit 451—just like middle school. As Montag learns from a series of mentors and teachers, he sees his own identity melding with that of his instructors. This is also a means of scapegoating—if your identity is not entirely your own, then you are not entirely responsible for your actions.
It's a tad ironic that this occurs as Montag is learning to think for himself, but that's kind of the point. Bradbury explores the question of how to define the self throughout the story, and seems to find an answer: actions.
Questions About Identity
- How is identity crafted in Fahrenheit 451? Does the answer to this question change as the novel progresses? How does Montag come to understand it?
- When Montag recalls Mildred’s suicide attempt, he claims that that was a different Mildred, one completely remote from the woman he knows on a daily basis. Is this a legitimate way to understand his wife’s unhappiness? Or does he misconstrue the scenario?
- Montag often splits his identity – he hears Clarisse talking through him, or he’s got Faber in his ear, or he imagines his hands acting of their own accord – but which is the "real" Montag?
- Montag speaks of becoming a new person, a "Guy-plus-Faber." Does this mean he’s not thinking for himself, as he originally desired?
Chew on This
Montag assimilates first Clarisse’s and later Faber’s identity to avoid thinking for himself. It is not until he washes in the river that he assumes his own new identity.