Free Study Guide: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury|
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FREE STUDY GUIDE FOR FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY
Montag is one of multitude of firemen who are responsible for property destruction; in the book, he becomes a sort of everyman who unthinkingly does his duty and has even learned to find macabre pleasure in his powers of destruction. He has worked at his same job for ten years, never questioning the evil of what he does. Significantly, his helmet is number 451; this number assumes symbolic importance in the novel since it is also the temperature at which most paper burns.
Montag’s life is changed by his new next-door neighbor, a seventeen-year old girl named Clarisse McClellan. One night on the way home from work, he chances to run into her and they walk on together. He is amazed at her free spirit and her questioning of governmental authority. Clarisse has no qualms about expressing her opinions, even when they are radical and revolutionary. She talks about the feel of the green grass underfoot and the smell of the pink flowers, things that Montag has never noticed. It is obvious to him that she is a free thinker and an individual. From their first encounter, she fully challenges Montag. She asks him the simple question, “Are you happy?” These three words set off a volley of doubts and queries in Montag’s mind.
In the past, Montag has always been content with his job and his life;
but Clarisse’s question makes him realize that he has never been happy
like she seems to be. As a result, this young teenager becomes the catalyst
for Montag’s self-realization. From this point forward in the novel, he
will question his purpose and involvement in life.
Montag enters his house with Clarisse’s question hanging in the air about him; he simply cannot get it off his mind or stop thinking about the answer. He realizes with a sense of growing defeat that he indeed is not happy. To add to his misery, he hears the warplanes overhead and thinks about the political situation; war seems inevitable and imminent.
Before entering the bedroom, Montag imagines Mildred, his wife, lying on the bed like a cold statue with thimble-sized radios clamped on her ears. Every night, she listens to music and falls into a deep sleep. Once inside the room, he sees that Mildred is already asleep with the aid of her sleeping pills and her music. Montag thinks about how distant he and she are from one another. As he turns toward his own bed, he nearly trips on an object in the floor. Using his igniter, he sees that it is an empty crystal bottle that had earlier held sleeping tablets. It is obvious that Millie has overdosed. Montag feels for the telephone and calls the emergency hospital. At once, orderlies come to his house with stomach pumps; they clean out her stomach and transfuse fresh blood into her bloodstream.
Montag sits beside his wife, watching the new blood take effect. He
suddenly hears laughter from Clarisse’s house and goes outside to eavesdrop.
He hears a voice, probably that of her uncle; he is talking about the
past when men used one another without any qualms. Montag returns home
and tries to sleep; but his mind is buzzing with thoughts of Mildred,
Clarisse, her uncle, the sleeping tablets, and fire. He finally takes
a sleeping tablet himself and slides into a deep slumber.
This section has Montag coming face to face with his own empty world. First Clarisse upsets him with her fresh opinions, unconventional thoughts, and probing question, all of which make him face his own dull conventionality and dissatisfaction. Entering his dark home, he sees his distant wife, who is in a deep sleep, thanks to her sleeping pills. When he realizes that she has overdosed, he feels himself being torn apart. Adding to his misery is the awful sound of two jet bombers flying overhead, reminding him that war is imminent.
Montag calls the emergency hospital for help. Emergency technicians quickly
invade his house to save Mildred; they show no courtesy or concern, but
immediately go to work. It is a frightening scene; the machines that pump
Mildred’s stomach are enormous. One with a huge tube looks like a “black
cobra;” as it crawls inside Mildred, its “eye” seems capable of gazing
into her soul. After reviving their patient, the two orderlies deliver
the terrifying news that overdoses are very common in this futuristic
society; they are always on call to handle such situations. The sense
of foreboding in the scene is overwhelming.
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. 02 June 2008