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Free Study Guide: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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FREE BOOK SUMMARY FOR FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY

Montag and Clarisse meet again

Summary

In the morning, Montag finds his wife’s bed empty and rushes to the kitchen door. He finds Mildred having her breakfast with her ears plugged in to music. She does not remember the previous night’s events and only claims to be terribly hungry. He tells her of the ordeal, but she refuses to talk about it.

Montag goes outside, where he meets Clarisse. She has a dandelion flower in her hand that she rubs under his chin. She tells him that if the flower leaves yellow powder, it means he is in love. When nothing is left under Montag’s chin, he feels angry and defiant. Clarisse thinks that Montag is different from other men, for he does not laugh at her. She thinks it is strange that he is a fireman. She asks Montag why and how he chose his profession.

Clarisse must leave. She has an appointment with her psychiatrist. After she is gone, Montag feels uneasy again.

Notes

When Montag wakes and finds that his wife is not in bed, he is frightened. He finds her calmly having breakfast and listening to the radio. She cannot recall the previous night and refuses to listen to her husband’s explanation. As always, she is eager to watch her television; she believes that characters on the screen are more human than anyone else, including her husband. The void between the two of them seems enormous.


In this scene, Bradbury is careful to point out the futuristic technology that seems to deprive humans of a purpose. For example, the toaster in Montag’s house pops up the toast and places it on the plate. The wall-to-wall television is interactive, so that the viewer can become part of the show. Mildred spends her life in front of the television; in fact, she has three walls of her parlor covered by giant screens. Like most of society, she has no purpose and is content to be entertained.

Clarisse stands out as a strong contrast to Mildred. She seems lively and unconventional in this dull, futuristic society, for she believes in old time values and traditions. She loves to watch the rain and taste it on her lips. She takes time to notice the flowers, to watch birds, and to collect butterflies; she also spends time dreaming of fanciful things. She even dares to hold on to old-fashioned superstitions, like the one about powder from the dandelion. In this warped and twisted society in which she lives, Clarisse is regarded as unstable because of her keen interest in the small things. She sees a psychiatrist since she has been told her behavior is unpractical and extraordinary. The world Bradbury has created is based on conformity and Clarisse, with her dreamy idealism, refuses to conform.


The Mechanical Hound

Summary

The Fire Station is also the home of the Mechanical Hound, a contraption that is used to catch and destroy “criminals.” It is a powerful beast that is programmed to find a particular human scent. When the hound finds its victim, a four-inch hollow steel needle plunges down from its proboscis and injects jolts of morphine or procaine into the criminal. Its victim is then tossed into the incinerator.

Whenever Montag gets close to the Mechanical Hound, it growls and behaves as if it is going to catch him. Montag tells Captain Beatty, the boss, that he is afraid of the hound, but the captain laughs at him. He insists that the hound is just a fine bit of craftsmanship and technology. He then questions Montag as to whether he has a guilty conscience about something.

Notes

The Mechanical Hound is a horrible example of the progress made in the name of science. It is made of brass, copper, steel, and “bits of ruby glass and sensitive capillary hairs.” It is used to track down and destroy “criminals;” their scents are programmed into its memory. Once it finds its victim, the hound captures the criminal and throws him in the incinerator. Man no longer has to become involved in police work.

Montag is frightened of the hound. He is certain that the beast does not like him, for it growls whenever he comes near. Captain Beatty hints that Montag feels guilty about something, and the hound senses that. No further explanation is given, but the hint of something hidden in Montag’s life builds suspense. There is also some mention made of something “hidden” behind the ventilator grill, but it is not explained either; however, this “planting” further builds curiosity and suspense in the novel. Bradbury seems to be indicating that danger lurks in anything hidden. The foreboding presence of the emotionless hound and its growling at Montag intensifies the feeling of suspense.


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