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.
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 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.
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.