Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Section 2
Summary

From Montag in his bedroom through the rain scene with Clarisse

Montag finds his meeting with Clarisse disturbing because he is not accustomed to discussing personal subjects. When he returns home, he begins to recognize that he is not happy, and that his appearance of being happy has just been pretense. He continues to feel a sense of foreboding. He discovers his wife, Mildred, in bed. She is listening to “Seashells,” earplug radios. He has found her lying in bed this way every evening for the previous two years. Beside her bed, he inadvertently knocks over an empty sleeping pill bottle. He contacts the hospital at the moment that a sonic boom coming from a squadron of jet bombers causes the house to shake. A couple of hospital workers with a cynical attitude arrive at the house with a machine that will pump Mildred’s stomach. Montag will later call this device the “Snake.” They also bring another machine that will replace all of her contaminated blood with fresh blood. Montag ventures outside and hears voices and laughter arising from the well-lit McClellan house next door. Montag goes back inside and thinks about everything that has happened to him that evening. He has a terrible feeling of disorientation as he dozes off after taking a sleep lozenge.

When the next day arrives, Mildred does not acknowledge remembering anything of her suicide attempt and denies it when Montag attempts to discuss it. She instead explains plots of television parlor “family” programs” that she watches all the time on three huge screens. Their televisions are so large that they take up entire walls. Montag finds himself having little interest in her shallow forms of entertainment, and he departs for work. When he does, he sees Clarisse outside walking along in the rain. She is opening her mouth to catch raindrops. She says that it is like wine. Rubbing a dandelion beneath her chin, she asserts that if the pollen comes off on her, that means that she must be in love. Clarisse rubs it beneath Montag’s chin, and no pollen comes off. He feels embarrassed. She questions him on why he decided to become a fireman and declares that he isn’t like the others that she has come across, who refuse to listen to what she says or talk to her. He says that she should go off to her appointment with her psychiatrist. She is being forced to see a psychiatrist by the authorities, who have said there is something wrong with her because she is believed to lack “sociability” and she has a worrying tendency to thinking independently. Once she is gone, Montag tilts his head back and tries to catch the rain in his mouth. He does this for a few moments.

Analysis

Montag thinks that Clarisse gives the impression of being older than she really is. She seems even older than his wife, who is really fourteen years her senior. Mildred seems childish when compared to Clarisse. This could be because so little enters her mind that has not been placed there by television and radio media that is completely empty of meaning.  For Mildred, technology has become a replacement for actual human contact. This is also true for the majority of the city’s population. She talks about the people she sees on her interactive TV parlor walls (these have been written with a single part missing, so that viewers are able to read the lines and believe themselves a part of the action they see on the screen) as “family.” She and Montag don’t sleep in the same bed, and she appears anxious for him to leave to go to work when the afternoon arrives.

When Montag returns home from work and finds Mildred lying as if she’s dead on the bed, with her radio earplugs in her ears, the room is said to be “not empty” but then “indeed empty.” This is because while Mildred is physically present, her feelings and thoughts exist elsewhere. Bradbury often makes use of paradoxical phrases that describe a thing or character as dead and alive, or there and not there at the same time. With Mildred, this describes her half-alive, empty condition. Bradbury makes use of similar paradoxes when describing the “Snake” stomach pump, as well as the Mechanical Hound later on.

While most of the people in Montag’s society have no interest at all in nature, there are many animal references in their culture. These include the Snake and Hound, both mechanical objects. The only element of nature that people have any interest in is fire. Yet even fire, which was once one of the most vital necessities of life, has lost any sense of real utility and is seen primarily as a source of entertainment.

We also come to understand that Mildred’s character has more complexity than she realizes. She has a hidden melancholy that she will not consciously accept. This is what leads her to commit suicide. This is the kind of repressed inner pain that impacts much of this world’s population, and it shows itself in self-destructive acts. Montag feels a sense of violation when strangers arrive with machines and take his wife’s blood. In this novel, blood symbolizes the repressed soul or instinctive sense of the human being. Montag frequently “feels” revolutionary ideas stirring his blood. Mildred lost any access to her soul or primal self long ago, and she doesn’t change when her blood is taken and replaced by fresh blood that is mechanically administered.

The sense of prescience that Montag feels before he meets Clarisse and before stumbling on the empty sleeping pill bottle recurs many times throughout the novel. Bradbury utilizes these kinds of vague premonitions to hint at the inevitability of events. Some foreshadowing also occurs in this section and at intervals throughout the novel. An example is when Montag looks at and thinks about his home’s ventilator grille as if there could be something with sinister intentions hiding in within it. The author demonstrates his rich and poetic style of prose early in the book, beginning with the opening passage about the pleasures of seeing things burn and the highly detailed, nearly scientific digressions about how Montag expects to see someone waiting around the corner, and his prescient feeling that he will soon kick something on the bedroom floor.

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