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In Fahrenheit 451, how does Clarisse's death affect Montag?

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couchpotato130 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 25, 2012 at 10:56 PM via web

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In Fahrenheit 451, how does Clarisse's death affect Montag?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 5, 2012 at 8:22 PM (Answer #1)

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When Clarisse stops walking Montag to the subway, he is at first unsure why he feels strange. He thinks of the streets as empty without her presence, but can't quite put his feelings into words. When his wife tells him that she thinks she heard that Clarisse was run over by a car, Montag is so shocked that he develops a fever. When trying to work through his feelings, he has this epiphany:

"It's not just the woman that died," said Montag. "Last night I thought about all the kerosene I've used in the past ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

In his mind, since Clarisse was so different from normal people, he relates her death to his own burning of books. Just as her human life was unique, each book is the unique product of a deliberate creative process; the people who wrote the books live through them after their deaths. Clarisse didn't write a book, and her life was so meaningless to others that Montag's wife simply forgot to mention it; Montag realizes that Clarisse will live on only through his memories.

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