In Fahrenheit 451, why does Mildred betray Montag?

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

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After Montag's meltdown, where he reads to guests from a book, Mildred calls the alarm, bringing Montag to his own house with Chief Beatty. He tries, for the last time, to communicate with her, but she rebuffs him:

She shoved the valise in the waiting beetle, climbed in, and sat mumbling, "Poor family, poor family, oh everything gone, everything, everything gone now...."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

Mildred has been so conditioned to accept the television screens as her "family" that she is in shock; her house with its three wall-screens is going to be burned, and she believes this is a terrible loss. For Mildred, her comfortable lifestyle, living inside the status quo, is proper and enough to live for; she cannot understand Montag's obsession with books, because all she wants out of life is the meaningless emotional responses that the television programs create in her. With Montag's books -- and probably Montag himself -- out of the way, she can find another "family" on television and stop worrying that she will be cast from society.


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