In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, what scares Montag when he emerges from the river, and what impresses him the most?
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In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, the first thing Montag notices when he comes out of the water is the silence, the emptiness, and the odors. Compared to getting too much water when drowning, Montag feels as if there is too much silence, too much darkness and too many smells—perhaps this signifies the absence of society, for gone are the sounds of machines and people and the absence of darkness. Gone is the almost sterile environment he knew, for only Clarisse seemed connected to nature. Now there is simply too much for Montag to process, and he is frantic:
The land rushed at him, a tidal wave. He was crushed by darkness and he look of the country and the million odors on a wind that iced his body. He fell back under the breaking curve of darkness and sound and smell, his ears roaring.
In essence, Montag is experiencing sensory overload, after so many years of sensory deprivation. Then he senses life: eyes watching him, and for a moment, he panics, thinking that the Mechanical Hound has found him again. He shouts, but quickly realizes that he has simply confronted a deer. For Montag, the creature may seem mythological because it (and nature) is so foreign to him. But as Montag starts to move again, through what seems like a "billion leaves on the land," he recognizes smells that are familiar to those from his old life—the smell of a sliced potato, pickles in a bottle, mustard in a jar, carnations, and even a weed that smells like licorice.
Through this process of recognizing scents, Montag finds comfort. He stops feeling so isolated and so overwhelmed.
He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough.
Then, out of the darkness comes a sense of "familiarity." His foot strikes a railroad track. Though it is no longer used, Montag is sure that the tracks will lead to his final destination. And as he walks, he finds a sense of comfort in somehow knowing, in being absolutely certain, that Clarisse McClellan had walked this same path also—followed the tracks he is following. This may be symbolic: it may be Bradbury's way of showing a parallel between Clarisse's journey and Montag's. Perhaps there was a moment when Clarisse, too, began to look at the world differently, eventually there to show Montag what he now knew and understood.
In leaving society behind, Montag is connected to the land, to the natural world, as Clarisse had been. And very soon, following this path, he will discover others with the same dream he has—that of a new world.
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