Explain the figurative language used to describe the medical treatment that Mildred receives on pages 18-21.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a fireman, Montag is appointed as the keeper of people's comfort, a fireman, and his job is to burn books because books contain conflicting ideas and information which has caused people who read them "discomfort." Since people in Mantag's world simply want comfort, masses of people have requested that the books be burned.

One night after Montag returns home, he finds that his wife Mildred has taken an overdose of sleeping pills. After he makes the emergency call, he realizes that it is mere strangers who take care of everyone;

Strangers come and violate you. Strangers come and cut your heart out. Strangers come and take your blood.

But, the strangers who come to keep Mildred, "another Mildred so deep inside the other one," from dying of an overdose of pills do not even bother taking the cigarettes out of their mouths as they are so blasé about what they do standing straight over her. 

And the men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths, the men with the eyes of puff-adders, took up their load of machine and tube, their case of liquid melancholy and the slow dark sledge of nameless stuff and strolled out the door.

Later, Montag recalls,

the two white stones staring up at the ceiling and the pump-snake with the probing eye and the two soap-faced men with the cigarettes moving in their mouths when they talked.

The stomach pump that is used on Mildred is described metaphorically as a "pump-snake" and in another passage as a "hungry snake."  The snake metaphor goes along with straight mouths of the men, which is also snake-like.  The fluid that is removed from Mildred is referred to by the metaphor of "liquid melancholy" along with a "slow dark sledge of nameless stuff." Here visual imagery is also used. Another use of imagery is the metaphorical description of the men as "soap-faced."

As Montag looks at his wife, he realizes hers now is an "unknown, a street face, a newspaper image" that a "hungry snake makes her still more hungry." He wonders what has happened that this Mildred has become so empty and the Mildred he knew so unhappy that she tries to kill herself. When she becomes conscious and he tells her that she took an overdose, the empty Mildred asks, "Why would I want to do that?"