In the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, what is the role played by the "white clowns" seen on television by Montag's wife, Mildred? 

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Picture The Simpsons' “Itchy and Scratchy Show”, and you see the same gratuitous violence shown by both Bradbury’s white clowns and Matt Groenig’s cat and mouse cartoon program.  The white clowns are cartoon characters who commit acts of violence, like chopping off body parts to entertain their audience.  They are a symbol of the lack of caring and concern Montag’s society has descended to.  We see acts of violence throughout the novel.  Montag is almost run over on a 10 lane highway by a group of teenagers, an innocent person is killed to satisfy the city’s need to find and catch Montag, and an old woman is burned to death in her home during a book burning.  The entire society is numb and finds violent acts a form of entertainment.  There is even an ongoing war at the time of the story where jet planes fly repeatedly over the city.  The people of Fahrenheit 451 find pleasure in the destruction of society, knowledge, and people because they are so lost and unhappy.

The fact that Bradbury used clowns to represent this violence—normally clowns are supposed to bring happiness and fun—shows that he is making fun of society’s penchant for violence.  In Montag’s society, everyone is a clown living out an unfulfilling life dictated by the need to be continuously entertained.

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Fahrenheit 451

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