In Fahrenheit 451, what did Montag once tell Clarisse about the odor of kerosene?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clarisse and Montag couldn't be more opposite from one another if caught on the street talking together. That's exactly what happens, though. Clarisse is enchanted by her new neighbor whom she knows is a fireman. She has learned from her uncle that firemen once saved houses with water rather than burning them down with fire. She takes a moment to introduce herself to her new neighbor and ask him a few questions about his career. After introductions are complete, she says that she would have known he was a fireman with her eyes shut, not by his uniform. He catches on to what she is saying because he says that his wife complains about the smell of kerosene when he comes home. He also mentions that it never really washes out of his clothes. But then what he adds next is interesting: "Kerosene. . . is nothing but perfume to me" (6).

Clarisse asks him if he is serious about what he said, as if to question his whole existence as well. When he asks her why it can't be perfume to him, she doesn't answer. This is significant because by not answering him, she leaves it for him to answer within himself later, along with the question that really drives him nuts --"Are you happy?" (10).


mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this one can be found in the passage from the very first time that Clarisse and Montag met.  He was walking home from work, and met her on the sidewalk.  She said that she knew he was coming before she even saw him.  He is confused at this and asks how--she says its because he smells like kerosene, and that all firemen smell like kerosene.  Montag laughs at this, and says that was probably true, because his wife, Mildred, always complains about it, even after he has showered.  He then admmits that " nothing but perfume to me."  At this point, Montag thinks that he loves his job, loves burning books, and loves even the smells associated with his work.  All of those perceptions are about to change, however. I hope that helped; good luck!

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Fahrenheit 451

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