Foreshadowing In Fahrenheit 451

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belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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One excellent example of foreshadowing in Montag's introductory scenes comes just after he meets Clarisse for the first time. He seems entirely content in his work, happy to burn books and help the government keep the status quo; however, Montag's slide into individualism has already begun. As he enters his home, he has a moment of uneasiness:

Of course I'm happy. What does she think? I'm not? he asked the quiet rooms. He stood looking up at the ventilator grille in the hall and suddenly remembered that something lay hidden behind the grille, something that seemed to peer down at him now. He moved his eyes quickly away.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

It is discovered later that Montag has already stolen books and hidden them in his house; his innate curiosity is stronger than his cultural programming. This moment is quickly forgotten because of Mildred's apparent suicide attempt, but comes back in force when he continues to steal books from fires. Eventually, he publicly displays a book hidden in his vents, and reads to guests; it turns out that he has stolen dozens of books, possibly unconsciously at first, and hidden them in his ventilator shaft.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a number of Montag's reactions (in bold type) in the exposition of Fahrenheit 451 that foreshadow his future actions and thoughts. 

As he listens to Clarisse McClellan, he laughs at all her inquiries, particularly the question "Do you ever read any of the books you burn?" Montag ridicules this question by declaring, "That's against the law!"

While their conversation continues, Clarisse mentions several things that she has observed, and when she remarks upon his quick laughter and response to her questions, Montag becomes a little "uncomfortable." He asks her, "Haven't you any respect?" But Clarisse continues to probe his mind as she inquires if he has observed the jet cars on the streets who drive so fast that everything is just a blur. "You think too many things," Montag says "uneasily." Then, when Clarisse says goodnight, she unexpectedly asks him, "Are you happy?" He replies to a closed door: "Happy! Of all the nonsense."

Yet as he enters the quiet rooms of his house, he finds himself gazing at the ventilator grill in the hall, thinking,

"Of course I'm happy. What does she think? I'm not?" he asked the quiet rooms.

As he looks up at the ventilator, Montag suddenly recalls there are hidden items behind it. He shakes his head and notices that the image of the girl's face is on the wall. 

That Montag is uncomfortable and uneasy indicates that there is something bothering him. Also, when he talks out loud to a closed door, he is clearly disturbed. He tries to shake this feeling, but then he envisions the face of Clarisse, who obviously has disquieted him. Their "strange meeting on a strange night" reminds Montag of his encounter with an older man (Faber) in the park in which they, too, had actually talked to one another. Montag reflects,

How rarely did other people's faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought?

This disquiet in Montag foreshadows the change that his character begins to undergo. His glancing at the ventilator (where we later learn he has hidden some books) also suggests that Montag may have mixed feelings about his society's ban on books. Clearly, too, he has been moved by his experience with the lively and observant Clarisse, whose personality contrasts markedly with that of his wife. Her exuberance and attentiveness to the details of nature and the world around her stand in sharp contrast to his unmoved and shallow wife, Mildred. His recollection of his meeting with the "old man" suggests, too, that Montag may later contact him or see him somewhere.

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