Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Fahrenheit 451, which two characters attempt to commit suicide, and why and how does each attempt affect Montag?

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,226 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

After Montag has an enlightening conversation with his intuitive, charismatic neighbor, Clarisse McClellan, he comes home to discover that Mildred has attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Montag immediately calls the emergency services, and two callous technicians arrive to pump Mildred's stomach and replace her blood. Prior to Mildred's suicide attempt, Clarisse had asked Montag if he was happy before she left, and Mildred's overdose puts his bleak, meaningless life into perspective. Mildred's suicide attempt confirms that Montag and his wife are living superficial, unfulfilling lives, which influences him to critically analyze his life and marriage.

The second suicide attempt that has a profound effect on Montag takes place when he arrives at a woman's home for a fire call to destroy her library and house. After pouring kerosene throughout the woman's home and over her book collection, she refuses to leave her house, choosing to kill herself by lighting a match. Montag is traumatized by her death and begins to wonder if literature is valuable, given the fact that the woman preferred dying to living without her books. The woman's suicide has a profound effect on Montag, who begins to think that books may hold the answers to life's most difficult questions.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

eabettencourt eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write143 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Mildred is the first to attempt suicide.  This attempt impacts Montag greatly because he discovers the empty bottle of pills and is left to deduce for himself that his wife attempted to take her own life.  We also learn a lot about the society in general when the two hospital workers arrive and are depicted as quite impersonal.

Arguably, the only other attempt at suicide is Captain Beatty's.  He doesn't quite kill himself (Montag murders him with a flame thrower) but he does nothing to protect himself from being killed and basically entices Montag to do it.  This impacts Montag because he realizes that Beatty, like most others in this society, is also not happy, even though he tries to put up a very confident front.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial