Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

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In Fahrenheit 451, how does Clarisse's death affect Montag?

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At the beginning of the story, Montag meets his charismatic, intuitive teenage neighbor, Clarisse McClellan, who is unlike anyone he has ever met. Clarisse is depicted as a gentle, unique teenager and inspires Montag to examine his life when she asks him if he is happy. Montag forms a close bond with Clarisse, and their interactions motivate him to question his destructive occupation and think about changing the trajectory of his life. Montag then experiences a traumatic incident at work when he witnesses a woman commit suicide with her books. During the incident, Montag instinctively steals a...

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jonbirondo | Student

Clarisse's death affects Montag for her personality forced Montag to recontextualize his entire sense of reality. For example when Clarise asks Montag "Are you happy?" (7), he responds with a rather caustic "Am I what?" (7). Although Montag brushes this question off immediately, the question still lingers in Montag's mind. Specifically, Clarise remains an indelible memory to him for the way she views the same world around him.

His lifestyle, consisting of burning books, directly conflicts with her worldview. Due to his destructive profession, he rarely takes the time to appreciate the beauty and wonder of life around him. Clarise, on the other hand, is singled out for her eccentric and often sentimental nature - even having to attend therapy due to this lifestyle.

This dichotomy between worldview forces Montag to face the fact that he is indeed not happy:

"He was not happy. He said the words to himself. He recognized this as the true state of affairs. He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back. " (9)

Upon this realization, Montag then discovers his wife's apathetic nature, coming home to her overdosed on sleeping pills, along with his fascination with books and literature. This realization strengthens the bond between Clarise and Montag for he feels, for the first time, seen and understood by another human being. Upon Clarise's disappearance and 'death," Montag thus feels alone without another human being to make him feel less lonely in a world where his wife is distracted and books and knowledge are burned.