In "Fahrenheit 451" how does Bradbury characterize the women as disinterested and unfeeling and how does this play on gender stereotypes?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best passage to look for the answer to this question is when Mildred has her lady friends over to watch the t.v. walls together.  Their conversations reflect cold, shallow women who care mostly for themselves.  They speak of their children like they are a burden that only cramps their style.  Mrs. Phelps declares, "No one in his right mind...would have children!", and Mrs. Bowles says that she puts her kids in school 9 out of 10 days and then "puts up with them when they come home," and even then, she just "heaves them into the 'parlor' and turn the switch".  Kids get in the way of their lives, so why bother with them?  Even their husbands being off to war doesn't seem to worry them; Mrs. Phelps states that "it's our third marriage each and we're independent," and that if her husband dies, she won't cry, she'll just get married again.  Mildred herself fits the description of disinterested; she is irritated when Montag asks her questions about when they first met, irritated when he wants her to read with him, and tells him that he should either take pills or go drive fast when he is upset.  Bradbury almost makes them like plastic dolls with no emotions whatsoever; he describes their bleached hair, sparkly nails, and total lack of feeling.

This might play on some gender stereotypes that tack being an airhead onto women.  There is a stereotype that women are airheads, and care more about their appearances than anything else, and that is seen in this book.  But, these women go against the stereotype of women wanting to be mothers, and having an over-abundance of feelings and emotions.  These women are emotionless, don't want to be mothers, and act more like men when they are under stress; they go watch television and drive the car really fast.  In that way, these women fit the stereotypes of males more than females.  It is an interesting dynamic that Bradbury uses to try to strip them of any sort of compassion, humanness, and depth of thought and feeling.

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Fahrenheit 451

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