In Fahrenheit 451, what does Clarisse say people talk about?

In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse says that her peers talk about shallow and materialistic topics such as cars, clothes, and swimming pools. Their conversation is repetitive and dull. They don't want to ask questions that go beneath the surface, such as wondering why the world is so strange.

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When Clarisse and Montag meet early in the novel, they have a long conversation about sociality and what young people talk about. Clarisse contends that ideas about sociality are upside down in her teen culture. Teens get together, she says, but don't talk about anything of interest. She mentions that...

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When Clarisse and Montag meet early in the novel, they have a long conversation about sociality and what young people talk about. Clarisse contends that ideas about sociality are upside down in her teen culture. Teens get together, she says, but don't talk about anything of interest. She mentions that she is the one who is called anti-social, but, in fact, believes it is her peers who are. She says:

"Social to me means talking about things like this." She rattled some chestnuts that had fallen off the tree in the front yard. "Or talking about how strange the world is."

She criticizes her peers for their conformity in conversation, saying they all talk about the same things over and over: cars, clothes, and swimming pools. Their emphasis is on the shallow and materialistic, subjects Clarisse finds boring.

Clarisse goes on to say that her teenaged schoolmates are so tired and bored by the end of the school day by being run through meaningless activities that they want to let out their aggressions, not in conversation, but in the Fun Park where they can "bully people around" or "break windowpanes."

Clarisse is the odd person out with no friends because she enjoys asking questions and having meaningful conversations about life that delve beneath the surface. She also enjoys taking walks and discussing nature.

Clarisse reveals that she lives in a society that is badly out of sorts. Teenagers are growing up without meaningful content in their lives. Their conversations show they are discouraged from thinking.

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Clarisse, a sixteen-year-old character in Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451, says that people talk about "nothing," in a conversation with the protagonist of the novel, Montag. She explains to Montag what people talk about in this quote:

They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming-pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else.

In this same conversation, Clarisse explains to Montag that she is widely known as an antisocial person, according to the perverse standards set by their community. Clarisse's manner of socializing is to have conversations with other people and to engage in an exchange of interesting ideas; though this definition of socializing is correct, the community does not accept it. Instead, people talk about nothing, discussing only superficial topics in repetitive and thoughtless language. Clarisse's observation is startling to Montag, and he is changed for his conversations with the young woman. As well, Clarisse, who is astute and natural, is a foil to Mildred, Montag's robotic wife.

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Clarisse tells Guy that most people live superficially, not thinking or speaking of anything of true significance. No one ever "says anything different from anyone else." In order to live in harmony and not stir up discontent, people have learned to complacently agree with the ideas of the masses. People are consumed in materialism and talk about their cars and clothes, things which will deteriorate with time and have no longevity. They crave humor, not wit or intelligence, perfectly content to share the same jokes everyone else is sharing. Museums are filled only with the abstract, not with the diversity of humanity, which could prove controversial.

In short, people talk about nothing at all. They avoid conflict, substance, and meaning. Their speech reflects their souls: it is empty and devoid of passion and fulfillment. Although the people in this society fill their days with words, they lack the ability to truly communicate with each other.

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In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse says that the people in her society do not talk about anything of any significance. Instead, they talk about frivolous and unimportant topics:

They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming-pools mostly and say how swell!

In addition, Clarisse notices that people seem to share the exact same interests and opinions:

But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else. 

This contrasts strongly with Clarisse's own family who discuss all manner of topics, like life in the old days, before book-burning was introduced. That Clarisse does not care to talk about the same subjects as others and does not share the same opinions reinforces her status as a social outsider: she does not conform to the same norms and values as others around her. She is a free-thinker who pursues her own thoughts and has no interest in the pursuit of mindless entertainment, like the programmes on the parlour walls. 

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In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury comments on the depth of relationships people have. In this society, things like front porches no longer exist because people don't sit out to chat or meet their neighors.

The first time Clarisse mentions that her family sits up late and talks, Montag incredulously asks her "talk about what?" Clarisse laughs at him recognizing, as our culture would, that this is a funny question. For Montag, conversation is nonexistant. Clarisse says people do not talk about anything with substance. However, people in this society call her "anti-social." Clarisse clarifies that she thinks their definition of social and anti-social is incorrect.

"But I don't think it's social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you?"

Bradbury uses Clarisse as a reasonable voice who can point out for the reader the flaws of the humans of this society.
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Clarisse is a seventeen-year-old girl who curiously shows up along Montag's walk home one night after work. She asks him many introspective questions that "normal" people wouldn't think of; such as, "Are you happy?" (10) or "Do you ever read any of the books you burn?" (8). She even tells him that she is not afraid of him because he is a fireman. He asks her why she would be afraid of him and she says, "So many people are. . . But you're just a man after all. . ." (7).

Montag continues to talk with this girl multiple times. He asks about her life and why she's not in school. She tells him that she goes to therapy because she is "anti-social." She also says that she listens to people at soda fountains and "People don't talk about anything" (31). What Clarisse means is that people don't talk about anything important. They discuss things rather than ideas. For example, she says they will talk about cars, clothes or swimming pools, "But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else" (31).

Clarisse is significant because she gets Montag thinking about his daily life, his home, his wife, people's behaviors, and the quality of life as a whole. By realizing that "people don't talk about anything," Montag later says to Faber the following:

"Nobody listens any more. I can't talk to the walls because they're yelling at me. I can't talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, It'll make sense" (82).

 

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Clarisse comes from a family that celebrates free-thinking; they don't sit and watch television like every other family, but sit and talk about issues. She explains that people don't actually talk about anything except what they see on television; they speak about brand names, and shows, and just repeat things that everyone else repeats. When she speaks about this to Montag, he is initially confused, but realizes later that it is entirely true.

"And the words I did hear I didn't understand!"

"...Even their names helped. Compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and you can almost figure the results."

"Damn it!" cried Montag. "What do you know about Hoag and Noble?"

"Why, they were right in that parlour wall, not six months ago."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

At one point, Montag stands outside Clarisse's house, and hears her family talking about substantial issues, not just the vague impressions they would get from television. This sort of conversation is almost unknown in this society, and so when Montag's mind becomes expanded through reading, he finds that he has nothing in common with most other people. 

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Clarisse tries to talk. She talks with her psychiatrist and tells him that she thinks. She tells him about how she collects butterflies and how she puts her head back when it rains and lets it fall in her mouth.

Clarisse imagine that people who drive so fast would only talk about the colors that they see as they drive around, but they wouldn't be able to discuss what the details of the items are because they drive too fast.

Clarisse tries to talk and just socialize with people, but people talk about nothing. When she tries to make friends, Montag is the only person so far that has actually had a conversation with her. She notes what the others have done:

The others would walk off and leave me talking. Or threaten me.

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