In Fahrenheit 451, what is the relationship like between Mildred and Montag?

In Fahrenheit 451, the relationship between Mildred and Montag is characterized by indifference, a sense of duty and responsibility on Montag's part, and vastly different ways of life and interests.

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The reader has little opportunity to determine Mildred's feelings about the relationship, since the book focuses on Montag's viewpoint. From the little we see of her, she seems to regard her husband with almost complete indifference, which turns into distrust and dislike. The fact that when we first encounter her,...

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The reader has little opportunity to determine Mildred's feelings about the relationship, since the book focuses on Montag's viewpoint. From the little we see of her, she seems to regard her husband with almost complete indifference, which turns into distrust and dislike. The fact that when we first encounter her, Mildred is in a coma after attempting suicide certainly does not suggest that she is happy in her marriage.

Montag, for his part, is in denial about both his marriage and his life at the beginning of the book. This is clear in his irritation with Clarisse, first when she asks if he is happy, then when she rubs a dandelion under his chin to determine whether he is in love:

"What a shame," she said. "You're not in love with anyone."

"Yes, I am!"

"It doesn't show."

"I am very much in love!" He tried to conjure up a face to fit the words, but there was no face. "I am!"

Montag seems to realize at this moment that he is not in love with his wife. He has more in common with Clarisse and derives much more pleasure from talking to her. Montag has a strong sense of duty and feels responsible for Mildred, but his attachment to her is based on guilt, not on love or even affection. As the story unfolds, the emptiness of their marriage becomes just as apparent to Montag as it has been to Mildred for a long time. After her overdose, Montag thinks that he would not have cried at her death. The thought of this, ironically, makes him cry, "not at death but at the thought of not crying at death, a silly empty man near a silly empty woman...." It is this emptiness, Montag's guilt at not feeling what he thinks he ought to feel, that defines his relationship with Mildred.

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Mildred and Montag almost have no relationship. Their lives are so very different, especially after Montag meets Clarisse, that there's no hope of reconciliation or even communication among the two. In fact, the first time we meet Mildred, she has attempted suicide. Although she claims that her "family" (the three talking walls which interact with her) keep her happy, it is clear she is suffering some form of depression. This is evident in her other behavior. One of her favorite hobbies is to take "take out the beetle"- drive their car at insane speeds, killing whatever animals happen to get in the way. She rarely listens to Montag, often keeping a Seashell portable radio in her ear, whether sleeping or driving. She represents the apathetic portion of society. She doesn't care about war or books, unless it will interrupt her entertainment. Indeed, she is so numb, she doesn't even realize that all her shows are the same. She doesn't even realize she tried to kill herself.

Montag suffers under this passivity. Meeting Clarisse sparks a life in him that permanently keeps him from Mildred. He begins questioning his life, which is a dangerous thing to do in the novel's culture. He never watches "the family", finding the conversation inane and trite. That alone would probably have destroyed his marriage, but it's helped along by everything else he doesn't want to do. Apart from being a firefighter, he rarely enjoys technology for its recreational uses. He doesn't like to drive, doesn't listen to the radio, etc. So, we have someone who buys fully into the Government's satiating tactics, and someone who embarks on a rebellious mission to discover the truth.

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At the beginning of the novel, Montag thinks that their relationship is just fine; in fact, he declares to himself that he is perfectly happy.  However, when he gets home that first night, to find Mildred comatose after a suicide attempt, then he starts to wonder if he and Mildred really are happy.  Then, when Clarisse pulls the dandelion "you're not in love with anyone" stunt, he is even more startled. He realizes that he can't even remember when he and Mildred first met.  He realizes that they don't really have a relationship at all--he goes to work, she watches her television, and they don't talk.  They don't connect.

Later, when Montag tries to drag Mildred into reading books with him, their distance is even more apparent.  Millie is irritated, wanting to go do her own thing, but Montag wants her to be there with him as he journeys towards change and enlightenment.  But, she won't.  In fact, she betrays him by turning him into the firestation.  She calls the alarm on her own husband.  So, they are not close.  They are so distant in fact that Mildred has more loyalty to her society than she does to her husband, and their house ends up getting torched as a result of it.  Montag chooses to leave her behind and goes on the run.  And, when the city burns to the ground, he imagines Mildred there, burning with her walls, and is oddly unemotional about it.  He remember where they met, and can picture it happening, and that's about it.

So overall, Millie and Montag are not close at all--she is a shallow product of their society, and he is not, so that gap causes a rift between them that ultimately separates them in the end.  I hope that helps; good luck!

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Man, is this relationship bad!  I am struck by how intensely bad, yet seemingly normal the relationship is between Guy and Millie.  I think that things between them are fine, so long as Status Quo is completely embraced and never questioned.  When Guy starts to question his own reality and the surrounding system of which he and Mildred are a part, we begin to see challenge in their relationship.  Millie wants things to go back to "the way things were," and Guy is committed to exploring the new consciousness that he has adopted.  At the same time, the distance that was probably latent between them emerged into a mammoth sized rift between them.  This distance essentially sees them as married, but really having little connection, if any.  Guy pursues his own life with his new understanding and Millie takes an overdose of sleeping pills as her way of "dealing" with hers.  The really fascinating, and scary, element about their relationship is that as Guy develops as a character in the novel, we see little in way of emotion about the relationship he shared with Mildred.  It's almost as if it has been airbrushed out of his emotional memory, making it a really unhealthy relationship in my mind.  As he pursues his own new understanding about himself and the world, it seems that this "political" aspiration and exploration supplants all else, even a relationship in the private.  Montag uses her overdose as a political element, surmising that there was something odd about the nonchalant way her caretakers dismissed her actions.  At this, we can see how the political has subsumed the private in Montag's mind.

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To me, this relationship is very one sided.  Guy Montag clearly cares about Millie, but she does not care about him.  You can see this in the way that they treat each other.

Guy is very concerned about Millie.  He is alarmed when she just about kills herself (accidentally) and he wants to try to fix their relationship.  He seems to care about her because he tries to get her to read books and such, hoping that this will make her care about her life again.  If he didn't care about her, he would not have needed to do this.

By contrast, Millie does not care about Guy.  She only cares about the "people" in the parlour walls.  Even when Guy is all worried about their relationship, Millie is not.  For her, Guy and their relationship are really not important.  This shows how she is a true product of her society -- she does not really care about other people.

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