What details in Part Two of Fahrenheit 451 show that the family unit has deteriorated?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • In Part Two, "The Sieve and the Sand," Montag finds that he is unable to communicate with Mildred.

When he suggests to his wife that books can rescue them "from the cave" of their ignorance of life, she is uncomprehending. "Books aren't people," she remarks, believing that nothing on a page can have any meaning as it contains no living beings. Yet, as Montag searches for meaning on the page, Millie suggests he drive so fast that he only feel danger; then, he will have meaning. As Montag turns away from her, she screams, "Who's more important, me or that Bible?" '

Montag then steps to the door and Millie asks if he will return in time to watch the White Clown on their walls. He asks her, "Millie? Does the White Clown love you?" She only replies with a question, "Why'd you ask a silly question like that?" As he departs, Montag thinks to himself that he feels numb and his wife is dying.

  • Being married and having children means little 

After Mildred's insipid friends come to watch the White Cartoon Clowns chop off each other's limbs and jet cars crashing into one another, Montag reaches into the parlor wall and pulls the main switch so that people can talk to one another. However, the conversation is extremely shallow; for instance, when Montag asks Mrs. Phelps when the war will start, she merely replies,

"In again out again Finnegan, the Army called Pete yesterday. He'll be back next week. The Army said so. Quick war....I'm not worried....I'll let Pet do all the worrying....It's always someone else's husband dies, they say."

Mrs. Phelps says that she and Pete are on their third marriage as they are "independent." If he is killed, she will just replace Pete with another husband. This remark merely reminds Mildred of another show on the televisor wall.

On a discussion about children, Mrs. Phelps says, "No one in his right mind...would have children!" and Mrs. Bowles adds that she has had two children, but they have been delivered by Caesarian section because there is no sense in going through the pain of natural childbirth. Then, she "plunks" the children in school nine days out of ten, so they are only home three days a month--: "it's not bad at all."

Through his two-way receiver with Faber, Montag comments, "Oh, God, the way they jabber about people and their own children and themseves...I can't believe it!"