In Ray Bradbury's Fahrinheit 451, what are the comments that Mildred and her friends made on the presidential race?

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In Ray Bradbury's fictional depiction of a futuristic, dystopian society governed by an autocratic regime that has banned books and strictly controls all forms and sources of information, Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is a fireman-turned-critic of that dictatorial regime. While he has been a loyal servant of the government, dutifully burning books, and the homes in which they are discovered, his observations and encounters -- for example, the woman who burns herself to death along with her books in defiance of the system and his conversations with Clarisse, the vibrant young teenager whose family lives nearby -- have caused him to reconsider his views. As his evolution from automaton to independent-thinking radical continues, his disgust with his wife, Mildred, continues to grow. He has suffered silently as his marriage turned into a passionless relationship between two adults, but he is growing more impatient with the idiocy he observes from, among others, Mildred and her friends. Sitting among these women as they resond to his suggestion that they converse, he initially listens as they chatter on about children, only to have Mildred turn the discussion towards politics, "to please Guy." The following exchange reveals the full measure of Montag's disgust with the superficial and entirely uninformed nature of dialogue in the society he has served:

"Sounds fine," said Mrs. Bowles. "I voted last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he's one of the nicest-looking men who ever became president."

"Oh, but the man they ran against him!"

"He wasn't much, was he? Kind of small and homely and he didn't shave too close or comb his hair very well."

"What possessed the 'Outs' to run him? You just don't go running a little short man like that against a tall man. Besides -he mumbled. Half the time I couldn't hear a word he said. And the words I did hear I didn't understand!"

"Fat, too, and didn't dress to hide it. No wonder the landslide was for Winston Noble. 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. One was always picking his nose; it drove me wild."

"Well, Mr. Montag," said Mrs. Phelps, "do you want us to vote for a man like that?"

Mildred beamed. "You just run away from the door, Guy, and don't make us nervous."

One could argue that Bradbury's depiction of this fictional society was, at least in some ways, a little too prescient. The women in this scene, including Montag's wife, are reflective of much of the electorate in today's society, with an emphasis on superficial characteristics like physical appearance rather than substance. It is also, apparently, a fixed election, as the reference to "the Outs" and their dismal choice of a candidate appears designed to ensure that the more physically-attractive of the two candidates, President Noble (note the manipulative use of names: "Noble" versus "Hoag," the former complementary, the latter derogatory) prevails with little difficulty. Totalitarian and other autocratic regimes routinely arrange sham elections to provide the imprimatur of legitimacy, despite the obvious corruption of the electoral process. This seemingly minor passage in Bradbury's novel is actually one of the more interesting for its implications for a society reduced to making important decisions on the basis of limited information while incorporating meaningless, superficial factors into those decisions.

 

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Fahrenheit 451

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