What does Mildred say to Montag that makes him question his life in Fahrenheit 451?
Mildred actually tells Montag two things fairly back to back that make him question his life. First, in the middle of the night, Montag asks his wife a simple question: "When did we meet? And where?" Millie has a startling reply: "I don't know."
Montag presses her, and she replies that it's been such a long time that she's forgotten. He reminds her that it's only been ten years, and she finds it "funny" that she can't remember where she met her husband, her voice providing an odd laugh.
Oddly, Montag can't recall this information, either. And he comes to realize that if Mildred died, he would not cry, for it would be the dying of an "unknown" or a "street face." He wonders how his life has grown to be so empty.
Later he mentions Clarisse to Mildred, and his wife casually mentions that Clarisse is dead:
McClellan. McClellan. Run over by a car. Four days ago. I'm not sure. But I think she's dead. The family moved out anyway. I don't know. But I think she's dead.
This is a transformational event for Montag. He can't get himself out of bed the next day and tells his wife that they "burned a woman" along with her thousand books the night before, expecting some sort of reaction or compassion from his wife. There is none; her focus cannot be shifted from her "family" in the parlor.
Montag begins to really feel empathy he's never felt before regarding the lives they destroy as firefighters, and much of this is fueled as he reflects on the significance of losing Clarisse. The lack of true emotional connections all around him lights a fire within Montag to change his world.
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