In Fahrenheit 451, what happened to Clarisse and how did Mildred react to the news? 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Towards the end of Part I, "The Hearth and the Salamander," Montag asks Mildred if she's seen Clarisse. Mildred is nonchalant and unemotional about it. She claims that Clarisse is simply "gone." Mildred adds that she'd been meaning to say something about Clarisse but it apparently slipped her mind. According to Mildred, Clarisse's entire family moved away. Only then does Mildred add that she thinks Clarisse is dead. Montag can not believe it, but Mildred continues, still talking like she's repeating something unimportant like relating the weather forecast: 

No. The same girl, 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. 

Montag is not only hurt at the news of Clarisse's death; he's just as appalled that Mildred would forget for four days to tell him about it. This is a moment when Montag really begins to notice how emotionally empty Mildred had become. Later when Montag talks to Beatty about it, Beatty notes that they (firemen and law enforcement) had watched Clarisse's family. Beatty is also nonchalant and adds that Clarisse is better off dead because she was so curious about life, which went against the norms of their society. Beatty says of Clarisse: 

She didn't want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing. You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. The poor girl's better off dead. 

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Fahrenheit 451

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