What does Montag say he always smells like?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Early in Part One of Fahrenheit 451, Montag meets Clarisse for the first time and comments that he always smells of kerosene. In fact, the smell lingers so strongly on Montag that even Mildred complains about it: 

"My wife always complains," he laughed. "You never wash it off completely." 

Montag always smells of kerosene because he is a fireman and this substance is one of the tools of his profession, used to destroy the homes of people who possess illegal copies of books. It is interesting to note that Montag loves this smell at the beginning of the book, claiming to Clarisse that it is like "perfume." This is significant because it represents his love of burning and his commitment to the fireman system. After meeting Clarisse, however, this love of kerosene will quickly fade.