What roles does affection play in the world of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What is interesting about this novel is that affection is almost entirely lacking between the main characters.  So, the role that affection plays is that there is no affection.  For example, Mildred and Montag, who have been married for years, are emotionally distant.  Montag even asks Mildred where they met at one point, and neither of them can remember.  Of this, Montag muses of Mildred,

"she was so strange he couldn't believe he knew her at all...wasn't there a wall between him and Mildred, when you came down to it?"  

Similarly, all of Mildred's friends are distant and lacking in affection.  One friend mentions how if her husband dies in the war, she won't be upset.  She quips,

"It's our third marriage and we're independent.  Be independent, we always said.  He said, if I get killed off, you just go right ahead and don't cry, but get married again, and don't think of me."  

These examples--along with the violent youth who make games out of hurting and killing each other--are all examples of how there is no real affection in their society at all; there are just surface relationships that fill space.  

The only affection evident in this novel comes from Clarisse.  Her family loves one another, and that example of real affection and real substance to a relationship, is what gets Montag thinking that something is wrong with his society; it is the catalyst for his own journey and awakening.

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Fahrenheit 451

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