When Montag first meets Clarisse, how does she make him feel uneasy in Fahrenheit 451?

In Fahrenheit 451, when Montag first meets Clarisse, she makes him feel uneasy because she is so different from the average citizen in the book's dystopian world. Clarisse begins to awaken thoughts and feelings that Montag has buried deep inside himself.

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Clarisse makes Montag uncomfortable physically and emotionally because she symbolizes life the way it was prior to the dystopian reality it has become in Fahrenheit 451. She stirs something deep within Montag that has been suppressed and forbidden.

Even before he meets Clarisse, Montag has been having "the most...

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Clarisse makes Montag uncomfortable physically and emotionally because she symbolizes life the way it was prior to the dystopian reality it has become in Fahrenheit 451. She stirs something deep within Montag that has been suppressed and forbidden.

Even before he meets Clarisse, Montag has been having "the most uncertain feelings" each night as he approaches the street corner near his house, the place where he first encounters her. On the evening they meet, his mind hears "the faintest whisper" as he turns the corner. His nose perhaps smells a faint perfume. A little later, he thinks he smells fresh apricots and strawberries, "quite impossible" so late in the year.

When Clarisse appears, she unsettles him physically:

He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself.

Then she unsettles him emotionally. Gazing into her eyes, he sees a light that reminds him of a candle, evoking warm childhood memories of his mother lighting a candle during a power outage.

Finally, Clarisse unsettles Montag with her words. She tells him she is not afraid of him. She tells him she heard firefighters used to stop fires, not start them. She asks Montag if he's ever driven slowly (apparently forbidden) and if he's ever looked for the man in the moon. Montag realizes he hasn't looked at the moon for a long time, and he's not sure, in response to her question, whether grass has dew on it in the morning. Just before they part, Clarisse asks Montag if he is happy, a query that continues to nag at him as the story progresses.

Meeting Clarisse upsets Montag because it stirs up emotions and thoughts long buried in his mind. "You think too many things," he tells Clarisse, but as the novel unfolds, the seeds of thought she plants in Montag sprout, causing him in turn to rebel against society and, like Clarisse, live the life of an outcast.

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When Montag first meets Clarisse, she makes him uneasy because he believes she thinks too much. She asks him pointed, provocative questions and stirs him to remember how little he notices the world around him. Though he walks to the subway station every morning and home again every evening, he has forgotten to notice the dew on the morning grass or to gaze at the moon at night. She reminds him of a candle, because of her gently illuminating ways which trigger his memory of a magical evening he spent by candlelight with his mother once when the electricity went out.

Montag had sensed Clarisse watching him on the corner for several nights before they spoke. He felt her as a calm presence, and he thought he faintly smelled her perfume in the air. Now that they have met, she seems almost like a fairy creature to him, something out of another world—a world where people are more in touch with nature, ideas, and each other.

He also sees himself mirrored back in her, and that makes him begin questioning his life:

He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact.

Montag has lived in a numb, thoughtless way for far too long, doing his job, accepting his society as it has been presented to him. After encountering Clarisse, his latent emotions begin to stir. He realizes there is more of the poetic in the world than he acknowledges. He no long can be at ease with his banal existence.

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When Montag initially meets Clarisse, he feels uncomfortable because she begins to question him about his occupation and seems genuinely interested in his life. (Unlike most citizens, Clarisse is an extrovert, and is insightful and curious.) She then begins speaking about nature and tells Montag that there is dew on the grass in the morning and a "man in the moon." Montag begins to feel uneasy and thinks that Clarisse talks too much. When Montag notices that there are lights on in her home, she informs Montag that her family is up having conversations, which is something abnormal in Bradbury's dystopian society. Before Clarisse leaves, she asks Montag a serious question that disturbs him and makes him contemplate his existence. Clarisse asks Montag, "Are you happy?" (Bradbury, 4). Her simple question makes Montag analyze his life, and he realizes for the first time that he is not happy. Montag examines his unfulfilling life and realizes that he has a meaningless existence. As a firefighter, Montag simply destroys works of literature each day, which is emotionally unfulfilling and leaves him feeling empty. Montag also has a shallow relationship with Mildred and is not happy at all. Clarisse's presence and line of questioning make him feel nervous and are the catalysts that motivate Montag to alter the trajectory of his life.

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There are two ways in which Clarisse makes Montag feel uneasy.

First, she makes him feel she is judging him:

He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself.

These words demonstrate that Montag felt looked at from every angle. He felt as if the items he might have had with him were being evaluated. Perhaps he felt this way just because of Clarisse's eye for detail. She knew how to notice.

Next, she proves that she thinks... a lot. After asking questions about firemen putting out fires instead of starting them, and if he ever reads books, Bradbury narrates:

"You think too many things," said Montag, uneasily.

Montag is growing uncomfortable with her ability to think. He isn't used to it.

Finally, she questions his happiness. This causes him to think:

Of course I'm happy. What does she think? I'm not? he asked the quiet rooms.
These words are obvious signs of uneasiness. He is beginning to question himself.

 

 

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