Why does society provide activities to "run [teens] ragged" in Fahrenheit 451?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part I, "The Hearth and the Salamander," Montag feels complacent about his burning of a home full of books until he meets a strange neighbor named Clarisse who shakes up his world, causing him to reassess his values and recognize his inner discontent. An anachronism in the future world of Bradbury's narrative, Clarisse walks with Montag, telling him that she does not understand why she is labeled as "antisocial" when people gathered together are not allowed to talk. Describing her classes at school, Clarisse says that "we never ask questions,...they just run the answers at you" as students sit with a "film-teacher."

To Clarisse, knowledge is "poured down the spout" that later empties itself. She adds that the school officials "run us so ragged by the end of the day we can't do anything but go to bed" or channel stress at a Fun Park that features places to bully others and wreck cars with big steel balls. Another outlet for the youths' stress is driving recklessly on the streets, racing to see how close they can come to street lamposts, "playing 'chicken' and 'knock hubcaps." Clarisse adds that this odd form of stress relief kills: Six of her friends have been shot during the last year; ten others have died in car accidents. 

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Fahrenheit 451

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