Fahrenheit 451: In Search of a Controlled Burn
Ray Bradbury’s protagonist in Fahrenheit 451 revels in seeing things eaten and things blackened by fire. His name is Montag and his world is immersed in flames from the outset, with a blaze so bright before his kerosene spitting python that it blinds. He breathes in fire beneath a flameproof jacket, his burnt-corked countenance expresses fire with a permanent grin “driven back by flame,” while his perfume is the overwhelming stench of kerosene. His existence hinges upon fire so thoroughly that his experiences are defined in its terms. Clarisse, on the other hand, lives under moonlight, atop the grass, and in clothes of white as she radiates fragrances of apricots and strawberries while the wind carries her along. Through the portraits of these two characters and their interactions Bradbury paints pictures of polar ideologies; of competing lifestyles. The two are fascinated with each other and influenced by one another. Clarisse’s fascination with nature and its infinite beauty outweighs Montag’s faithfulness to a monotonous, ash-gray life and subsequently provides a path and guiding light for his own exploration of nature and its powers of illumination. For although Montag cherishes his daily chores of burning and blackening, he also finds it a pleasure to see things changed. Montag’s intrigue with Clarisse begins before he even meets her. He thinks he can almost hear her in the faintest whisper and even feel her by the change in atmospheric temperature before turning the corner to notice her milk-white face amidst the blowing leaves. Montag notices an abundance of intricacies in her look and her walk. Whether she walks with the wind or the wind follows her, Montag can’t be certain, but Clarisse certainly leaves a deep impression and a fierce curiosity in the mind of Montag through that first mystical meeting. And once Montag enters her orbit and engages in conversation with her he feels he’s being circled, shaken,...
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