Fahrenheit 451: Foils Essay

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Clarisse McClellan is a short-lived but critical character in Fahrenheit 451, as is Mildred. The two women both represent the two remaining sides of society: the norm, and the feared and different. Clarisse is an “antisocial” to the rest of the world, a rare remnant of our current society. This factor causes Mildred’s lifestyle to stand out, in that she’s a “social” or “with the crowd”. Mildred is an excellent example of who nearly everyone is in her society.

Clarisse is eccentric to this particular time; she notices things no one else notices, such as “There’s dew on the grass in the morning,” (9), to which Montag replies that he’d never known such a thing. Mildred, on the other hand, notices next to nothing, and when she does, her observations generally state the obvious “You acted funny last night,” (49). When Clarisse observes the slightest thing, she delves into cavernous detail about it, never stopping to take a breath, whereas Mildred notices something and then completely disregards the thought.

Mildred watches every show, every drama, makes sure she catches that “’...Clara Dove five-minute romance last night in your wall?’” (95). She’s always engulfed in entertainment, whatever’s new, whatever requires the least thought possible. Never thinking to just stop for a moment to watch “...the jet cars racing on the boulevards that way...” (8) like Clarisse does. Mildred never pauses, never watches anything unless it swaddles her into a blanket and takes her away, cradling her in its arms to bottle-feed diversion from the real, poignant, cheerless world into her toothless mouth. She relies desperately on technology, things to keep her from being sad, because without “...the singing of the thimble-wasps in her tamped shut-ears” (13) she can’t suppress the veracity of the real, living, breathing world that someday won’t leave her alone any longer.

Clarisse does nearly nil to shut herself out. She picks up on everything, and when that’s done, she fully appreciates it to its complete extent, “...walking in the center of the sidewalk with her head up and the few drops falling on her face,” (21), going out to “...hike around the forests and watch the birds and collect butterflies,” (23).

Mildred doesn’t think. The few times she’s presented with knowledge, she needs to resist, plugging in the Seashell earphones, to “...shake the sleeping tablets into her hand” (101). She constantly assures herself that nothing can penetrate her wall, her wall of denial, of dissent, of ignorance. She, in a sense, goes out of her way to keep out unhappy thoughts, while Clarisse goes out of her way to do the exact opposite. She observes, she discovers, and she listens, pointing out the simple truths of life and the abundant thought that goes with it. For the short time she knows Montag, she changes his life and mindset completely; for the however many years Montag knows Mildred, she changes absolutely nothing. Notwithstanding the fact that they’re married, Montag doesn’t recall a single thing about where or how they met, why they don’t have any children. The raison d'être is because she isn’t interesting. She shows no particular insight on life that makes anyone wonder, makes someone stop and reflect, and that makes her more and more just like every other person in the world.

All in all, Mildred and Clarisse are people from two completely different lifestyles, one of knowledge and thought, and one from senseless pop-culture focused exclusively on fashion, fun, and cheer.

In short, the former is our present, and the latter our future.





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