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Free Study Guide-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Free Online Booknotes
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Clarisse disappears and the old lady burns to death with her books


Montag has grown accustomed to seeing Clarisse in her yard, shaking walnut trees or knitting sweaters. He often goes over to visit with her, and they spend a great deal of time talking. Montag finds he has become quite comfortable in her presence. Clarisse tells Montag that some people find her antisocial, but she tries to be kind and sociable even though people are so different now. She regrets that so many people hurt each other, even shooting and killing one another. Montag finds that he looks forward to the time he spends in conversation with Clarisse. Then one day, she simply disappears without a word or a trace. Montag tries to find her, but to no avail.

One day while Montag is playing cards with his firemen friends, he notices how similar all their faces are. He finds himself staring at them, searching for some differences. Suddenly the alarm sounds, and everyone leaps forward to do his duty. Their destination is the three-story home of an old woman whose has refused to turn in her books. The old woman watches in shock as the firemen surround her home. They then enter the house, throw the books into a pile, and douse them with kerosene. In the process, Montag's hand seems to automatically close over a book, which he slips under his shirt.

The old woman absolutely refuses to leave her house; she bravely lights a single match and tosses it on the kerosene books. Suddenly her whole home is in flames. She dies a martyr to her cause. Montag is shaken by her actions.


His friendship with Clarisse has had an enormous effect on Montag. Her words always seem to spark off a new trend of thought in his mind. He finds himself questioning his choices and his motivations. Her sudden disappearance upsets his entire being. He is further distraught when he cannot locate her.

The change in Montag's personality manifests itself in a questioning attitude at work. Captain Beatty and the other firemen are even forced to remind him of the proper functioning of his job. The Mechanical Hound's obvious dislike for him seems to coincide with the birth of his conscious thought and self- reflection, which are two things the Hound has been programmed to destroy. It is significant that the Captain questions Montag about whether he owns any books or whether he has a guilty conscience.

When the alarm rings, all the firemen leap up to do their duties, except Montag. He moves more slowly, for he now views his job as insane and troubling. When they arrive at the home of an old woman, the firemen find her books and place them in a pile to burn. Somehow, almost unconsciously, Montag finds himself taking one of her books and hiding it under his shirt. The old woman refuses to leave and quotes a famous line from another martyr about the light given off by the fires of free thought. She then sets her books on fire; as her home burns, she perishes. The martyrdom of the old woman has a profound impact on Montag. He is never able to forget the moment.

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