Exploring society and empathy with Guy and Clarisse. Warning: SPOILERS ensue!
Thanks for checking out this month’s vlog – I’ve included discussion questions and additional resources below. For this vlog, and my bookshelf, I’ve used the Del Rey Books of Random House August 1996 commemorative edition of Fahrenheit 451. Quotes from page 11 and 176, respectively.
Soon after his first meeting with Clarisse, Guy comes home to find his wife, Mildred, has overdosed on her sleeping pills. Two emergency operators come to the house, pump her stomach and give her a blood transfusion and then leave without addressing or even really acknowledging the fact that she attempted suicide (page 15). In a later conversation with Clarisse, she exclaims to Guy (page 23): When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night. The other would never do that. The others would walk off and leave me talking. Or threaten me. No one has time any more for anyone else.
In both of these instances, why is maintaining the human connection so important as we advance technologically? How can we maintain it?
On page 40, Guy is with the other firefighters getting ready to burn up a house. The woman and book-possessor refuses to leave, and in fact strikes the kitchen match to light the house with her inside. When the house goes up, People ran out of houses all down the street, to watch.
Do you see the human-element removed from spectacle in your life? When does tragedy become entertainment? How is this possible?
On page 42: Wasn’t there an old joke about the wife who talked so much on the telephone that her desperate husband ran out to the nearest store and telephoned to ask her what was for dinner? Well, then, why didn’t he buy himself an audio-Seashell broadcasting station and talk to his wife late at night, murmur, whisper, shout, scream, yell? But what would he whisper? What would he yell? What would he say? and then, on page 44: Well, wasn’t there a wall between him and Mildred, when you came down to it? Literally not just one wall but, so far, three! And expensive, too! And the uncles, the aunts, the cousins, the nieces, the nephews, that lived in those walls, the gibbering pack of tree apes that said nothing, nothing, nothing and said it loud, loud, loud.
It’s common these days to text other people who are in the room with you. The walls are between us, too, in the form of smartphones—we talk through the walls to each other. What is being said? What is being lost?
Page 51: ‘You should’ve thought of that before becoming a fireman.’ ‘Thought!’ he said. ‘Was I given a choice? My grandfather and father were firemen. In my sleep, I ran after them.’
Is there ever a time that you make a choice because it’s the obvious one, the one that’s always been made, without thinking about it? Would you have made the same choice if you had taken the time to think it through? Why or why not?
Page 72: ‘That favorite subject, Myself.’ ‘I understand that one,” said Mildred. ‘But Clarisse’s favorite subject wasn’t herself. It was everyone else, and me. She was the first person in a good many years I’ve really liked. She was the first person I can remember who looked straight at me as if I counted.’
When we get lost behind our screens, do we lose the opportunity to make others feel that they count? Why does Guy feel this way about Clarisse? What is lost when one stops looking straight at those around them?
Page 73: Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it! We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world? Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are? I’ve heard rumors; the world is starving, but we’re well fed. Is it true, the world works hard and we play? Is that why we’re hated so much?
Discussions questions inherent in that one, eh?
Page 82: I saw the way things were going, a long time back. I said nothing. I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilt,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself.
What responsibility does the individual have in serving the greater good? How does one know when it’s time to stand up and say, “enough is enough”? How does one go about doing it?
Page 87: The whole culture’s shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping.
What aspects of our own society need melting and reshaping? How do we go about fixing them?
Page 144: He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough.
When people talk about boredom, a feeling of emptiness can come up. What is it about Guy’s presence in this moment that lets him be fulfilled? How does his intent change his perspective?
And, finally, from the afterward of my addition—a scene from an alternative version between Chief Beatty and Guy:
Page 170: ‘Don’t you see the beauty, Montag? I never read them. Not one book, not one chapter, not one page, not one paragraph. I do play with ironies, don’t I? To have thousands of books and never crack one, to turn your back on the lot and say: No. […] I do not give them sustenance, no hope with hand or eye or tongue. They are no better than dust.’
When Bradbury claims there is more than one way to burn a book, what does he mean? How do we already burn books? What do we lose in letting them settle, and dust coat, and lose their life? What is society’s responsibility it in making sure they live on?
Interested in learning more about the alienation found in today’s society? Check out the following articles.