Study Guide Questions for Fahrenheit 451
Answer the following questions in paragraph form.
These questions should act as a reading guide and are not intended to replace careful reading of the novel’s themes and development.
Part I: The Hearth and the Salamander (pages 3-14)
1. What do the “fireman” do for a living? For a living the “fireman” burns books and occasionally some people, if they are with the book. It’s quite different that what firemen do today.
2. In the opening scene, why are the books compared to birds? In the opening scene, the books are refered to as “flapping pigeon-winged books” because the burning pages look as if they are wings of a bird flapping up and down.
3. What does Montag think of his job? Montag enjoys his job burning books and takes great pride in it. At the beginning of the novel, it largely defines his character. The opening passage describes the pleasure he experiences while burning books. He loves the spectacle of burning and seeing things “changed” by the fire.
4. Who does Montag meet on the way home? He meets his new neighbor, an inquisitive and unusual seventeen-year-old named Clarisse McClellan. She immediately recognizes him as a fireman and seems fascinated by him and his uniform. She explains that she is “crazy” and proceeds to suggest that the original duty of firemen was to extinguish fires rather than to light them. She asks him about his job and tells him that she comes from a strange family that does such peculiar things as talk to each other and walk places. Clarisse’s strangeness makes Guy nervous, and he laughs repeatedly and involuntarily.
5. During his conversation, Montag says that “You never wash it off completely” referring to the kerosene. What could this mean symbolically? This could mean that Montag always acts and thinks like a fireman, even when he’s not working; that being a fireman affects the way you see the world. It could also mean that Montag doesn’t want to wash off the smell completely, that he likes and is proud of it.
6. Speculate: Why do you think that Bradbury would introduce Clarisse before Montag’s wife, Mildred? I think that Bradbury introduces Clarisse before Mildred because of the impact she has on Montag’s way of thought and sense of being in the world. Even though she is his wife, Millie really has little bearing on causing change in Montag. She is representative of the Status Quo, the way things are. Yet, Clarisse is a voice, the first real and definitive voice that represents how things should be for Montag. She is the first voice to challenge him and compel him to think and reflect about how what he is doing needs to stop.
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