Guy Montag is a fireman, who burns houses of dissidents who have been found to possess books. He wears a helmet with the numbers 451 printed on it, this represents ‘fahrenheit 451’: the temperature at which book-paper catches on fire and burns. Early on in, Montag senses he is being watched. One night, as he turns the corner he sees a girl playing in the moonlight. This girl is Montag’s neighbour, Clarisse McClellan. A friendship develops between the two as Montag learns of Clarisse’s sensitive nature.
He discovers that she loves to study people. Unlike Clarisse’s home; warmth and lively, Montag’s is like a tomb – dark, silent and sterile. He realises that he is not happy and that Clarisse is able to see through that smile. Mildred, Montag’s wife, insensitive to the world around her, constantly in her ears as seashell thimble radios play music and talk as though they are ocean waves. One night Mildred overdoses on sleeping pills. Montag calls the emergency handymen who pump out Mildred’s stomach and cleanse her body.
He informs Montag that there are nine or even ten cases per night and the machinery they use were built to clean both the stomach and the blood in half an hour. Montag is unsettled and feels that individuals allow tecnicians even strangers to violate their bodies. The new blood revitalises Mildred’s face, Montag wishing it could happen to her flesh, brain and memory. Montag awoke the next to morning to find Mildred preparing breakfast whilst still listening to her seashell ear thimble. She starts to complain that she slept very uncomfortably and that she is hungry.
She cannot remember the night before and even denies taking the pills. Just as the technicians said would happen. By Montag spending time with Clarisse he develops greater self awareness and makes him consider love. She states that she can see into his soul and declares he isn’t inlove by placing a dandelion under his chin and it failing to rub off. She considers his occupation as a fireman, and that he has been the only one to listen to her, because others perceive her to be different and ignore her. At the fire station, they have a Mechanical hound, a creature that ‘slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live’ (p. 0). The hound was a perfect killing machine, and the fireman would entertain themselves by letting an animal loose for the hound to grip on and inject morphine and toss into the incincerator. Montag suspects someone has tampered with this killing machine and remains upstairs while these games are being played as the hound continuously grows at him. Clarisse walks Montag home everyday. As the friendship between Clarisse and Montag continues to grow, it further develops Montag’s sensitivity to the world around him.
Suddenly things begin to change as Clarisse no longer walks him home and the fire station seems more threatening then before. That night, the firemen are summonsed to an old woman’s home. Montag picked up one of the ladies books and clenches it to his chest, hiding it from all the men. The old woman would prefer to die with her books than allowing the fireman the sense of victory. Montag goes home to an empty feeling, knowing the only way to communicate with his wife is through a seashell ear thimble.
Things seem incomplete as he feels the emptiness that exists in himself and Mildred as he thinks of her popping pills. Mildred remembers that Clarisse’s family has moved and that Clarisse may have been killed by a passing car. This information slipped her mind as she was busy with the relatives on the telewalls. Montag explains to Mildred thast he is considering quitting his job, he is tired of burning houses and books. The next day Captain Beatty visits Montag. Beatty assures him that all firemen go through what Montag is. He suggests that Montag takes a few days off.
During that discussion Mildred straightens up the pillows on the lounge and finds the book Montag took from the old woman’s house the night before. Beatty informs Montag that in the past, mass production provided books, radio and television for all people. They were ‘leveled down to a paste pudding form’ (page 58). During events that happened in the past, books stopped selling. Burning seems to be the only way to ensure that everyone is happy. No offending books are left and babies are sent to kindergarten to avoid the family feeding them anti-social ideas.
That night’s events makes Montag feel aggressive. Mildred suggests as therapy to take out the beetle drive fast, killing rabbits and dogs along the way. Montag feels that both he and Mildred are loosing control. He opens up the grill of the air conditioner and shows Mildred all of the books he has hidden. She is horrified and wants to burn them, Montag begs for atleast two days to be able to read them. Beatty calls the door, however Mildred and Montag do not answer, he then walks away leaving the two reading the books trying to understand them.