Below you will find the reading we have done in Fahrenheit 451. You have a writing assignment that is attached to this as well:
10 Sentence Paragraph
Explain how Ray Bradbury’s use of descriptive language allows the reader to analyze the characters.
Use the T-Chart attached to this post to help you document their characteristics.
Aim: How can we use character description to analyze a character?
Without further ado…
IT WAS A PLEASURE TO BURN
IT was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.
With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous
kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the
hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning
to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet
numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of
what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that
burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies.
He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the
furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the
house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned
dark with burning.
Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.
He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel
man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile
still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that. smile, it never
ever went away, as long as he remembered.
He hung up his black-beetle-coloured helmet and shined it, he hung his flameproof
jacket neatly; he showered luxuriously, and then, whistling, hands in pockets, walked
across the upper floor of the fire station and fell down the hole. At the last moment,
when disaster seemed positive, he pulled his hands from his pockets and broke his
fall by grasping the golden pole. He slid to a squeaking halt, the heels one inch from
the concrete floor downstairs.
He walked out of the fire station and along the midnight street toward the subway
where the silent, air-propelled train slid soundlessly down its lubricated flue in the
earth and let him out with a great puff of warm air an to the cream-tiled escalator
rising to the suburb.
Whistling, he let the escalator waft him into the still night air. He walked toward the
comer, thinking little at all about nothing in particular. Before he reached the corner,
however, he slowed as if a wind had sprung up from nowhere, as if someone had
called his name.
The last few nights he had had the most uncertain feelings about the sidewalk just
around the corner here, moving in the starlight toward his house. He had felt that a
moment before his making the turn, someone had been there. The air seemed
charged with a special calm as if someone had waited there, quietly, and only a
moment before he came, simply turned to a shadow and let him through. Perhaps his
nose detected a faint perfume, perhaps the skin on the backs of his hands, on his
face, felt the temperature rise at this one spot where a person’s standing might raise the immediate atmosphere ten degrees for an instant. There was no understanding it.
Each time he made the turn, he saw only the white, unused, buckling sidewalk, with
perhaps, on one night, something vanishing swiftly across a lawn before he could
focus his eyes or speak.
But now, tonight, he slowed almost to a stop. His inner mind, reaching out to turn the
corner for him, had heard the faintest whisper. Breathing? Or was the atmosphere
compressed merely by someone standing very quietly there, waiting?
He turned the corner.
The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl
who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and
the leaves carry her forward. Her head was half bent to watch her shoes stir the
circling leaves. Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle
hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of
pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them.
Her dress was white and it whispered. He almost thought he heard the motion of her
hands as she walked, and the infinitely small sound now, the white stir of her face
turning when she discovered she was a moment away from a man who stood in the
middle of the pavement waiting.
The trees overhead made a great sound of letting down their dry rain. The girl
stopped and looked as if she might pull back in surprise, but instead stood regarding
Montag with eyes so dark and shining and alive, that he felt he had said something
quite wonderful. But he knew his mouth had only moved to say hello, and then when
she seemed hypnotized by the salamander on his arm and the phoenix-disc on his
chest, he spoke again.
“Of course,” he said, “you’re a new neighbour, aren’t you?”
“And you must be”-she raised her eyes from his professional symbols-“the fireman.”
Her voice trailed off.
“How oddly you say that.”
“I’d-I’d have known it with my eyes shut,” she said, slowly.
“What-the smell of kerosene? My wife always complains,” he laughed. “You never
wash it off completely.”
“No, you don’t,” she said, in awe.
He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him
quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself.
“Kerosene,” he said, because the silence had lengthened, “is nothing but perfume to
“Does it seem like that, really?”
“Of course. Why not?”
She gave herself time to think of it. “I don’t know.” She turned to face the sidewalk
going toward their homes. “Do you mind if I walk back with you? I’m Clarisse
“Clarisse. Guy Montag. Come along. What are you doing out so late wandering
around? How old are you?”
They walked in the warm-cool blowing night on the silvered pavement and there was
the faintest breath of fresh apricots and strawberries in the air, and he looked around
and realized this was quite impossible, so late in the year.
There was only the girl walking with him now, her face bright as snow in the
moonlight, and he knew she was working his questions around, seeking the best
answers she could possibly give.
“Well,” she said, “I’m seventeen and I’m crazy. My uncle says the two always go
together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane. Isn’t this a nice time of night to walk? I like to smell things and look at things, and
sometimes stay up all night, walking, and watch the sun rise.”
They walked on again in silence and finally she said, thoughtfully, “You know, I’m not
afraid of you at all.”
He was surprised. “Why should you be?”
“So many people are. Afraid of firemen, I mean. But you’re just a man, after all…”
He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself
dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes
were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact. Her
face, turned to him now, was fragile milk crystal with a soft and constant light in it. It
was not the hysterical light of electricity but-what? But the strangely comfortable and
rare and gently flattering light of the candle. One time, when he was a child, in a
power-failure, his mother had found and lit a last candle and there had been a brief
hour of rediscovery, of such illumination that space lost its vast dimensions and drew
comfortably around them, and they, mother and son, alone, transformed, hoping that
the power might not come on again too soon ….
And then Clarisse McClellan said:
“Do you mind if I ask? How long have you worked at being a fireman?”
“Since I was twenty, ten years ago.”
“Do you ever read any of the books you bum?”
He laughed. “That’s against the law!”
“Oh. Of course.”
“It’s fine work. Monday bum Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ’em
to ashes, then bum the ashes. That’s our official slogan.”
They walked still further and the girl said, “Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out
instead of going to start them?”
“No. Houses. have always been fireproof, take my word for it.”
“Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and
they needed firemen to stop the flames.”
She glanced quickly over. “Why are you laughing?”
“I don’t know.” He started to laugh again and stopped “Why?”
“You laugh when I haven’t been funny and you answer right off. You never stop to
think what I’ve asked you.”
He stopped walking, “You are an odd one,” he said, looking at her. “Haven’t you any
“I don’t mean to be insulting. It’s just, I love to watch people too much, I guess.”
“Well, doesn’t this mean anything to you?” He tapped the numerals 451 stitched on
his char-coloured sleeve.
“Yes,” she whispered. She increased her pace. “Have you ever watched the jet cars
racing on the boulevards down that way?
“You’re changing the subject!”
“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never
see them slowly,” she said. “If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he’d say,
that’s grass! A pink blur? That’s a rose-garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs
are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles an hour
and they jailed him for two days. Isn’t that funny, and sad, too?”
“You think too many things,” said Montag, uneasily.
“I rarely watch the ‘parlour walls’ or go to races or Fun Parks. So I’ve lots of time for
crazy thoughts, I guess. Have you seen the two-hundred-foot-long billboards in the
country beyond town? Did you know that once billboards were only twenty feet long? But cars started rushing by so quickly they had to stretch the advertising out so it
“I didn’t know that!” Montag laughed abruptly.
“Bet I know something else you don’t. There’s dew on the grass in the morning.”
He suddenly couldn’t remember if he had known this or not, and it made him quite
“And if you look”-she nodded at the sky-“there’s a man in the moon.”
He hadn’t looked for a long time.
They walked the rest of the way in silence, hers thoughtful, his a kind of clenching
and uncomfortable silence in which he shot her accusing glances. When they
reached her house all its lights were blazing.
“What’s going on?” Montag had rarely seen that many house lights.
“Oh, just my mother and father and uncle sitting around, talking. It’s like being a
pedestrian, only rarer. My uncle was arrested another time-did I tell you?-for being a
pedestrian. Oh, we’re most peculiar.”
“But what do you talk about?”
She laughed at this. “Good night!” She started up her walk. Then she seemed to
remember something and came back to look at him with wonder and curiosity. “Are
you happy?” she said.
“Am I what?” he cried.
But she was gone-running in the moonlight. Her front door shut gently.