If you missed class today, please find the homework assignment as an attachment. We are preparing for another Socratic Seminar which I’m hoping will begin Friday or Monday depending on how much reading we are able to get done. Here is the worksheet. Download it and then read the text below, which was assigned in class today. If you have any questions, email me!
From Fahrenheit 451 (right after Montag returns home from the fire):
“Who is it?”
“Who would it be?” said Montag, leaning back against the closed door in the dark.
His wife said, at last, “Well, put on the light.”
“I don’t want the light.”
“Come to bed.”
He heard her roll impatiently; the bedsprings squealed.
“Are you drunk?” she said.
So it was the hand that started it all. He felt one hand and then the other work his coat free and
let it slump to the floor. He held his pants out into an abyss and let them fall into darkness. His
hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms. He could feel the poison working up his
wrists and into his elbows and his shoulders, and then the jump-over from shoulder-blade to
shoulder-blade like a spark leaping a gap. His hands were ravenous. And his eyes were
beginning to feel hunger, as if they must look at something, anything, everything.
His wife said, “What are you doing?”
He balanced in space with the book in his sweating cold fingers.
A minute later she said, “Well, just don’t stand there in the middle of the floor.”
He made a small sound.
“What?” she asked.
He made more soft sounds. He stumbled towards the bed and shoved the book clumsily under
the cold pillow. He fell into bed and his wife cried out, startled. He lay far across the room from
her, on a winter island separated by an empty sea. She talked to him for what seemed a long
while and she talked about this and she talked about that and it was only words, like the words he
had heard once in a nursery at a friend’s house, a two-year-old child building word patterns,
talking jargon, making pretty sounds in the air. But Montag said nothing and after a long while
when he only made the small sounds, he felt her move in the room and come to his bed and stand
over him and put her hand down to feel his cheek. He knew that when she pulled her hand away
from his face it was wet.
Late in the night he looked over at Mildred. She was awake. There was a tiny dance of melody in
the air, her Seashell was tamped in her ear again and she was listening to far people in far places,
her eyes wide and staring at the fathoms of blackness above her in the ceiling.
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 her to ask 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 could he say?
And suddenly she was so strange he couldn’t believe he knew her at all. He was in someone
else’s house, like those other jokes people told of the gentleman, drunk, coming home late at
night, unlocking the wrong door, entering a wrong room, and bedding with a stranger and getting
up early and going to work and neither of them the wiser.
“Millie…. ?” he whispered.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. What I want to know is ….”
“When did we meet. And where?”
“When did we meet for what?” she asked.
He knew she must be frowning in the dark.
He clarified it. “The first time we ever met, where was it, and when?”
“Why, it was at –”
“I don’t know,” she said.
He was cold. “Can’t you remember?”
“It’s been so long.”
“Only ten years, that’s all, only ten!”
“Don’t get excited, I’m trying to think.” She laughed an odd little laugh that went up and up.
“Funny, how funny, not to remember where or when you met your husband or wife.”
He lay massaging his eyes, his brow, and the back of his neck, slowly. He held both hands over
his eyes and applied a steady pressure there as if to crush memory into place. It was suddenly
more important than any other thing in a life-time that he knew where he had met Mildred.
“It doesn’t matter,” She was up in the bathroom now, and he heard the water running, and the
swallowing sound she made.
“No, I guess not,” he said.
He tried to count how many times she swallowed and he thought of the visit from the two zincoxide-
faced men with the cigarettes in their straight-lined mouths and the electronic-eyed snake
winding down into the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water, and he
wanted to call out to her, how many have you taken TONIGHT! the capsules! how many will
you take later and not know? and so on, every hour! or maybe not tonight, tomorrow night! And
me not sleeping, tonight or tomorrow night or any night for a long while; now that this has
started. And he thought of her lying on the bed with the two technicians standing straight over
her, not bent with concern, but only standing straight, arms folded. And he remembered thinking
then that if she died, he was certain he wouldn’t cry. For it would be the dying of an unknown, a
street face, a newspaper image, and it was suddenly so very wrong that he had begun to cry, not
at death but at the thought of not crying at death, a silly empty man near a silly empty woman,
while the hungry snake made her still more empty.
How do you get so empty? he wondered. Who takes it out of you? And that awful flower the
other day, the dandelion! It had summed up everything, hadn’t it? “What a shame! You’re not in
love with anyone !” And why not?
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. He had taken to calling them relatives from the very
first. “How’s Uncle Louis today?” “Who?” “And Aunt Maude?” The most significant memory he
had of Mildred, really, was of a little girl in a forest without trees (how odd!) or rather a little girl
lost on a plateau where there used to be trees (you could feel the memory of their shapes all
about) sitting in the centre of the “living-room.” The living-room; what a good job of labelling
that was now. No matter when he came in, the walls were always talking to Mildred.
“Something must be done!I”
“Yes, something must be done!”
“Well, let’s not stand and talk!”
“Let’s do it! ”
“I’m so mad I could SPIT!”
What was it all about? Mildred couldn’t say. Who was mad at whom? Mildred didn’t quite know.
What were they going to do? Well, said Mildred, wait around and see.
He had waited around to see.
A great thunderstorm of sound gushed from the walls. Music bombarded him at such an
immense volume that his bones were almost shaken from their tendons; he felt his jaw vibrate,
his eyes wobble in his head. He was a victim of concussion. When it was all over he felt like a
man who had been thrown from a cliff, whirled in a centrifuge and spat out over a waterfall that
fell and fell into emptiness and emptiness and never-quite-touched-bottom-never-never-quite-no
not quite-touched-bottom … and you fell so fast you didn’t touch the sides either … never … quite
. . . touched . anything.
The thunder faded. The music died.
“There,” said Mildred,
And it was indeed remarkable. Something had happened. Even though the people in the walls of
the room had barely moved, and nothing had really been settled, you had the impression that
someone had turned on a washing-machine or sucked you up in a gigantic vacuum. You drowned
in music and pure cacophony. He came out of the room sweating and on the point of collapse.
Behind him, Mildred sat in her chair and the voices went on again:
“Well, everything will be all right now,” said an “aunt.”
“Oh, don’t be too sure,” said a “cousin.”
“Now, don’t get angry!”
“YOU are ! ”
“Why should I be mad!”
“That’s all very well,” cried Montag, “but what are they mad about? Who are these people?
Who’s that man and who’s that woman? Are they husband and wife, are they divorced, engaged,
what? Good God, nothing’s connected up.”
“They–” said Mildred. “Well, they-they had this fight, you see. They certainly fight a lot. You
should listen. I think they’re married. Yes, they’re married. Why?”
And if it was not the three walls soon to be four walls and the dream complete, then it was the
open car and Mildred driving a hundred miles an hour across town, he shouting at her and she
shouting back and both trying to hear what was said, but hearing only the scream of the car. “At
least keep it down to the minimum !” he yelled: “What?” she cried. “Keep it down to fifty-five,
the minimum! ” he shouted. “The what?” she shrieked. “Speed!” he shouted. And she pushed it
up to one hundred and five miles an hour and tore the breath from his mouth.
When they stepped out of the car, she had the Seashells stuffed in her ears.
Silence. Onlv the wind blowing softlv.
“Mildred.” He stirred in bed.
He reached over and pulled one of the tiny musical insects out of her ear. “Mildred. Mildred?”
“Yes.” Her voice was faint.
He felt he was one of the creatures electronically inserted between the slots of the phono-colour
walls, speaking, but the speech not piercing the crystal barrier. He could only pantomime, hoping
she would turn his way and see him. They could not touch through the glass.
“Mildred, do you know that girl I was telling you about?”
“What girl?” She was almost asleep.
“The girl next door.”
“What girl next door?”
“You know, the high-school girl. Clarisse, her name is.”
“Oh, yes,” said his wife.
“I haven’t seen her for a few days-four days to be exact. Have you seen her?”
“I’ve meant to talk to you about her. Strange.”
“Oh, I know the one you mean.”
“I thought you would.”
“Her,” said Mildred in the dark room.
“What about her?” asked Montag.
“I meant to tell you. Forgot. Forgot.”
“Tell me now. What is it?”
“I think she’s gone.”
“Whole family moved out somewhere. But she’s gone for good. I think she’s dead.”
“We couldn’t be talking about the same girl.”
“No. The same girl. McClellan. McClellan, Run over by a car. Four days ago. I’m not sure. But I
think she’s dead. The family moved out anyway. I don’t know. But I think she’s dead.”
“You’re not sure of it! ”
“No, not sure. Pretty sure.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“Four days ago!”
“I forgot all about it.”
“Four days ago,” he said, quietly, lying there.
They lay there in the dark room not moving, either of them. “Good night,” she said.
He heard a faint rustle. Her hands moved. The electric thimble moved like a praying mantis on
the pillow, touched by her hand. Now it was in her ear again, humming.
He listened and his wife was singing under her breath.
Outside the house, a shadow moved, an autumn wind rose up and faded away But there was
something else in the silence that he heard. It was like a breath exhaled upon the window. It was
like a faint drift of greenish luminescent smoke, the motion of a single huge October leaf
blowing across the lawn and away.
The Hound, he thought. It’s out there tonight. It’s out there now. If I opened the window . . .
He did not open the window.