Clarisse McClellan in Fahrenheit 451: Character Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:02 Meet Clarisse McClellan
  • 1:24 Getting to Know…
  • 3:06 Impact on Guy Montag
  • 5:11 Significance of…
  • 5:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Clarisse McClellan, neighbor to Guy Montag, is a seemingly minor character in 'Fahrenheit 451.' This lesson analyzes the character, quotes, and significance of Clarisse McClellan.

Meet Clarisse McClellan

Have you ever met someone who was absolutely captivating? A person that was so fascinating, and so provocative, that you hung on their every word? And after parting, you weighed each and every word that left their mouth, pondering their meaning?

Well, for Guy Montag, the main character in Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse McClellan is just such a person. Written by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 is told in the third-person omniscient point-of-view, meaning although the narrator is not a part of the story, the narrator shares the protagonist's innermost thoughts and feelings. As a result, the reader sees Clarisse the way Montag sees her.

Montag first encounters Clarisse on a moonlit night following his shift at work. Both Montag's and the reader's first impression of Clarisse is almost ethereal:

''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 face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity.''

Getting to Know Clarisse McClellan

Bold and seemingly fearless, Clarisse introduces herself to Montag. In Clarisse's own words, ''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.'' But to Guy, Clarisse appears to be crazier than just your average 17-year-old. Clarisse is filled with ideas and questions; a constant stream of consciousness flows from her.

Through Montag, the reader learns valuable information about Clarisse. For one thing, her family does not watch television in the parlor; instead, they talk to each other. And, she does seemingly silly things, like stand in the rain because she likes how it feels. She's not afraid of a fireman like Guy Montag, but she's afraid of her peers: ''Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way?...I'm afraid of them and they don't like me because I'm afraid.''

She ponders what the people around her observe: ''I sometimes think drivers don't know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them…'' All the while, she takes the time to absorb the world around her: ''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.'' She's also considered to be ''anti-social'' by conventional measures, and as a result, she's studied and examined by medical professionals.

Impact on Guy Montag

Clarisse McClellan has a profound impact on Guy Montag. Within moments of meeting her, Montag is reminded of long-repressed memories. Her face reminds him of a light, not a glaring fluorescent light, but a softly glowing candle. This brings up fragments of a fond childhood experience with his mother. After parting from their first meeting, Montag continues to wonder about Clarisse. What goes on in her house? What does her family talk about? What goes on with that crazy uncle of hers?

Seeing Clarisse after work becomes habitual for Montag. He looks forward to their meetings and is no less surprised by Clarisse each time they speak. Through Clarisse, Montag starts to learn about himself. On one encounter, she asks him a simple question: ''Are you happy?'' This rocks Montag's world. Of course he was happy...but wait a second, was he really happy? What does happy even look like?

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