Mildred Montag in Fahrenheit 451: Character Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:03 Meet Mildred Montag
  • 1:37 Getting to Know Mildred
  • 2:50 Character Analysis
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Christina Boggs

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

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

While 'Fahrenheit 451' focuses on main character Guy Montag, his wife Mildred is an important part of the novel. This lesson explores Mildred's role and character in the novel through analysis and quotes.

Meet Mildred Montag

'Her face was like a snow-covered island upon which rain might fall, but it left no rain; over which clouds might pass their moving shadows, but she felt no shadow. There was only the singing of the thimble-wasps in her tamped-shut ears, and her eyes all glass, and breath going in and out, softly, faintly, in and out of her nostrils, and her not caring whether it came or went, went or came.' After reading or hearing this passage above, what's your first impression of Mildred Montag? Maybe she seems like a really good sleeper, completely checked out from the world around her. Perhaps you think she's very peaceful, just breathing softly in bed. For Guy Montag, observing his wife in this moment is truly terrifying.

The reader's first encounter with Mildred Montag isn't a pleasant one. Guy Montag, a fireman, comes home from a long night of burning books to find his wife has overdosed on sleeping pills and is seemingly dead to the world around her. Montag calls for emergency services, and two men show up with a ghastly machine. Like an immense electrical snake, the machine sucks poison from Mildred's body then fills her up with someone else's blood. Sounds pretty horrifying, right? At the breakfast table the next morning, Mildred's ears stay plugged with her 'Seashell ear thimbles' (Ray Bradbury's version of ear buds or headphones) as she reads her husband's lips. She has no interest in unplugging to talk to Guy, and she has no recollection of the overdose or the 'snake' that pumped her stomach, saying: 'Oh, I wouldn't do that...I wouldn't do a thing like that. Why would I do a thing like that?'

Getting to Know Mildred

As the reader delves further into Guy Montag's personal life, it becomes apparent that his marriage is deeply flawed. Mildred is obsessed with their parlor. Three of the four walls are made up of giant television screens. She participates in the television programs and refers to characters as 'the family.' Mildred escapes from the real world around her into an imaginary world filled with constant noise, bright colors, and fictional characters. Mildred's life is so dominated by the television that it becomes a point of obsession. 'It's really fun. It'll be even more fun when we can afford to have the fourth wall installed. How long you figure before we save up and get the fourth wall torn out and a fourth wall-TV put in? It's only two thousand dollars.'

When Guy tells her this would amount to a third of his pay for the entire year, she responds with complete self-interest: 'It's only two thousand dollars...And I should think you'd consider me sometimes. If we had a fourth wall, why it'd be just like this room wasn't ours at all, but all kinds of exotic people's rooms.' Mildred is consumed by her own life and her own interests. When her husband reveals that he's been secretly hoarding books, she gets inadvertently sucked into his crime. Ultimately, Mildred turns her husband in to the authorities then abandons him.

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Mildred Montag in Fahrenheit 451: Character Analysis & Quotes

Discussion Questions

1. In much of his work, including Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury uses fiction set in dystopian worlds to critique contemporary culture. What are some aspects of American culture in 1950's America that this novel is addressing? What are aspects of our current cultural atmosphere that make this novel relevant in the twenty-first century? How does the character of Mildred Montag contribute to Bradbury's message?

2. Guy and Mildred have a rather cold marriage and a disconnected relationship. Imagine this couple early in their relationship. Which person do you think must have changed the most over time? How does Montag try to reconnect with his wife during the course of the novel? What happens in this attempt?

3. For Mildred and her friends, constant entertainment and oblivion to the world around them are benefits. How does Bradbury convince the reader that these qualities of the average life as depicted in the novel are a negative and undesirable state? How do you as a reader feel about Mildred?

4. Entertainment can certainly be addictive, and does indeed have the power to distract us from worries and problems. In your opinion, where is the line drawn between a helpful break in routine and a problem behavior when it comes to media like television, Netflix, YouTube, etc.? Tie your answer to the plot of the novel if possible.

5. Bradbury wrote this tale long before the advent of personal computers and smartphones. If a similar story were to be written today, how might these items play a part in the story? For example, would Mildred have a laptop or be addicted to scrolling through Facebook or Snapchat on her phone?

6. Think about what happens to Mildred at the end of the novel. What warning is Bradbury giving the reader about attitudes and behaviors in contemporary Western culture?

Possible Content of Discussions:

These questions are designed to help students think about the underlying concepts in this novel. In the 1950's, television was fairly new and high tech appliances were popular in the "modern home." After the end of World War I, women who had been in the workplace returned to the home and were expected to forget all about their independence during the war. Today, there are many social and cultural issues concerning media and its power in our daily lives. The world in general has "shrunk" so that we are constantly barraged with information and drawn into world politics.

It's easy for the typical reader to dislike Mildred, or to be embarrassed for her and her behavior with her friends. Maybe students will think a bit about how some of their behavior, especially around media use, might appear to an "outsider." They might even get into a discussion about the relative pros and cons of cellphones and personal computers. Bradbury is perhaps warning citizens in his time of the problems that might arise through technological advances and the "dumbing down" of the population. Most students will have no trouble connecting this novel and Mildred's character to our current cultural climate, which should generate some lively discussion.

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