In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury tells the story of Guy Montag, who lives in a future where books are not allowed.
He works as a fireman, but not one who puts fires out. Firemen in this story start fires. When books are found in a home, they are burned, along with the house they are found in.
Montag's job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.”
In this society, people pay little attention to nature or even to each other, for that matter.
Montag enjoys his job. He likes to see things "blackened and changed." He likes the feel of the nozzle in his hands as he floods the house with kerosene, anticipating the pretty orange flame after he flicks the igniter.
Until he meets his young neighbor, Clarisse.
Late one night, Montag exits the subway and walks toward his home. He thinks he hears a whisper, or maybe someone breathing. He turns the corner and sees her.
He says she must be their new neighbor. She says he must be the fireman. He smells of kerosene.
He tells her his wife complains about the smell, that you never quite get rid of it. He says it's nothing but perfume to him.
She asks if that's really how he feels about it.
They walk together and continue their conversation. She talks of things not usually discussed. About her family. About her uncle who talks of another time.
Montag tells her she thinks too many things.
As they part, she asks him if he's happy. He laughs and calls the question nonsense.
He walks on toward his home. He's not laughing now.
Something about their conversation disturbs him. He's not happy. He admits it to himself. He's not happy. He has only pretended to be.
Montag enters his house to find that his wife Mildred has taken an overdose of sleeping pills. He calls Emergency Hospital.
Two men are working to save Mildred's life. Neither is an M.D. Montag asks why an M.D. wasn't sent from Emergency.
They tell him they get these kinds of cases eight or ten times a night. They say they got so many a new machine was built so an M.D. was not needed.
It seems Montag is not the only unhappy one in this society.
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