Clarisse McClellan is a 17 year old girl in Fahrenheit 451 who lives on the same street as Guy Montag, the protagonist of the story. Her skin is as white as milk and her dark eyes are filled with innocence and curiosity. Clarisse is the spark that ignites Montag’s discontent with the warped society that he lives in. Without Clarisse, much of Guy Montag’s character development would not have happened and many of his pivotal choices would not have been made.
During the novel, Clarisse does not preform daredevil stunts or race cars. She does not conform to society’s guidelines for what is normal, and this is the key to her importance and her downfall. Clarisse’s actions throughout this tale are hardly monumental, the shift that they cause in the narrative is. During the short time that Montag knows her, Clarisse questions everything and inspires him to do the same. She looks at the world with intense curiosity and an acute awareness of her surroundings. Her questions cause Montag to reevaluate his life and see the void of happiness and fulfillment in his life. She even helps lead him to the realization that he is in a loveless marriage by simply rubbing a dandelion on his chin and stating that it says he is not in love with anyone, which he comes to realize as the truth. It’s these simple actions that lead to Montag’s realization that there is no fulfillment in his life, which then leads to him seeking out books as a solution to this.
Clarisse’s ideas regarding life are simple yet revolutionary for the society she lives in. Clarisse believes in stopping to smell the flowers, literally and metaphorically, unlike her thrill-seeking peers. She believes in asking “why” instead of “how” and because of these contemporary ideas is sent to a psychiatrist. However, this does nothing to change her ideals about life or dampen her curiosity.
Society’s reaction to Clarisse is generally a negative one. Most people in Fahrenheit 451’s dystopian culture believe that her ideals are foolish, as shown by Captain Beatty’s and Mildred’s indifference towards her, with Beatty going so far as to say that Clarisse was a “time bomb”. Nonetheless, Montag sees Clarisse in a highly positive light, often marveling at her curiosity and intelligence. Many characters opinions of her can also be seen by observing their...