Fahrenheit 451: Novel Summary: Part 1B
Later, Montag leaves his house to go to the fire station where he works the night shift. On the way there, he again meets Clarisse, who uses a dandelion to show that she's in love. When she rubs the dandelion on Montag's chin, no yellow mark is made, which means he's not in love with anyone. The fireman tries to convince himself and Clarisse that he is indeed in love, but it soon becomes painfully evident that he's not. In this scene, Montag also realizes that Clarisse seems more mature than his wife, although Mildred is thirty years old while Clarisse is only seventeen. Obviously this reflects their differences as people. Mildred is a government-corrupted robot who knows nothing outside the world of her parlor "family" while Clarisse has learned about real life-nature, religion and philosophy.
Upon reaching the firehouse, Montag becomes immediately frightened by the Mechanical Hound that stands guard outside. This computerized dog acts as the iron fist of the government, finding and eliminating enemies of the system (one of whom is Montag or at least will be). The "animal" has heightened perceptions and can easily detect traitors to the government's cause. When Montag approaches, the Mechanical Hound seems suspicious, growling at him when he says "hello." Bradbury personifies the dog: "It was like a great bee come home from some field where the honey is full of poison wildness, of insanity and nightmare, its body crammed with that overrich nectar, and now it was sleeping the evil out of itself." This frightens Montag, who begins to suspect that someone in the fire station knows about his secret-namely, that he has books illegally hidden behind the ventilator grille of his house. This person has presumably "told" the hound by programming this information into its computer chip.
Later, Montag speaks to Clarisse about how she is "anti-social." This passage implicitly suggests Bradbury's attitude toward education, which is a fundamental theme of the book. Clarisse is labeled "anti-social" by her peers, because she doesn't attend school or any of the other government-sponsored activities. Yet Clarisse has a different definition of sociality. She asserts, "Social to me means talking to you [Montag] about things like this . . .[At school] they just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film teacher. That's not social to me at all." Here Bradbury, in the words of Clarisse, strongly advocates freedom of thought and attacks government censorship.
After a few days, Clarisse abruptly disappears. Montag doesn't know what happened to her yet, but her absence deeply troubles him, though perhaps he doesn't know why. Also, it seems that war is coming to this country, though the state-controlled news bulletins won't announce it. Jet bombers are frequently heard overhead, but most people don't notice or realize their significance. Here, Bradbury builds the setting for his dramatic conclusion.