Meeting Clarisse: How Direct Characterization Affects How We Read a Text

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SWBAT analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone by citing words and phrases from Fahrenheit 451 and determining their effect, specifically on characterization.

Big Idea

If you describe someone as "like candlelight," what are you saying about that person?

Getting Started

30 minutes

At the beginning of class today, we will spend time sharing our homework. Students were asked to select one sentence that they liked from yesterday's reading and explain why they picked it. They could select their sentence from three paragraphs of writing, but there are only seven sentences in those three paragraphs. I will use this as an opportunity to discuss the nature of the paragraph, namely that there is no set sentence length. Instead it's about communicating effectively, no matter the sentence length and quantity (L.9-10.1b). I will read one sentence at a time and students who wrote to that sentence will explain why they selected it (SL.9-10.1a). Here's what one student had to say.


I spend a lot of time on the first few pages of the book because these pages set the tone. These paragraphs, in particular, help us understand Montag, the protagonist (RL.9-10.4). He has just burned down a house and yet, "He walked toward the corner, thinking little at all about nothing in particular." I'm sure there will be many responses to this statement, but no matter the nature, they will help us characterize Montag (RL.9-10.3). For instance, someone might have picked this sentence because his state of mind sounds relaxing-- it would be nice not to have a care in the world-- but even this kind of personal response is a way into the text.

Meeting Clarisse

25 minutes

In the next 25 minutes, we will only read another three pages, but in these pages, we meet Clarisse McClellan, the girl who changes Montag's carefree attitude (RL.9-10.3). Due to direct characterization, the reader gets a clear sense of this girl and how different she is from Montag. In order to comprehend why she has such a dramatic effect on him, we read these pages slowly and pause often to discuss. We will focus on Montag's description of her, specifically her milk-white face, dark eyes, and "tireless curiosity." We will discuss the importance of eyes for a few moments. They are, of course, the window to the soul. Focusing on one's eyes will help us compare Clarisse to Mildred (in a couple of days); we know that intellectually they are very different, but comparing Clarisse's "shining and alive" eyes with Mildred's "moonstones" shows us that our physical qualities can echo what's happening on the inside.


We will also spend considerable time focusing on this analogy: "Her face, turned to him now, was fragile milk crystal with a soft and constant light in it. It was not the hysterical light of electricity but-- what? But the strangely comfortable and rare and gently flattering light of a candle." It is easy to read right past this comparison, but I like to stop and think about what it shows about Clarisse (RL.9-10.4). I ask for volunteers to tell about a time when the electricity went out and the family came together around a couple of candles. Or to tell about a time around a campfire. What is different about this kind of atmosphere? What does it mean if a person's face is described in this way?

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

For homework, student will pick, from the pages we read today, one sentence that they like. Then they will explain why they like it (W.9-10.10). Maybe it sounds nice and they can explain what creates the pleasing quality. Maybe they like image it creates in their mind and they can try to explain what they see. Or maybe they can connect something from these paragraphs to something else they know. This activity was also last night's activity, and one that they will practice throughout our reading of this text. It is a good way to make personal connections to the novel.