At the beginning of class, I will scan the room and check that everyone has his/her homework. Instead of focusing on specific sentences, like we did yesterday, today I will ask a general question that they will be able to answer effectively if they did their homework well. I will ask: would do you like to be friends with Clarisse (RL.9-10.3)? Why or why not? After a discussion, I will ask this followup question: Would Clarisse be friends with you? (SL.9-10.1a)
This line of questioning encourages a more relevant connection to the text. If we read this novel as purely separate from ourselves, we will sell ourselves short. As much as this text was a reflection of life in the 1950s, it is a reflection of us today and possibly our future.
We will read the first conversation that Montag has with Clarisse, during which we get a glimpse into their society. She reveals that people drive extremely fast-- so fast that grass just looks like a green blur out the window-- and that you can get arrested for driving too slow or for being a pedestrian. Clarisse and her family do all the things that the rest of society doesn't do, like walking around or staying up late just to talk, and because of it, she seems strange to Montag. Before she runs off, Clarisse asks Montag, "are you happy?" This is the point where we will pause in our reading and spend a few minutes journaling (W.9-10.10). Students can respond to anything we just read. It can be about the book or a personal reaction. I will provide a few ideas to help inspire:
Here's one student's response. Even though he doesn't specifically say it, Montag asks himself these questions in the next section. I pause so that we can ask them ourselves first, and then understand his reactions as we read them (RL.9-10.3).
In the next three pages of reading, Montag enters his own bedroom, describes it like a tomb, and decides that he is not happy. He then starts describing his wife, who is the exact opposite of Clarisse (RL.11-12.3). Clarisse's is alive and curious, but Mildred's is a "snow-covered island upon which rain might fall, but it felt no rain." Our focus on Clarisse will highlight this distinction (RL.9-10.3). At the end of this section, we will discover why Mildred is so unfeeling: she has overdosed on sleeping pills.
But it takes a slow and purposeful reading to understand this because the overdose is implied instead of directly stated. We will unpack the clues before moving on, and maybe even ask why Bradbury doesn't outright explain the situation (RL.9-10.5). For instance, at one point Montag kicks an object with his foot and it gives a "dull clink" and slides off into the darkness. At this point, I simply ask if anyone has any ideas what the object could be and leave it at that. It will make more sense a couple of paragraphs later, when the object is described in more detail, but it helps to stop and contemplate the earlier sentence so that they don't think they have missed something and continue to read confused.
Ultimately, the comparison of Clarisse to Mildred helps us understand Montag better. If he hadn't met Clarisse, he probably wouldn't react so dramatically to Mildred in the coming scenes. Clarisse is changing him.