At the beginning of class, I will give each student this character chart, which we will complete throughout our reading of Fahrenheit 451. At this point, we can fill in information for Montag, Clarisse, and some initial information for Mildred. There will be more to add in her row by the end of our reading today (RL.9-10.1 and RL.9-10.3).
The worksheet will be helpful throughout our reading and we will use it until the end. The last row is for Granger, who we meet at the very end of the text. At that point, our initial impressions of Montag will be a distant memory, so it will be nice to have written documentation to remind us.
We begin reading today where "handymen" come to the house to revive Mildred. They pump her stomach, replace her blood, all while smoking a cigarette and making small talk. They do not sense Montag's anxiety or anger. Then they leave to head to another house to repeat the process. We will discuss what this episode shows about the society (RL.9-10.1).
The impersonal and routine nature of their work stands out to Montag and to the reader, but what stands out more in Mildred's reaction to the situation. The next morning, she either does not remember taking 30 sleeping pills, or she won't admit it. I ask students which they think is more accurate and why. Is it possible that she doesn't remember? Is it more plausible that she just won't admit that she purposely took too many pills? We will have an informal conversation to try to work through these questions (SL.9-10.1).
This conversation will inevitably extend far beyond the text. My students are not immune to the perils of addiction. This part of the text is a place to discuss the underlying issues of overdoses and how easy it can be to separate oneself from reality. Plus, this is often the moment in the text that "gets" students; this is where they begin to really like the book. Teenagers love to read about trauma!
Montag does not push Mildred. Instead, he gets ready for work, but before he goes, he has a conversation with his wife about her tv shows. Before we read this section, we pause to list and discuss our favorite tv shows.
Their living room is walled on three sides by televisions and Mildred is desperate to have the fourth wall installed, despite the fact that it is more than they can afford. When Montag asks her what the show is about, Mildred names the characters; seemingly, there is no plot. At the end of this section, we will talk briefly about overspending (I hope that someone remembers that this is the decade of the first credit card, which we discovered a few days prior) and we will compare Mildred's programs with our own (SL.9-10.1).
I try to constantly make connections between the events and characters in this text to our own society. I want this unit to be reflective in nature.
For homework, students will write a paragraph that compares one of their favorite shows and their behavior toward it to Mildred's show and her addiction (W.9-10.10). It is a good way to encourage students to identify with the text, as opposed to merely thinking of it as something only important in English class.