Character Interaction: How Does Beatty Affect Montag and Mildred
Lesson 9 of 10
Objective: SWBAT analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text and interact with each other by reading aloud and discussing how Beatty affects Montag and Mildred.
We start today with new vocabulary words for the week. They are appall, laud, and dissonant. The commonly confused words are fewer and less. When we discuss the verb "laud," I also explain the adjective "laudable," so they they know the word exists. They can use either in their writing for extra credit points (L.9-10.4b).
Full explanation of my vocabulary system here.
Read: News about Clarisse
Students might say that nothing "happens" on these pages, which I guess is true, in that we are mostly in Montag's head, and yet this response is false because we learn so much in these pages. Ultimately, we see how desperate Montag is to do something, to feel connected and alive and meaningful. The human need to create and to connect with others is an essential message of the text, but in order to understand it later (when it is clearly laid out), we need to spend time with the plot now. Therefore I take 20 minutes to read these 8 pages with students. I don't explain what I just stated outright, but I try to lay the foundation by talking through plot points, so that the students are prepared to develop these claims themselves down the road. In these pages, Montag:
- describes his hands as "ravenous." They are desperate to do something.
- muses about buying a Seashell station, just so he can talk to his wife and feel that she is listening to him. They don't really have a relationship.
- can't remember where he met his wife. Also, he cries over the fact that he wouldn't cry if she died, that's how disconnected they are.
- learns that Clarisse was hit by a car. Mildred tells him that she heard it a few days ago, but "forgot."
- thinks that the mechanical hound might be outside his house. Is it there or is he being paranoid?
When you look at the plot points, it does seem like nothing "happens," since there is no action. It's all thinking and talking. And yet, we learn so much as Montag thinks, namely that humans need to be needed and to be a part of something (RL.9-10.2). All of the things that he fights with in this section are explained by Faber in Part II of the text.
Read: Montag is sick
This section leads up Captain Beatty's visit to the house. We will focus on the interaction between characters (RL.9-10.3). Beatty arrives when Montag fails to go to work on time. Montag tries to talk to Mildred, to explain why he can't go to work today, but the more he talks about what he is thinking about and the old woman who was burnt with her books, the less she listens. She says that she hates the woman and makes it clear that she wants Montag to go to work. She focuses mostly on her programs, at least until Beatty arrives and demands that the walls be turned off, something Mildred wouldn't do when Montag asked her to do it moments before. We will pause in the reading and discuss what her reaction to him shows about both characters (RL.9-10.3). This is worth discussing, especially in contrast to the way that Clarisse affects Montag.
Beatty immediately makes himself at home and begins to explain the history of firefighters and current society. Students will read most of this conversation for homework, but we will start the conversation together, so that they read with purpose. We will focus on this explanation.
For fun, I will show the class this article from The Onion: "Girl Moved to Tears By 'Of Mice and Men' Cliff Notes," which comments on the kind of reading and educational outlook prominent today; we read, not for enjoyment or enlightenment, but because it is a school requirement. The style of this article highlights this fact (RI.9-10.6). My students have read, and enjoyed, Of Mice and Men, so I know they will get a kick out of this mock article. It is also a great opportunity to briefly introduce satire (RL.11-12.6).