In Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the writer emphasizes the dynamic juxtaposition between Clarisse’s physical fragility and her powerful presence and insightful intelligence. In addition, Bradbury makes deft use to vivid imagery and contrasting dictions to ensure the reader can experience Clarisse’s formless influence on Guy Montag intimately.
Clarisse’s physical weakness is punctuated by Bradbury’s overweighted choice of details as well as the powerful presence of the wind. Nevertheless, Bradbury is not stingy with his juxtaposition to show Clarisse’s contradictory yet stark brilliance. Clarisse is characterized as a “soft”, “slender”, and “tender” girl with a “faintest…whisper”. The narrator is able to create a soundless atmosphere with a slight, almost unnoticeable presence of Clarisse, showing that she is a fragile, weak character before Guy Montag. Clarisse is not only weak in front of Montag but also in front of the wind. She notices the “stir” of her shoelaces while “letting the motion of wind and leaves carry her forward”. This further creates a more passive role for Clarisse as a delicate girl who seems unable to defeat the omnipotent nature. The narrator’s selection of detail indicates that Clarisse is observant in her relationship with the world that surrounds her, as little as the wind blowing her shoelace. Nevertheless, Clarisse’s weakness is juxtaposed with her soulful, “tireless(ly) curious” dark eyes, which is a contrast with her pale milk-white skin. While her appearance renders the feeling of death, emaciation, the “gentle hunger” is not merely physical but an intellectual hunger of Clarisse, perhaps books. Her eyes bring her character life, joy, and power despite the well-built Guy Montag or strong nature. In contrast with her body, her eyes are fixed on the nature. They are almost archenemy of the wind: her eyes do not escape, waver, or condescend. In addition, Clarisse seems to ask a lot of questions, signified by the repetition and personification of her physical features “whispering”. This not only establishes a tone of inquiry but also highlights the contradicting characterization between Clarisse’s undesired physical qualities and her ingenious mental qualities.
Clarisse’s influence on Montag is significant despite him being in a simple, everyday scene. This is achieved by the narrator’s use of imagery and Clarisse’s characterization that defies not only the expectation of the reader but that of Montag. The imagery is picturesque and lively among the quietness and peaceful setting, which provides an opportunity for Montag to notice the details of Clarisse: the narrator appeals to senses with sound and sight. Montag not only can hear the “sound of hand” but also can feel and see that Clarisse has “miraculous violet” eyes and is “turning him end for end” as well as “shaking him quietly”. This illustrates a formless, intimate, quiet influence Clarisse has on Montag through his experience told in third-person limited narration. It further builds up the irony how a weaker Clarisse has such leverage over Montag, holds his mind toward her, and earns his full attention. Clarisse also defies Montag’s expectation of a little girl. She is not only fearless when seeing Montag, a fireman, but also fixes her eyes on him, not triggered, and talks to him with grace and confidence. This also contradicts the reader’s expectation of Clarisse based on the former mentioning of her dainty appearance, creating a strong emphasis on how powerful and impactful Clarisse is in building the senses of Montag. She becomes not merely a stranger passing by, but a more vivid character who renders Montag’s memory of childhood, makes Montag curious about her background and intelligence, and bewilders Montag with her insightful comment on the firemen.