DesLily, of "Here, There, and Everywhere, 2nd edition" is presenting a "favorite character" contest, with a deadline of Sunday, August 5. Write about your favorite character, post it on you own blog, and let DesLily know about it. If you have no blog, post your entry on The Elders Tribune and notify DesLily that it's there. This is fun; try it!
Here are the links, as well as my story:
I have many favorite characters, among them most of the usual "classics," as well as some quirky choices: Garfield the Cat, Jim Smiley of Mark Twain's "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country," and Sol Roth, the character played by Edward G. Robinson in the movie version of Soylent Green. I obviously have a taste for the satirical and the fantastic.
One character whom few people are likely to remember is Mildred Montag, a sort of anti-heroine in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. That's the story of a society where books are forbidden, where "We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal . . . but everyone made equal. . . . Who knows who might be the target of a well-read man?" The title refers to "the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns."
As the story opens, Mildred's husband, Guy, a new-age fireman charged with burning books, comes home to find Mildred lying in bed, unconscious, with an empty sleeping pill bottle beside her. After she's revived by stomach pumping and blood replacement technicians, she remembers nothing. She has a sore stomach, but she asks only, "Did we have a wild party or something?
Mildred's main passtime is watching her "family" on the "parlor walls," an ultimate form of wide-screen TV. She's still begging her husband for a fourth TV wall, even though it would cost one-third of his yearly pay. Mildred's hobbies include "driving a hundred miles an hour around town."
When her friends come over, their conversation goes like this:
"Doesn't everyone look nice!"
"You look fine, Millie!"
"Everyone looks swell."
When Guy Montag turns off the TV and tries to force the women into conversation, asking them some serious questions, the results are ridiculous. On the coming war:
"It's always someone else's husband dies, they say."
"I've heard that too. I've never known any dead man killed in a war. Killed jumping off buildings, yes . . . but from wars? No."
Mildred goes back to what she knows:
"That reminds me. Did you see that Clara Dove five-minute romance last night in your (TV) wall? Well, it was all about this woman who . . ."
Mildred Montag is the ultimate airhead, a satirical portrait of the "average housewife" in a society where books and thinking as not only rare, but forbidden. Mildred represents all I don't want to be. Exaggerated and humorous, yes, but she serves as a good reminder of the possible results of extreme anti-intellectualism, censorship, and the growth of mindless entertainment.
As a former English teacher, I can appreciate Bradbury's message and his portrait of Mildred Montag. And by the way, in the film version, Mildred's first name was modernized, to "Linda," I believe. In my opinion, the book is better than the movie.
Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
This book is available at Amazon.com