Captain Beatty, the antagonist in Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is one of the most well-read characters in the novel. He can quote literature to make his point and use it to overpower others. In the past, he, like Montag, has searched through the pages of books for the answer that he does not know the question to. Yet, instead of becoming a protector of literature, he is the scourge of books, leading his firemen to burn down the words of philosophers and writers and taking with them the knowledge that the books hold. Because of the influence of society, the lack of a mentor, and himself, Beatty fails to understand literature and become a full individual.
The society of Fahrenheit 451 played a large role in the conversion of Beatty into what he is, the Captain of the Firemen. Beatty, as a reader of books himself, “The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we’re the Happiness […] we stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. […] Don’t let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world.” Having been tainted by this shallow society based on instant pleasure, Beatty ends up staying with the society’s values by finding instant pleasure, entertainment, and power: as the captain of the fireman. Surrounded by ta bog of people like Mildred, Beatty’s spark of curiosity could not be nurtured. So like a leaf in a swamp, Beatty was slowly reabsorbed by society to become part of it.
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury Guy Montag is a fireman in the future in charge of burning books. On his way home from work one evening, he meets his new neighbor, an inquisitive 17-year-old girl named Clarisse McClellan. She asks him about his job and tells him she comes from a strange family that does such peculiar things as talk to each other and walk places (being a pedestrian is, like reading, ...
Beatty, unlike Montag, was probably alone in his quest to understand books. He had no Clarisse, Faber, not Granger to guide him in a healthy path. He had no help when he came across the Origin of species and the Bible, nor could he understand the Declaration of Independence after reading the writings of Karl Marx. “What traitors books can be! You think they’re backing you up, and then they turn on you. “(108) Beatty, by saying this line, shows his own frustration. Without a mentor, he is unable to understand the fact that literature it meant to be contradictory to give us options and open our view on different aspects of life. Beatty became lost in a maze of literature and escaped by killing his intellectual self and embracing the values of society.
In the end, it is Beatty that stops from freeing himself from society. He is stuck in the tangle of literature, yet he does not think and get himself free. He looks for answers in books, but refuses to search for the meaning in the books. He does not understand that a book is an idea, and not a manual. “Montag, take my word for it, I’ve had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing! Nothing you can teach or believe.”(62) Unlike Montag, who intently searches for the answer, even if it means killing himself, Beatty refuses to leave the comfort of instant pleasure and as a result, finds that “the books say nothing!”(62)
Captain Beatty could have been a protector of literature, but because of the society’s insistence on simplicity, the lack of a mentor, and most importantly his own unwillingness to think, he became stuck with the ideals of a society searching for instant and fleeting pleasure, just like the fire that he loves so much. And in the end, leading a pointless life without depth, Beatty shows no reluctance when Montag points the flamethrower in his direction. “Go ahead…”(119)