Captain Beatty in "Fahrenheit 451"

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Of all literary works regarding dystopian societies, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is perhaps one of the most bluntly shocking, insightful, and relatable of them. Set in a United States of the future, this novel contains a government that has banned books and a society that constantly watches television. However, Guy Montag, a fireman (one who burns books as opposed to actually putting out fires) discovers books and a spark of desire for knowledge is ignited within him. Unfortunately his boss, the belligerent Captain Beatty, catches on to his newfound thirst for literature. A man of great duplicity, Beatty sets up Montag to ultimately have his home destroyed and to be expulsed from the city. On the other hand, Beatty is a much rounder character than initially apparent. Beatty himself was once an ardent reader, and he even uses literature to his advantage against Montag. Moreover, Beatty is a critical character in Fahrenheit 451 because of his morbid cruelty, obscene hypocrisy, and overall regret for his life.

Beatty is the ideal antagonist for Fahrenheit 451 primarily because his great cruelty and abrasive personality starkly contrasts Montag’s more sensitive nature. Intimations of Beatty’s cruelty are made by the cruel games he plays with the other firemen at the station. The firemen own a mechanical dog (which has superb sense of smell and needle that injects its victims with paralyzing substances) that Beatty would take bets on the cruel games he pit the dog into. For example, Beatty would “set the ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the Hound and let loose rats in the firehouse, and sometimes chickens, and sometimes cats . . . to see which of the cats or chickens or rats the Hound would seize first” (...

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... a flamethrower at his adversary, Beatty simply “just stood there, not really trying to save himself, just stood there, joking, needling” (122). Beatty ultimately gives up his life to Montag, bereft of true passion and joy in life.

Captain Beatty is perhaps one of the most critical characters in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: he is expertly cruel and malicious, adroit at skewing the truth into a web of hypocrisies, and ultimately surrenders his own life. While Beatty attempts to continue the holocaust of books that his generation had started, in reality he is only depriving himself of a world of knowledge, imagination, and insight. Beatty proves that giving up ones dreams and aspirations may be the easy way out of conflicts and insecurities, but will quash the marvelous revolutions that can be brought upon by one with the will and determination to persevere.
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