Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Captain Beatty, the fire chief in the Ray Bradbury novel 'Fahrenheit 451,' is a complicated man who prides himself on the work he does for society. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at Captain Beatty.

Who Is the Real Captain Beatty?

Think about someone you know who may seem like a great guy in every way...until you cross him. When that happens, watch out! That's pretty much Captain Beatty in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. He's smart, well-read, and he takes care of business. At times, you might wonder if he's actually part of the pro-book movement despite his career choice as a fireman (i.e. book burner). Let's find out more about Captain Beatty and how he meets his end in the novel.

As a fireman, Captain Beatty runs a tight ship.
fire chief

An Educated Leader in the Fight Against Knowledge

Captain Beatty is a complex character. Appearing to be a friend to the book's protagonist, Montag, he listens and offer reassurance when the book-sniffing Hound snarls at Montag. 'You haven't any enemies here, Guy. None that I know of. We'll have the Hound checked by our technicians tomorrow.' But Beatty also takes his job seriously and has no compassion for people who try to bypass the rules on censorship.

One of the things that is most striking about Beatty is that even though he proclaims himself proud to be a censor, he appears to be well-read and even admits to having his own doubts at times. When a woman quotes Hugh Latimer before being burnt inside of her own house, Beatty is the only one that knows what she is talking about. 'A man named Latimer said that to a man named Nicholas Ridley, as they were being burnt alive at Oxford, for heresy, on October 16, 1555….I'm full of bits and pieces,' says Beatty. 'Most fire captains have to be. Sometimes I surprise myself.'

A Compassionate and Charismatic Authoritarian

Despite his charismatic demeanor and gift of gab, Beatty comes across as an authoritarian figure. He takes a no-nonsense approach to a woman who wants to commit suicide by staying with her books, and when he tells Montag's wife Mildred to turn off the TV, she does it, even though she refused to do it when Montag asked her to.

When Montag feigns illness after having doubts about whether or not they are doing the right thing by burning books, Beatty visits Montag in his home. 'Every fireman, sooner or later, hits this. They only need understanding, to know how the wheels run.' Beatty provides a lot of information to Montag, not only about the history of the firehouse, but also about Montag's former neighbor, Clarisse, whom the fire department has been following for some time.

Still hoping that Montag will come back around, Beatty reminds him how important his job is to society. 'The important thing for you to remember, Montag, is we're the Happiness Boys, the Dixie Duo, you and I and the others. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought…I don't think you realize how important you are, to our happy world as it stands now.'

Worried that Beatty knows more than he has let on, Montag asks what happens if a fireman were to take a book. Beatty appears compassionate as he responds, 'A natural error. Curiosity alone…We don't get over-anxious or mad. We let the fireman keep the book twenty-four hours. If he hasn't burned it by then, we simply come and burn it for him.' When Montag returns to work, he hands a book over to Beatty, who throws it away without looking at it.

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