Beatty is a complex character, full of contradictions. He is a book burner with a vast knowledge of literature, someone who obviously cared passionately about books at some point. It is important to note that Beatty’s entire speech to Montag describing the history of the firemen is strangely ambivalent, containing tones of irony, sarcasm, passion, and regret, all at once. Beatty calls books treacherous weapons, yet he uses his own book learning to manipulate Montag mercilessly.
In one of his most sympathetic moments, Beatty says he’s tried to understand the universe and knows firsthand its melancholy tendency to make people feel bestial and lonely. He is quick to stress that he prefers his life of instant pleasure, but it is easy to get the impression that his vehemence serves to deny his true feelings. His role as a character is complicated by the fact that Bradbury uses him to do so much explication of the novel’s background. In his shrewd observations of the world around him and his lack of any attempt to prevent his own death, he becomes too sympathetic to function as a pure villain.
More characters from Fahrenheit 451