Fahrenheit 451

by: Ray Bradbury

Captain Beatty

“Where’s your common sense? None of those books agree with each other. You’ve been locked up here for years with a regular damned Tower of Babel. Snap out of it! The people in those books never lived. Come on now!”

Captain Beatty says this to the woman whose house the firemen raid. He states several reasons books are banned, including that books can be contradictory, and the people and stories are not real. He also references the Tower of Babel, showing that he is familiar with the Bible. He proves at other times in the novel to have a great knowledge of literature, showing that he is as paradoxical as he claims books are.

There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.

Captain Beatty says this to Montag when he visits his house the morning after they burn a woman with her books. This statement reveals that, while the government and firemen do destroy books so that people will not read, this practice began because people were more interested in other forms of entertainment. Captain Beatty’s statement proves that entertainment and instant gratification are valued far more than knowledge and education.

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.

Captain Beatty says this to Montag towards the end of his lecture on why books are banned. He sees himself and the other firemen as the protectors of happiness, because books and the conflicting ideas in them can cause doubt and unhappiness. Captain Beatty seems to believe this as he is one of the most contented characters in the novel. We know that most other people in this society are not so happy with their lives.

But remember that the Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh, God, the terrible tyranny of the majority.

Faber says this to Montag after Captain Beatty tries to plant doubt in Montag’s mind about the power of books while they are in the firehouse. The majority of people are uninterested in reading or doing anything without instant gratification. Beatty reinforces this hatred of reading among the majority by burning books and using arguments about how books can foster unhappiness. He is a key figure in preventing “truth and freedom” in their world.

“What is there about fire that’s so lovely? No matter what age we are, what draws us to it?” Beatty blew out the flame and lit it again. “It’s perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did. Or almost perpetual motion. If you let it go on, it’d burn our lifetimes out.”

Captain Beatty speaks these words to Montag, just before he makes Montag burn his own house down. Beatty’s description of fire as “perpetual motion” seems to be what most citizens in their world are interested in—constant media viewing, fast driving, and never stopping to think about anything. This need for constant motion and distraction explains why, instead of putting out fires to prevent destruction, people are more fascinated with setting fires to destroy knowledge.