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Montag's development as a character, particularly in the way that he becomes more and more interested in books and the message that they have about life and more and more disenchanted with the life that he leads in the dystopian society in which he lives, clearly brings him into conflict with a number of characters; Mildred, his wife, and Beatty, his boss, being the main two characters that he comes to be in conflict with. The conflict with Beatty is perhaps the most significant in the novel, as Beatty stands for everything that Montag comes to oppose. Note the following comment Beatty makes towards the beginning of the novel when Montag calls in sick and stays home in bed after witnessing the suicide of the woman in the house with all of the books:
At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, 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!
Here, Beatty indicates that he knows that Montag has already "scratched that itch" by taking a book and he is questioning everything that society and Beatty stands for. This signals the beginning of their conflict as Beatty comes to represent the burning of books and Montag comes to champion the reading of books and the ideas that are within them, aided by Faber. This ends with Montag literally burning Beatty as well as his own home. Montag's conflict is therefore brought into sharper focus through what Beatty stands for and how he is set against Montag and his new-found desire to read books and champion the freedom of information.
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