In Fahrenheit 451, what is the significance of Beatty's ability to quote literature?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Throughout the novel, Beatty quotes literature, great thinkers, and poetry. He admits to reading books to understand his job better, but it is hinted that he is one of the few who hold a position of power and yet keep books for themselves. His position, destroying books, allows him to control information and keep others from enjoying the same intellectual breadth and stimulation that he gains from reading.

"We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dyke. Hold steady. Don't let the torrent of melancholy and dreary philosophy drown our world."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

Beatty is concerned only with the keeping of the status quo. He wants to keep people from having too much knowledge for their own good; it is unclear whether he truly believes this or simply wants to keep himself safe from retribution. Beatty's talant for speaking and manipulating words and people gives him great power in persuasion. He supplements this with his knowledge of literature; since most people will not know the references, they will be swayed by the powerful words of the past, thinking all the time that they are Beatty's words.


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