In Fahrenheit 451, what happens to Chief Beatty?

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

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After Beatty discovers that Montag is in communication with Professor Faber, he taunts him, insulting his reading comprehension and demanding that he turn over his flamethrower. Montag reacts in emotion, not thinking:

"Hand it over, Guy," said Beatty with a fixed smile.

And then he was a shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling, gibbering mannikin, no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn as Montag shot one continuous pulse of liquid fire on him.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

Later, Montag rationalizes that Beatty, in depression about the upcoming war and in recognition that his acceptance of society was wrong, used Montag to commit suicide. Beatty's knowledge of a line from Shakespeare hints that he may have been as guilty of reading books as Montag. Although his death saved him from the bombs, Beatty's death by flamethrower is undeniably horrific and painful, and Montag finds himself forced to reconcile this killing, for self-defense, with other killings he has committed in the past by "just doing his job."


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