Analyze Beatty’s character. What has happened to him? Why does he want to burn books? Does he really want to die as Montag thinks? Why would he? What is his world view in the end?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beatty is an older man who is very well read. That means he's read and understands many (if not all) of the most influential books in the western world. He quotes Shakespeare, Greek philosophers, British poetry, and ancient mythology. One so educated and well read would not exist if he hadn't gone rogue in his younger life like Montag does. That is why Beatty knows exactly how to spin the information he teaches Montag in favor of the hedonist society in which they live. Beatty must have fallen in love with literature, and become an expert; but, in an effort to save his life and position in the community, he chose to use his knowledge against literacy rather than for it. After a long lecture to Montag about the history of books and their demise, Beatty says the following:

"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. We have our fingers in the dike. Hold steady. Don't let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world. We depend on you" (61-62).

It seems as if Beatty is trying to convince himself more than Montag. It's ironic because Beatty tells Montag not to get drowned in philosophy because he understands it better than anyone. Of all people, Beatty should be in favor of books and higher education. So why does he fight for illiteracy and hedonism? Either Beatty truly believes that true happiness doesn't come from reading and philosophy, and he is a proponent for hedonism; or, he puts on an act in order to survive in an illiterate world. The latter must be true because it seems that Beatty would rather die than live in a world without books:

"In the middle of the crying Montag knew it for the truth. Beatty had wanted to die. He had just stood there, not really trying to save himself, just stood there, joking, needling. . . How strange, strange, to want to die so much that you let a man walk around armed and then instead of shutting up and staying alive, you go on yelling at people and making fun of them until you get them mad, and then. . ." (122).

Beatty drives himself crazy in the end. He acts just like the old woman in the beginning of the book who sets herself on fire rather than live without her books. It is an interesting twist for the main antagonist to die for something he fought so hard against throughout the whole story. He must have just wanted to give up the fight against something that he loved, but had to hide for most of his life. By the end of it, Beatty must have realized that his world wasn't worth all that he was fighting for because he truly loved all of the passages he spat out at Montag and used to twist the truth. But he couldn't admit that openly, so he used Montag to help him finish himself off and end his madness.