In "Fahrenheit 451" did Beatty want Montag to kill him in the third part?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While one could make an argument for or against Captain Beatty having wanted Montag to kill him, one can infer that Montag's assessment is correct when he says, "Beatty wanted to die" (Bradbury, 57). Captain Beatty is a rather enigmatic character. He is extremely well-read, yet he enthusiastically supports censoring literature. In an earlier discussion between Captain Beatty and Montag, Beatty tells Montag,

Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide, rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I've tried it; to hell with it. (Bradbury, 29)

This comment is significant because it indicates that Captain Beatty once searched for knowledge, but he was not able to find the specific answers he was looking for in life. Beatty became jaded with intellectual pursuits before deciding to fully support the fireman structure. Essentially, Captain Beatty both admires and despises literature. This disconnect in his character could explain Montag's reasoning, which is that Beatty wanted to die. One can infer that because Beatty was unsuccessful in finding answers for his own life, Beatty no longer wants to live, because he believes he will never fully comprehend the universe.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As others have commented, after turning on Beatty and killing him with fire, Beatty's own weapon of destruction, Montag concludes that "Beatty wanted to die," because at such a dangerous moment he kept on "needling" people and "yelling" at them. Beatty did not try to get out of harm's way.

Yet I have often questioned this. It seems more a rationale Montag came up with to justify his act. Beatty is a bold character who has risen to command through his courage, intelligence, and adeptness at psychology. He is astute in figuring out Montag's attraction to books and uses psychology to try to dissuade him, such as by identifying with going through a stage of wanting to read the forbidden fruit they constantly destroy. It may be that Beatty wanted to die so much as that his bold, confrontational technique for once didn't work.

Is it more that Montag had to kill Beatty, the father figure, to finally be free? This is debatable but a possibility worth considering as we interpret the text. After all, this explanation comes from Montag. These are not Beatty's words.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That is what the book says.  Montag, thinking back, realizes, "Beatty had wanted to die.  He had just stood there, not really trying to save himself,...joking, needling, ...yelling at people and making fun of them."  Montag feels that Beatty was egging him on, oddly wanting him to throw the flames at him and end his life.

It seems odd though; Beatty, such an intense character who avidly promoted his society's ideals, had been miserable?  It is only after we learn that Beatty had wanted to die that we can look back and see some of the hints and clues that he left.  He told Montag that he had read, suffered an identity crisis, wanted to blow up the world or stage revolutions.  He was highly read, highly informed, and had returned to being a fire chief.  So he had the background of a potential revolutionary, but instead turned his hatred on others who had been like him; perhaps this hypocrisy, and the true knowledge of the emptiness of their society had gotten to him in the end.

tooncatmi | Student

Beatty was someone who had learned what the wrong ways of the society had done. Yet still, went back to burning the things that had taught him the very thing that sought out in the begging. He wanted to be burned because as quoted "don't face a problem, burn it." He burned his problem away because he no longer wanted to go back to supporting the "tyranny of the majority" and the evils the society had committed.