In "Fahrenheit 451", examine the psychological complexity of Captain Beatty. Account for his knowledge of books, while also accounting for his desire to burn them

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beatty is an incredibly interesting character.  He is fiercely intelligent; he is the only one in the book who explains in detail the slow decline of their society. Beatty explains that he himself was once like Montag, who "read a few lines and off you go over the cliff.  Bang, you're ready to blow up the world...I know, I've been through it all."  So, he has obviously read books and been inspired by them at one point.  His knowledge of the books is quite extensive however, as during this exchange he quotes line after line of literature to Montag.  He seems to have gone even deeper into them than Montag.

Beatty, however, has turned against books.  He states his reason as "What traitors  books can be!  You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you."  He thinks that they end up just being words that anyone can use to their purpose.  Knowledge is useless because it doesn't do anything-it's just words people throw at each other.

The very interesting thing is that Montag suspects that Beatty was miserable.  He suspects that Beatty baited him, egged him on, almost encouraged him to torch him.  Later he realizes, "Beatty wanted to die."  A fireman that had onced loved books turned his bitterness back onto those very books for a while as he burned them; however, his bitterness remained, and in the end, he wanted to die.