How does Beatty explain fire in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451?
Captain Beatty is not only the chief of the firemen who burns books, but he is a well-read, very intellectual man. He fights books with real fire and he fights them with their own words, too. Being that he is eloquent in his own right, Beatty can describe fire's physical attributes as well as its cleansing qualities. When they show up to burn down Montag's house, Beatty ignites his flame thrower and philosophizes about it as follows:
"What is it about fire that's so lovely? . . . It's perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did. Or almost perpetual motion. If you let it go on, it'd burn our lifetimes out. What is fire? It's a mystery. Scientists give us gobbledegook about friction and molecules. But they don't really know. Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences" (115).
In the above passage, Beatty is basically saying that fire is one of the biggest mysteries known to man, but it is an element that destroys both the physical as well as the abstract; such as responsibility and consequences. He continues by saying the following:
"Now, Montag, you're a burden. And fire will lift you off my shoulders, clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical" (115).
Beatty ends by saying that he will use fire to get rid of the liability that Montag has become. Beatty depends on fire to control the environment and people around him. He believes fire is the greatest cleansing element that also executes with the utmost efficiency. It seems, too, as if Beatty worships fire like it were a god.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial