In part three, Beatty explains, "Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun and now he's burnt his damn wings, he wonders why." Why is Bradbury comparing Montag to Icarus, and what does this say about the character's development?

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Montag is compared to Icarus when Beatty takes him on the mission to burn down Montag's own house. This is the moment at which readers understand that Montag has reached the point of no return. Although Beatty has been aware of Montag's transgressions concerning the keeping and reading of books...

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Montag is compared to Icarus when Beatty takes him on the mission to burn down Montag's own house. This is the moment at which readers understand that Montag has reached the point of no return. Although Beatty has been aware of Montag's transgressions concerning the keeping and reading of books for some time, he had tolerated them, seemingly in the hope that Montag will get them out of his system and become more loyal than ever.

Beatty himself is an example of that. Beatty obviously has read books; he even admits this to Montag. However, reading books has not caused Beatty to rebel from the system. After reading them, he claims to have discovered how harmful they are and has become even more dedicated to his job of burning them.

In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father Daedalus, the man who designed the labyrinth below the palace in Crete, have been imprisoned by King Minos. So that he and his son can escape, Daedalus fashions wings made out of feathers, wax, and wooden frames. With these they hope to fly to safety from the island of Crete to the Greek mainland. Daedalus warns his son to follow a middle course while flying. If he flies too low, seawater will soak through the feathers and wood and he will drown, but if he flies too high, the heat of the sun will melt the wax in the wings and he will fall from the air and perish. According to the myth, Daedalus and Icarus successfully make their escape. However, Icarus becomes overconfident and continues to ascend until the sun melts the wax, he falls, and dies as he hits the water.

It is important to point out that Bradbury does not make the comparison between Montag and Icarus in the descriptive text; instead, Beatty makes it in dialog. One reason that Beatty does it is to taunt and mock Montag using examples from literature, as he has done before. The comparison is significant for several reasons. The prison on Crete is like the system that prevents people from learning and expanding their minds. The escape of Daedalus and Icarus is like the rebellious act of keeping and reading books. Daedalus warns Icarus against flying too high just as Beatty warns Montag against becoming too infatuated with books. Beatty is willing to overlook a moderate departure from societal norms, but not outright rebellion. However, once Montag gets a taste of the true freedom that books impart, he wants more and more of it. In Beatty's view, this is like Icarus flying too high. He is doomed to fall.

This analogy to Icarus shows that Montag has developed from a compliant pawn of the oppressive system into an individual who longs for the freedom that education can give him. Beatty is convinced that this hunger for freedom will doom Montag, but unlike Icarus, Montag makes his escape safely and continues his quest for knowledge.

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This particular quote comes in the beginning of Part Three, when the firemen arrive at Montag's own house.

The comparison with Icarus invokes a famous story from ancient mythology. Daedalus and his son, Icarus, were imprisoned in Create. To escape, Daedalus creates wings for them out of feathers and wax. As they are flying, however, Icarus flies too close to the sun. When the sun melts the wax holding his wings together, Icarus falls to his death. This story serves as a warning against recklessness.

In making this comparison, Beatty is charging Montag with having acted recklessly, much as Icarus did, in a way that leads to his destruction. Indeed, note the last part of this quote in particular: as Beatty phrases it, it's not only that things have gone horribly wrong for Montag, but moreover, it's that Montag himself has no understanding as to why this fate has befallen him. In short, Beatty is accusing Montag of having not taken seriously enough the possibility he could be caught.

Thus, we have the events that open Fahrenheit 451's final section, where Montag burns down his house, kills Beatty and goes on the run. He ultimately escapes his pursuers, while the city is later destroyed in a nuclear attack.

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In Part Three, Captain Beatty alludes to the popular Greek myth regarding Icarus' fate when he arrives at Montag's home and says,

"Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun and now that he's burnt his damn wings, he wonders why" (Bradbury, 52).

Bradbury uses this allusion because Montag's situation parallels Icarus's predicament and actions. According to the Greek myth, Icarus and his father Daedalus were imprisoned by King Minos on the island of Crete. In order to escape, Daedalus constructed two pairs of wings made from wax to fly over the labyrinth walls. Before they embarked on their escape, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun or else his wings would melt. Tragically, Icarus did not heed his father's advice and flew too close to the sun, melting his wings and plummeting to his death in the sea.

Similar to Icarus, Montag also feels like a captive and is in a precarious situation, which he desires to escape. Montag desperately wants to flee the dystopian society and engage in intellectual pursuits. However, agents of the oppressive totalitarian regime prevent Montag from exercising his individuality and threaten his life. Despite Captain Beatty's warnings regarding the dangers of books, Montag proceeds to read literature and consult Professor Faber for advice. Similar to Icarus, Montag's actions are risky, and he becomes too overconfident. Instead of plummeting to his death in the sea, Montag is forced to burn his home and book collection before Beatty attempts to arrest him.

Both Montag and Icarus dismiss warnings and suffer the consequences of their brash actions. One could also argue that Montag and Icarus were victims of hubris, and their desire to express themselves led to their demise. Fortunately, Montag is able to survive the harrowing experience and manages to flee the dystopian society after killing Captain Beatty.

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In many ways Montag's story up to this point parallels the Icarus myth.

First of all, Montag is being lead by Faber, an older man who has devised Montag's means of "escape"; a plan to destroy the fire houses. Faber continually warns Montag against rash action, and Montag frequently ignores Faber - he reads poetry in front of his wife and her friends, he talks to Faber through the earpiece in the presence of others, and he lets Beatty confuse and scare him when he returns to the firehouse. Like Icarus, Montag is warned about the dangers of recklessness and self-involvement.

Secondly, the moral of the Icarus myth warns against pride. Beatty believes Montag is demonstrating hubris by hiding books and plotting against him. He accuses Montag of being prideful while explaining his dream:

"'The folly of mistaking a metaphor for proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us'"

and after they arrive at Montag's house:

"It was pretty silly, quoting poetry around free and easy like that. It was the act of a silly damn snob. Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he's the Lord of all Creation. You think you can walk on water with your books."

Finally, one of the main images in Fahrenheit 451 is the comparison between water and fire, or dryness and wetness. This parallels imagery from the Icarus myth. Although Icarus' wings were melted by the heat of the sun, he was killed by a fall into the sea.

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