Fahrenheit 451 Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover
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In Fahrenheit 451, Beatty says "[Fire] is a mystery...Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consquences." How has this been true?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of Part Two, Captain Beatty and Montag arrive at Montag's home, and Beatty begins to flick his igniter on and off. Captain Beatty then says,

"What is there about fire that's so lovely? No matter what age we are, what draws us to it?...It's a mystery...Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it" (Bradbury, 53).

Captain Beatty is essentially reflecting on the nature of their dystopian society by commenting on how citizens address conflict and adversity in their lives. Rather than face adversity and brave the struggles of everyday life, the citizens of Bradbury's dystopian society choose to eliminate their difficulties through censoring literature, arresting critics, and destroying books. The majority of citizens find it easier to "destroy responsibility and consequences" when any issues arise. Citizens turn to meaningless entertainment, brutal sports, and take copious amounts of pills to eliminate their problems, instead of taking responsibility and dealing with their struggles. Burning books is simply one example of how the citizens of Bradbury's dystopian society eliminate conflict and responsibility without worrying about the consequences of their actions.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Beatty says this when he and Montag are at Montag's house, preparing to burn it down.  In the earlier parts of the book, we can see how fire (or at least the way fire has been used in this society) has destroyed responsibility and consequences.

In this society, fire has been used to burn books.  This is part of a larger drive to rob people of their human impulses.  People have been encouraged to ignore the real problems that come with being human.  They have been encouraged to simply rid themselves of these problems by pretending they don't exist.  True human life consists of having feelings and problems and confronting those things and their consequences.  In this society, by contrast, people run from those things.  We can see this clearly in how Mildred retreats into her parlor walls and in how her friends try to forget their families.

When Beatty says the line you cite, he is speaking figuratively.  His society's default reaction to every problem is to burn it (literally or figuratively).  He is saying that they rid themselves of responsibility and consequences by simply destroying their need to make choices and confront problems.  This society does this by trying to get people to simply live in the moment and forget that they are human beings.

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