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When Beatty arrives to check and see if Montag is sick, in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Montag and Mildred have been arguing about Montag quitting his job for a while, the woman who died with all her books, and who is going to talk to Beatty who has just pulled up in front of the house. Beatty enters and talks about Guy's illness and when he will return to work, among other things.
...Captain Beatty strolled in, his hands in his pockets.
"Shut the 'relatives' up," said Beatty, looking around at everything except Montag and his wife.
This time, Mildred ran. The yammering voices stopped yelling in the parlor.
Captain Beatty sat down in the most comfortable chair..."Just thought I'd come by and see how the sick man is."
"How'd you guess?"
Beatty smiled his smile which showed the candy pinkness of his gums and the tiny candy whiteness of his teeth. "I've seen it all. You were going to call for a night off."
Montag sat in the bed.
"Well," said Beatty, "take the night off!...When will you be well?"
"Tomorrow. The next day maybe. First of the week."
Beatty puffed his pipe. "Every fireman, sooner or later, hits this. They only need understanding, to know how the wheels run. Need to know the history of our profession. They don't feed it to rookies like they used to. Damn shame."
Things are tense in this section of the book. From his work the night before, Montag is stunned that a woman would take her own life rather than watch her books burn. This kind of devotion has rattled the fireman; not only has it given him a great deal to think about with regard to books and the people who have them, but it would seem he is questioning his role in the process of the burning of houses. It is for this reason that he suggests to Mildred that he might take some time off. It would appear that he his going through some kind of change.
Mildred, of course, is apathetic and wants to hear nothing about it. She likes her controlled life without any problems. And she feels no sympathy for the woman who died, insisting she brought it on herself.
Then Beatty comes—he enters and tells them to "Shut the 'relatives' up." This refers to the program showing on the "TV" in the parlor. It must be familiar to Beatty because he uses the same term as Mildred and Montag had used before Beatty arrived—the "relatives." (Whereas Mildred would not turn the show off for Montag, she does so immediately for Beatty.) It also seems as if Beatty expected Montag was going to take the day off. This makes the reader wonder if he does not already suspect Montag's growing lack of enthusiasm for, and dedication to, the burning of books in general. He seems to have a knack for understanding a great deal that may not be obvious to others. Ironically, for a firefighter in charge of burning books, he knows an awful lot about a lot of books. He seems to know a lot about people, too. Perhaps, Beatty sees something in Montag that he once found in himself.
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