What mythological creature did Beatty compare Montag to in Fahrenheit 451?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun and now that he's burnt his damn wings, he wonders why" (113).

In Greek mythology, Icarus (or Ikaros) actually makes his wings out of wax and feathers. As he flies too close to the sun the wax melts, which destroys the wings and causes him to fall. Icarus was trying to escape the island of Crete, just like Montag is trying to escape and/or change his life. A connection can further be made between how Captain Beatty feels about books and the wax that holds Icarus's wings together. Beatty believes that books do not satisfy one's need to escape a hedonist society, just like wax could not ultimately hold together wings to carry a man safely away from his problems. Beatty explains:

"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. Well, the world can get by just fine without them. Look where they got you, in slime up to your lip" (118).

Thus, the above passage portrays Beatty's side of the argument that books do not help a person achieve happiness in life; rather, they hurt him. The ironic thing is that just about everything Beatty says is dripping with allusions to books that he's read. For instance, the above passage alludes to Christ from the Bible—twice. He wouldn't have known these references without books, which he divulges in part two to Montag, but he still maintains that his life is worse for having read books, not better. Either this is dramatic and verbal irony, or Beatty is simply a hypocrite.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beatty compares Montag to Icarus.

The firemen already use the mythological creates of the salamander and the phoenix on their uniforms.  When Montag tries to go rogue and read the books that society prohibits, Beatty compares him to the mythological Icarus, a man who tried to fly by making wings and accidently few too close to the sun, plunging to his death.

When Beatty comes to burn Montag’s house, he is non-apologetic and almost gleeful.

Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun and now that he's burnt his damn wings, he wonders why. (part 3)

Beatty looks on with “dry satisfaction” and Montag with disbelief.  Beatty comments that people act irresponsibly as if there are no consequences, but are shocked when there are.  This is ironic because Beatty is part of the establishment that burns the books so that people will remain in a blissful ignorance.