What warning does Captain Beatty send to Montag in Fahrenheit 451?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Captain Beatty makes use of the Mechanical Hound in order to alert Montag and arouse his suspicions that he is being watched.

Early in the narrative, there is the foreshadowing of the role of this device of detection in a society in which thought is so strictly controlled. After Montag's second meeting with Clarisse, and Montag allows himself to experience the rain on his tongue as she has done, the Mechanical Hound is described upon Montag's arrival at the firehouse:

It was like a great bee come home from some field where the honey is full of poison wildness, of insanity and nightmare...and now it was sleeping the evil out of itself. (Part I)

When Montag touches its muzzle, "the Hound growl[s]." Then its eye bulbs become activated and it again growls. As Montag backs up, the Hound takes an aggressive step forward. Once downstairs with the other men, Montag tells Captain Beatty that the Hound does not like him. The Captain refutes this notion, saying that this machine has no feelings; it just "functions." Significantly, Montag contends that the Hound has reacted against him because someone must have set up enough "memory" in it so that it will growl when he touches it.

"Who would do a thing like that?" asked the Captain. "You haven't any enemies here, Guy." (Part I)

Nevertheless, Beatty promises to have the Hound's mechanisms checked. Montag stands still as he thinks of the ventilator grill in his hall and the fact that he has hidden books behind this grill. He ponders,

"If one of the firemen were to know about this grill, mightn't they 'tell' the Hound...?" (Part I)

After Montag remarks that he would not want to be the Hound's next victim, Beatty asks, "Why? You got a guilty conscience about something?" Montag looks up quickly as Beatty watches him "steadily with his eyes and his mouth opened." Then he laughs softly.

Clearly, there are innuendos in Beatty's conversation with Guy Montag that should alert Montag that the Mechanical Hound has certainly been programmed to be suspicious of him. 

tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Captain Beatty is Montag's boss at the fire station. He is aware that Montag has books hidden in his house before Montag even knows he's going to turn against his society by reading them. The evidence is in the fact that at the beginning of the book, Montag senses that the Mechanical Hound is slightly irritated whenever Montag is around. He asks Beatty about it and his response is that the hound is just a robot. Montag counters with the following:

"Its calculators can be set to any combination, so many amino acids, so much sulphur, so much butterfat and alkaline. Right?" (26).

Montag is trying to see if Beatty will tell him that he programmed the hound to his genetic makeup for some reason. Beatty asks if he is feeling guilty about something, but Montag ends the discussion there.

When Montag starts down the slippery slope of investigating books, Beatty sends the Mechanical Hound around to his house twice as a warning; but, Montag doesn't get the message at the time because he's too engrossed with books. Later, Beatty even admits that he sent the hound around when Montag didn't show up to work: 

"Well. . . now you did it. Old Montag wanted to fly near the sun and now that he's burnt his damn wings, he wonders why. Didn't I hint enough when I sent the Hound around your place?" (113).