In Fahrenheit 451,what is the meaning of the following quote? Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of part 3, Captain Beatty and Montag arrive at Montag's home after Mildred calls in an alarm on him. Before Captain Beatty forces Montag to burn his home and book collection, he gives Montag a speech regarding the importance of burning literature and censoring knowledge. As Captain Beatty holds onto the flamethrower, he says to Montag,

What is fire? It's a mystery. Scientists give us gobbledegook about friction and molecules. But they don't really know. Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences"(Bradbury, 53).

Captain Beatty's comment reveals his ideology concerning the importance of destroying literature and illustrates the dystopian society's throwaway culture. Captain Beatty believes that it is easiest to simply burn and destroy anything that causes the slightest bit of discomfort. Similar to other citizens living in Bradbury's dystopian society, Beatty's comments correspond to the way that the citizens deal with adversity. One of the main reasons why literature became illegal in the first place was because citizens did not enjoy listening to authors critique their society and superficial culture. Rather than face the adversity, the government chose to censure all literature by destroying books with fire. Captain Beatty supports the government's stance and agrees that it is easiest to destroy problems and responsibilities rather than to develop as a society by facing adversity.

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belarafon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This quote comes at the first climax, when Montag faces Beatty. Beatty is forcing Montag to burn his own house and all the books he has stolen, and then Montag will be arrested and probably executed. Montag, still in the passionate grip of his new-found individualism, is resisting; Beatty, a master of language and words, is trying to convince Montag one last time that the future society's philosophies are correct:

"What is fire? It's a mystery. Scientists give us gobbledegook about friction and molecules. But they don't really know. Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it. Now, Montag, you're a burden."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

Beatty is explaining that this philosophy is all about the immediate, the present time, without concern for the past or future. Anything that doesn't fit in with the present is a burden, and must be destroyed; historically, fire is the ultimate destroyer, cleaning the surface for the next event. After the fire, who is to know what was said, or done, and when, and for what reason? Beatty wants the books destroyed because it absolves him and everyone else in the society from their responsibilities as humanity; they can ignore everything except what happens on their television screens, and trust the fire of the firemen to keep all other influences at bay.

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