Discussion Topic

Captain Beatty's rationale and complex relationship with books in Fahrenheit 451

Summary:

Captain Beatty's rationale for burning books in Fahrenheit 451 stems from his belief that books cause confusion and conflict. Despite his extensive knowledge of literature, he views books as dangerous and divisive. Beatty's complex relationship with books is marked by his intellectualism and deep-seated resentment, as he uses his understanding of literature to manipulate and justify the societal ban on books.

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Why are books burned in the society of Fahrenheit 451?

Weirdly enough, books are burned in this society because that is the way that most of the people want it to be.  Books make them uncomfortable and so they have gotten the government to make books illegal.

There are a couple of reasons the people don't like books:

  • They do not like to have to think.  Their attention spans have gotten really short and they would rather watch the parlour walls.
  • They do not like how books make them feel.  Books make some people (blacks, Mormons, people who sell cigarettes) upset when their kind are portrayed in a negative way.

So overall, burning books keeps society stable because it makes the people comfortable and happy.

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Beatty believe books should be burnt?

Towards the end of Part 1, Beatty explains that books must be burned because "we can't have our minorities upset and stirred." He explains that the most fundamental aim of society is to ensure that everyone is happy. Therefore, as literature often makes some people unhappy, it must be destroyed. He then provides Montag with various examples of literature which has made people unhappy:

Coloured people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it. Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.

Captain Beatty subsequently criticizes Clarisse McClellan for never wanting to know "how a thing was done, but why." He then says that this can be "embarrassing," claiming that "You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed."

The underlying reason why books are burned is because they encourage critical thought, and, in turn, people then begin to question the ideology propagated by the ruling classes. This is why various tyrannical regimes throughout history, including Hitler's Nazis, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and, more recently ISIS, all encourage the burning of so-called subversive books.

In Farenheit 451, Bradbury is also making a broader point, namely that tyrannical states depend upon, and therefore encourage, ignorant populaces. As Juvenal said almost two thousand years ago: "Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt." Captain Beatty actually says something very similar. He says, "Give the people . . . clubs and parties . . . acrobats and magicians." In other words, give them distractions, or "circuses," and take away their capacity for critical thought, and you will have a pliable, docile, subservient populace.

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Beatty believe books should be burnt?

Beatty lectures Montag about the importance of burning books and claims that it prevents society from becoming upset and agitated. Beatty says that there is a minority of critics who breed contempt for society through their books. Beatty elaborates on the harm that books can do to society. He says that authors are full of evil thoughts, and their critiques of society are unwanted and dangerous. According to Beatty, intellectuals were too cynical for the majority of the population who preferred not to be judged and evaluated. Beatty tells Montag that books have controversial ideas that upset different groups of people. Society is better off without the provocative thoughts that breed contempt amongst individuals and groups. Beatty says that individuals prefer condensed versions of information that do not provoke thought. People would rather indulge in physically pleasurable activities than read critical ideas that can be antagonistic.

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In Fahrenheit 451, Beatty takes great pains to give reasons for burning books. What points can you make to his arguments?

Captain Beatty's argument in favor of burning books is long and involved, with a good deal of history and analysis. It clearly owes something to Mustapha Mond's argument for censorship in Brave New World and is similar in type, being, if not exactly even-handed, at least an account by one sophisticated enough to understand what he is speaking against.

Beatty begins by reflecting on how books fell out of favor as the population grew and people had less time for books in a less spacious world. Before they were burned, books were cut down into shorter and shorter summaries. Eventually, there were hardly any books except comic books. The demand for books to be censored, therefore, was originally imposed not by government but by the people, who were suspicious of anyone who might enjoy the solitary pleasures of literature or think him/herself intellectually superior. Beatty sums up the popular attitude:

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?

When houses came to be fire-proofed, Beatty continues, the firemen were given their new role. Now they ensure that no one is offended or made to feel inferior. People are able to exist for pleasure alone and the minorities are not stirred up by upsetting ideas and images:

Coloured people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don't feel good about Uncle Tom's Cabin. Burn it. Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Bum the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside.

This is Beatty's central argument, though it operates on at least two levels. The ideas in books set man against man by giving two sides of an argument, but they also set man against himself. Books must be burned for the sake of both external and internal peace, so that we are not upset by other people's ideas or our own.

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In Fahrenheit 451, Beatty takes great pains to give reasons for burning books. What points can you make to his arguments?

Captain Beatty makes several significant points during his lecture in Part One, which gives the reader insight into Bradbury's dystopian society. Captain Beatty mentions that everything changed when the world began to have mass and citizens spent more time watching the television and listening to the radio than they did reading a book. In addition to the rise of media outlets, classic works of literature were dramatically condensed and reduced while the education system continued to suffer. Beatty tells Montag,

Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more (Bradbury, 26).

Beatty also mentions that as the population grew, minorities became more prevalent and were extremely sensitive. Citizens began to resent authors and critics ridiculing their superficial culture, so they stopped reading books altogether. The government then decided to establish the fireman institution and censor all literature in order to ensure a stable, happy society. Captain Beatty then elaborates on the importance of conformity and tells Montag that they are responsible for maintaining a happy society. Captain Beatty goes on to explain that censoring literature ensures that no one will be offended or unhappy and says their society's primary way of solving an issue is to burn and destroy it. He concludes by warning Montag that literature and the pursuit of knowledge will only make him feel "bestial and lonely" before saying,

We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dyke. Hold steady. Don't let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world (Bradbury, 30).

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In Fahrenheit 451, Beatty takes great pains to give reasons for burning books. What points can you make to his arguments?

One reason that they burn books is because they have content that offends the "minorities" in their civilization.  Everyone was offended by something in the books, so, burning them makes it so that people don't have to read "offensive" material.  For example, Beatty states, "Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs?  The cigarette people are weeping?  Burn the book."  So many people found something offensive that all books should just be burned so that people can be happy; and that is where the firemen come in.  And, this is true of our society. Today, books are banned from schools.  We have to be careful not to offend minority groups, and many of our laws, books, and media are centered around not offending them.

Beatty also states that their society burned books to try to make everyone equal, so as to make everyone feel better about themselves.  He states, "the word 'intellectual' became the swear word it deserved to be...you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally 'bright'...and wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings...after hours?" This happens in our society too; smart kids don't answer questions so that they aren't labelled as a suck-up, being smart is socially uncool, and the stuff we teach in schools is slowly becoming more and more basic, in order to cater to everyone.

There are other reasons that Beatty states for burning books; one is because people simply stopped reading them at all.  This was fine with their government, because books produce "two sides to a question to worry him"; Beatty says it is better to just "give him one," so burn the book and give him the information he needs.  Books "give them...slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with.  That way lies melancholy" and revolution; so burn the books.  It is true that if you stay so busy stuffing your head full of useless facts (like "remembering the words to more popular songs"), then you have little time to read or care what is going on in the world.  It's easier NOT to read or think.

Those are just some ideas to get you started.  I hope they helped!

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What reasons do the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 give for burning books?

In Ray Bradbury’s classic of science fiction literature, Fahrenheit 451, a book inspired both by Nazi Germany’s burning of books that were deemed degenerate or at odds with the prevailing political sentiment of the time and by the period in U.S. history known as “the Red Scare,” personified by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, the burning of books and the structures in which they were found by firemen is presented as a routine activity in accordance with the laws of the state.  Witness the following exchange between the story’s protagonist, the fireman Montag, and his superior, Captain Beatty:

{Montag: “I’ve been thinking.  About the fire last week.  About the man whose library we fixed.  What happened to him?

Beatty: “They took him screaming off to the asylum.

Montag: “He wasn’t insane.

“Beatty arranged his cards quietly.  ‘Any man’s insane who thinks he can fool the Government and us.’

Montag: “I’ve tried to imagine just how it would feel to have firemen burn our houses and our books.

Beatty: “We haven’t any books.

Montag: “But if we did have some.

Beatty: “You got some?”}

The job of the firemen, to locate and burn books and the buildings in which they were discovered, is presented as a normal part of daily existence, in which one’s fellow citizens blindly follow the “law” because it is the law.  No thought, at least until Montag begins to see the evil inherent in his job, is given to whether the law is appropriate or in keeping with the tenets upon which the country was founded.  Earlier in the novel, Montag laughs off the question posed by Clarisse as to whether he has ever read the books he is sent to burn.  Montag’s response to the question: “That’s against the law.”  Again, blind obedience to the unjust laws, the phenomenon Bradbury perceived in Nazi Germany and in the United States during the Red Scare.  The unquestioning execution of orders set forth by a repressive government is one of the main themes present in Fahrenheit 451.  The firemen burn books because that is their job.  The job exists because the law says it must. 

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What is Beatty's attitude towards books in Fahrenheit 451?

I think that Beatty's sense of control and desire to consolidate control is what drives him to believe that books and knowledge have to be controlled, meaning eradicated, by the state.  In Beatty's world, power and authority trumps all else.  The interests of control and exacting influence cannot be jeopardized by anything.  Books, ideas, and pure thought represent threats to this power establishment because they cannot be quantified nor controlled.  The intrinsic imaginative value of books and personal expression represents a great threat to the power structure of the establishment.  Beatty's justification of his actions through literature and ideas only proves the idea that if authority can control it, then it is acceptable.  It is a challenge to control all ideas, therefore, Beatty's duty of burning and removing them from collective consciousness becomes the only way to mandate that the institutional structure of power is absolute.

Naturally, the fact that we are having this discussion indicates my disagreement with this notion.  If individuals lose the ability to express, articulate and develop thoughts through their own inquiry, the hopes for a viable democracy vanish, which might be the precise goal of Captain Beatty and the authority structure he represents.

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In Fahrenheit 451, how does Beatty explain the law against books?

Captain Betty explains to Montag that the books must be burned because of their content.  He says that "we as a society just can't have all these books which contain so many controversial thoughts and ideas in them...it would make people think.  Then they would be uncomfortable and unhappy in their lives with the way things are.  We can't have people who are discontent and unhappy in society because then there would be riots and rebellions and then where would we be?  No, it is better just to get rid of the problem altogether before there is really a problem.  That is our job.  We are the firemen.  We ferret out the problem and get rid of it before is causes damage to society."

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In Fahrenheit 451, what explains Captain Beatty's knowledge of books and his desire to burn them?

Beatty is an incredibly interesting character.  He is fiercely intelligent; he is the only one in the book who explains in detail the slow decline of their society. Beatty explains that he himself was once like Montag, who "read a few lines and off you go over the cliff.  Bang, you're ready to blow up the world...I know, I've been through it all."  So, he has obviously read books and been inspired by them at one point.  His knowledge of the books is quite extensive however, as during this exchange he quotes line after line of literature to Montag.  He seems to have gone even deeper into them than Montag.

Beatty, however, has turned against books.  He states his reason as "What traitors  books can be!  You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you."  He thinks that they end up just being words that anyone can use to their purpose.  Knowledge is useless because it doesn't do anything-it's just words people throw at each other.

The very interesting thing is that Montag suspects that Beatty was miserable.  He suspects that Beatty baited him, egged him on, almost encouraged him to torch him.  Later he realizes, "Beatty wanted to die."  A fireman that had onced loved books turned his bitterness back onto those very books for a while as he burned them; however, his bitterness remained, and in the end, he wanted to die.  

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How can Beatty's knowledge of books and his hatred for them be reconciled in Fahrenheit 451?

Beatty, who is well-read, dislikes the contradictory nature of books. But, like the devil who can quote scripture, Beatty manipulates excerpts from famous works to his advantage.

Having told the woman with many books that she has been locked up in a virtual Tower of Babel, Beatty knows only too well that reading, which offers contradictory ideas, is dangerous to the totalitarian state in which he exerts power. For this reason, Beatty seeks out those who secretly read literature. Books are harmful to a government that desires control over its people, because by reading books, people learn about ideologies that contradict those of their political state and ideas that celebrate individualism. Furthermore, Beatty knows the truth of what Faber tells Montag about books—"the right to carry out actions based on what one has read"—is dangerous to total control of the people.

When he comes to Montag's house because he suspects Montag of reading, Beatty tells his worker that reading is dangerous since there are conflicting ideas in various books, ideas which can create dangerous situations and lead to people's discontent.

We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy. . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. . .. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon (Part I, page 57)

Although Beatty knows the value of literature, he understands that in a totalitarian state, reading is dangerous because it causes people to reason and to decide for themselves what is right. This kind of thinking is the enemy of a totalitarian government. And Beatty wants to control the problem.

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Why did Captain Beatty want to destroy books in Fahrenheit 451?

Beatty's explicit reason for destroying books is to maintain social order.

Early in the story, shortly after stealing a book from a woman's house that the firemen burn, Montag becomes sick with guilt, and considers calling in sick. He doesn't even realize that he's already late for work as he considers this, and Captain Beatty promptly arrives to "see for himself" how sick Montag is. He knows Montag isn't really sick, and Beatty is such a perceptive person that he knows Montag is experiencing a sort of moral crisis that, according to Beatty, every fireman goes through sooner or later. Beatty then describes the true history and purpose of the firemen.

According to Beatty, society got so overpopulated, so sensitive to insult, and so concerned with pleasure, that things which created divisions became so unwelcome as to be dangerous to social order itself. He gives the example of a bright young student in school; this student, by making others feel stupid, whether intentionally or not, caused unhappiness and discord. Beatty concludes;

You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun?

Beatty asserts that books are traitorous and divisive; what one person might see as valuable knowledge might offend another. He mentions that "the Devil can quote scripture for his purposes", and that books are ultimately incompatible with a society that prizes happiness and calm. He also suggests that censorship came "from the bottom", i.e. from the people, and is therefore a democratic act.

On a deeper level, Beatty is a well-read and philosophical person in his own right, and he believes there is a loneliness to the universe that society helps us to ignore. Beatty does not want to worry about this; he prefers the life of instant gratification and minimal thinking that social has fabricated.

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Beatty hate books?

Captain Beatty is Montag's foil and the antagonist of the novel, who is vehemently opposed to literature and is a proponent of the government's censorship laws. Despite Captain Beatty's hatred of literature, he is an extremely well-read man and is familiar with many genres of literature. Captain Beatty demonstrates his extraordinary literary knowledge several times in the story and is portrayed as a jaded intellectual, who once studied literature and read many books before he chose to become a fire chief.

In Part One, Montag decides to call off work after witnessing a woman commit suicide with her books, and he begins to have second thoughts about being a fireman. Captain Beatty ends up visiting Montag and lecturing him about the importance of censoring literature. During Captain Beatty's lecture, he provides insight into why he hates literature so much. Beatty tells Montag,

"Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide, rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I've tried it; to hell with it" (Bradbury, 29).

Beatty's comment about feeling bestial and lonely reveals that he is a jaded intellectual, who was frustrated, confused, and upset when confronted with seemingly impossible questions regarding the universe and its makeup. Captain Beatty could not answer his most difficult questions and blamed literature for his feelings of inferiority, which is why he detests books and believes the pursuit of knowledge is futile.

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Beatty hate books?

In my opinion, Beatty does not hate books, he actually says all those things because he mourns the life he lost when he read books.  He has become a hate filled man because I think he doesn't enjoy life anymore because he is not allowed to read books.  

In fact, all the trash talk about his hatred for books is typical of an individual who has to give up something that he truly loves and the only way he copes is to turn his love into hate.  It is an odd way to deal with your feelings of loss, and eventually it catches up with Capt. Beatty.  

When Montag burns his house, he turns his fire on Beatty, who does nothing to avoid being killed.  I think that he wanted to die because he was tired of the empty life he lived, nothing to look forward to no stimulating conversation or intellectual adventures through books, Beatty felt he would be better off dead.

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Beatty hate books?

Throughout the course of the book, he states several reasons.  It is obvious that he is a well-read man; he has read books, plenty of them, and knows them well enough to quote them at Montag in rapid succession right before they are called to burn Montag's house.  So, at one point in time, it is hinted that he loved books enough to read them and learn them well enough to process their meanings.  But, he seems to have turned against them.  Here are the various reasons he gives, in different parts of the books.  After his history lesson to Montag, he states, "the books say nothing!  Nothing you can teach or believe."  He goes on to clarify that they are just a bunch of people who think that they are smart, trying to outsmart each other.  Later, at the fire station, he says,

"What traitors books can be!  You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you.  Others can use them too, and there you are, lost in the middle."

So, he thinks that books give you great, profound thoughts-until another person comes along with his own thoughts from a different book and argues against you.  They aren't things that you can rely on and trust.  Later, after Montag's house burns down, he says,

"Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he's Lord of all Creation.  You think you can walk on water with your books.  Well, the world can get by just fine without them."

He thinks that books make you foolishly confident, they make you want to go save the world, to change everything.  But, he says that doesn't work; it just brings heartache and trouble.

From the references in the books, it seems to hint at Beatty having been greatly inspired by books at one point, but then experienced some sort of tragedy or crisis, eventually deciding that they did no good, and so turned bitterly against them.  I hope that those examples help; good luck!

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Captain Beatty view the books he's read with such contempt?

Captain Beatty is quite the complex figure in Bradbury's classic novel Fahrenheit 451. Captain Beatty is an intense proponent of the government's censorship policies and believes that literature is toxic, yet he is extremely well-read and knowledgeable in all genres of literature. In part one, Montag witnesses a woman commit suicide with her books and realizes that literature may be valuable and can possibly help him find fulfillment in his superficial, mundane life. After his traumatic experience, Montag refuses to go to work the next day, and Captain Beatty visits his home. While Montag is lying in bed, Beatty proceeds to give him a brief history lesson on how the fireman institution was created, and he lectures Montag about the importance of censoring literature. He then provides insight into why he views books and intellectuals with so much contempt, telling Montag,

Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide, rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I've tried it; to hell with it (29).

Captain Beatty's comment reveals that he once tried to understand the deep secrets of the universe and became overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused by the perplexing knowledge that he was researching. Beatty views books as "traitors" and has become jaded after his failed pursuit of knowledge. His literary experience made him feel "bestial" and "lonely," which is why he decided to support the government's censorship laws by joining the fireman institution.

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In Fahrenheit 451, why does Captain Beatty view the books he's read with such contempt?

Captain Beatty is a member of the majority of the society who rationalize the burning of books.  As Fire Chief, he enjoys his work. 

Captain Beatty, obviously well read, misses his books, but would never outwardly admit it to anyone.  He is a contradiction.  He sounds like a man rejected in a romantic relationship when he talks about books. He feels abandoned by the books, giving them human qualities, even though he accepts the policy of book burning. 

"What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives." (Bradbury, pg. 107)

He covers up the fact that books had real value to him, and pretends that he fully embraces his life as Fire Chief.   

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Why does Captain Beatty, an intelligent man, support a society that burns books in Fahrenheit 451?

It’s clear that both Beatty’s knowledge and his bitterness come from a close association with books. Beatty makes this clear in his conversation with Montag after Montag arrives back at the firehouse with a book to burn (part II). Montag’s guilt is evident, but Beatty reassures him that “we’re all sheep who have strayed at times,” and that now his “fever is over.”

Actually, Beatty’s fever seems to have never left. He describes learning as drinking, and readers as alcoholics, using a metaphor from Alexander Pope, an eighteenth-century English poet.

“I’ll tell you,” said Beatty, smiling at his cards. “That made you for a little while a drunkard. Read a few lines and off you go over the cliff. Bang, you’re ready to blow up the world, chop off heads, knock down women and children, destroy authority. I know, I’ve been through it all.”

While the Captain accepts the book from Montag, he goes on to describe a dream he had, in which he and Montag were engaged in a fierce debate over the role and power of knowledge. In the debate, both individuals used quotes from literature to support their points. Beatty is incredibly articulate and concise when quoting these authors, making it clear that he’s read these pages deeply. So why would he destroy the thing he knows so intimately and which he clearly craves interaction with?

The answer lies in his conversation with Montag at the end of part I. Beatty sees his role in society as maintaining its stability by preventing the discord that comes from literature, culture, art, and philosophy. “That way lies melancholy,” he claims, and he works to ensure the happiness of the population by destroying the items which would induce this discomfort. He claims that men who only focus on the mechanical aspects of their lives are happier than those who are trying to understand a universe “which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it.”

Ultimately, Beatty’s own experience with literature, which often causes confusion and offense (as authors don’t always agree), has led him to believe that the only way to maintain a stable society is by destroying those things which would unhinge it. He ends the conversation by asking Montag to reconsider his position and come back to work soon.

“I don’t think you realize how important you are, to our happy world as it stands now.”

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Why does Captain Beatty, an intelligent man, support a society that burns books in Fahrenheit 451?

There are different kinds of intelligence, not all of which relate to the reading of books. Captain Beatty's intelligence is that of a cunning man-on-the-make, a highly ambitious state functionary who sees the burning of books as a means to an end: the acquisition of power and influence. And it's not just burning books that Beatty looks upon as a means to an end, but knowledge, too. He uses little snippets of information he's gleaned from books, succinct quotations and aphorisms, as weapons against Montag. It's an old cliché that knowledge is power, but it's no less true for that. For Beatty, knowledge has no intrinsic value; it's simply a way of gaining power and control over others. He feels no compunction, then, in consigning books to the flames, as he's already got what he wanted from them: enough information to throw in Montag's face to keep him in a position of subordination.

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In Fahrenheit 451, what does Beatty criticize about education and print material?

Beatty says that the increase in population had something to do with the necessity of banning books: 

Once, books appealed to a few people, here, there, everywhere. They could afford to be different. The world was roomy. But then the world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths. Double, triple, quadruple population. Films and radios, magazines, books levelled down to a sort of paste pudding norm, do you follow me? 

Also, according to Beatty, as technology became faster, books were cut shorter. Attention spans shrunk. Everything became condensed. This compression of thinking activities gives everyone more time to focus on work and leisure. With people thinking less profoundly, they are less likely to confront real sadness, loneliness, and so on. Beatty says that with less critical thinking there is less conflict and controversy. This lack of conflict makes for a complacent, numbed, but generally happy populace. The "smart" people of the world have always been the subject of abuse, so why not just make everyone equal and eliminate the stress on education. Beatty says, "And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal." 

If certain books, printed material, and literature make certain people upset, why not just get rid of them all? This is the logic Beatty proposes to Montag and Mildred. Education just leads to sadness. Beatty adds, "Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy." (This conversation between Beatty, Montag, and Mildred occurs at the end of Part 1.) 

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In Fahrenheit 451, what does Beatty criticize about education and print material?

Beatty is arguably the most complex character in Fahrenheit 451. He is unique in that he is obviously educated and well versed in literature; however, he also seems to believe in the fundamental destruction of said education through literature and dissenting ideas.

The foundational argument that Beatty makes against universities and books is related to their potential for complexity. Beatty says,

"We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon."

This is an important quote to look at in Beatty's characterization because it says as much about his own psyche as it does his principles. Again, we know that Beatty is able to quote passages from books, so we know he has read them. But he also seems to hate the idea that books are portals into other worlds and other ways of being. The essential complication of those potential ways for him to live his life becomes too much for him to take.

Beatty's belief that universities and books are evil does not come from an inherent sense that they are bad; rather, it seems to stem from a feeling of inadequacy resulting from knowing the life that he has not lived. This ends up being confirmed in his request for death—as if this basic failure of himself results in his wanting to die.

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In Fahrenheit 451, what does Beatty criticize about education and print material?

Captain Beatty is the head "fireman" in Ray Bradbury's classic sci-fi novel Fahrenheit 451. He is a contradiction. Paradoxically, as a result of his job he's actually read quite a few books and memorized many passages, and yet at the same time he doesn't see the value in the knowledge produced through the written word.

Beatty's view is that schools and universities create too many differences between people, and that the talented student brings about jealousy and hatred from others. He doesn't see the value of education and reading because he believes it doesn't make anybody happier. In fact, all it does is confuse people. Books are either fictions about people who never existed and things that never happened, or they are contradictory and lack consensus, leading to debate, difference, and disorder. Besides this, he argues that most people stopped reading long before the fireman started burning books.

Beatty's view is ultimately very dogmatic and totalitarian. He sees order as more important than ideas. While some of his criticisms may have merit and books and ideas can create tremendous confusion and difference of opinion, this is not a bad thing. In fact it's of the essence of democracy and the human experience.

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