Compare and contrast Captain Beatty and Faber in Fahrenheit 451.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Captain Beatty and Professor Faber are similar in that both are adult men who have significant influence on Guy Montag. As Montag’s supervisor at the firehouse, Beatty has acted as a mentor and, through the course of the novel, continues to try to guide his thoughts and actions. Faber has entered Montag’s life much later and becomes Montag’s friend, confidant, and co-conspirator.

Beatty and Faber are shown to be similar in having considerable knowledge of books. Beatty, however, is a pragmatic, cynical man who rejects books and their content as anachronisms. He believes that society has changed so much that books no longer fulfill social needs. He dedicates his life to destroying books. Apparently he does not consider that the firemen’s actions worsen the situation he deplores.

Faber stands out as retaining some optimism about human intellectual capabilities, and he is dedicated to improving that potential. Faber takes an active role in aiding Montag by providing the listening “bug,” and when that plan fails, with helping him escape and find the other “human books.” Ray Bradbury uses Faber to highlight the paradox that the ways that Beatty associates with the past—reading and critical thinking—are not outmoded but instead carry humankind’s hopes for the future.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Bradbury's classic novel Fahrenheit 451, Captain Beatty and Professor Faber share many similar character traits but have opposite opinions regarding the government's censorship policy and individual rights.

Captain Beatty and Faber are both well-read characters who possess an impressive knowledge of literature. Captain Beatty demonstrates his robust literary knowledge several times in the story by quoting various authors from memory and cleverly manipulating significant texts while lecturing Montag. Similarly, Faber also reveals his profound literary knowledge during his interactions with Montag.

In addition to being educated, intelligent men, Beatty and Faber have also been significantly affected by their intellectual pursuits. Captain Beatty is portrayed as a jaded intellectual, who admits to Montag that attempting to grasp the extensive knowledge of the universe made him feel "bestial and lonely." Similarly, Faber also feels strongly about his intellectual pursuits and eventually risks his freedom helping Montag undermine the fireman institution.

Captain Beatty is also depicted as a passionate, aggressive man who is determined to dissuade Montag from reading books and is a staunch proponent of the government's censorship policy. In contrast, Faber is a soft-spoken, timid man who is initially reluctant to help Montag. Instead of forcing his opinions on others like Captain Beatty, Faber gently describes the positive aspects of literature to Montag.

One could also argue that Captain Beatty is less courageous than Faber and chooses death instead of challenging the ignorant majority. Montag believes that Captain Beatty wanted to die, while Faber courageously decides to travel to St. Louis, where he plans on printing books.

Both men also significantly influence Montag to change the trajectory of his life. Captain Beatty makes Montag realize that his occupation is unfulfilling and destructive while Faber facilitates his transformation by guiding Montag in his intellectual journey. Overall, Captain Beatty and Faber share similar intellectual qualities but subscribe to completely different ideologies regarding censorship, literature, and independent thought.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both well-read, Faber and Beatty have comparable intellect and mentor qualities. Their dissemination of these traits is how they differ.

When Beatty speaks of books, he represents the society of the time:

"Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a ten- or twelve-line dictionary resume. I exaggerate, of course. The dictionaries were for reference. But many were those whose sole knowledge of Hamlet (you know the title certainly, Montag; it is probably only a faint rumour of a title to you, Mrs. Montag) whose sole knowledge, as I say, of Hamlet was a one-page digest in a book that claimed: 'now at least you can read all the classics; keep up with your neighbours.' Do you see? Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there's your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more."

Beatty is promoting the idea that the purpose of books has become less and less necessary. Beatty knows how life was before, but he knows his role in society. Whether he agrees with the points above or not, he certainly perpetuates them in his society because it is his job.  Beatty is a strong character confident in himself.

Beatty goes to Montag when Montag is sick and tries to suggest ways that Montag can be forgiven for his crime against society without being punished yet. A good mentor finds opportunities to help change behavior especially when mistakes are made.

On the other hand, Faber is a weaker, fearful character who is willing to teach Montag, but Montag has to seek him out. Furthermore, his intellect about books shows that instead of having value for the word becoming more condensed, he values the richness of the written word, and the "liesure to digest it". Faber has to hide for fear that his previous career as an English professor will make him a suspected criminal. 

Readers can see these traits in Faber as he is willing to help Montag from afar, but he no longer has the strength to act on what he has read.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beatty and Faber are both very intelligent and well-read men, but each has taken a very different path in life.

Beatty is the voice of orthodoxy in the novel. While he can quote literature very readily, he ridicules the idea of reading. He explains to Montag why books ended up banned, saying that people chose not to read even when they could because people don't want to think. He asserts that too many questions and too much knowledge makes a person a miserable misfit, saying that Clarisse, for instance, is better off dead because she was too curious and odd for their society.

Faber, on the other hand, is a former professor who longs for the world of books and learning to return and is excited to help Montag when he realizes the fireman is willing to take risks to oppose and undermine the system. Faber has been oppressed, frightened, and beaten down, but some of his courage returns when he sees Montag's passion to rebel.

Both Beatty and Faber have taken unsatisfactory paths. For all his protesting that his society does the right thing in banning books, Beatty is an angry, frustrated man who eventually goads Montag to the point that Montag kills him. Faber, too, has been unsatisfied with his life because of his capitulation to a society he dislikes.

Montag arguably enacts the desires of both men (Beatty's subconscious desires, Faber's conscious desires) when he rebels against the state.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At first glance, the characters are nothing alike. Faber is a man who is a self-proclaimed coward, hiding away and privately resenting the world but too afraid to lose what little of the world that he does retain. Beatty, on the other hand, is a figure of hulking authoritarianism. He seems not to be threatened by Montag's dangerous ideas, brushing them off as momentary, and is even very patient with Montag as he works through them.

Below the surface, however, the two have a shocking amount in common. This become apparent when they both stick adamantly to their own philosophies, deriding Montag as a fool. Both have been touched by books, as they show evidence of being very well read. Furthermore, both are incredibly world weary. This is obvious in Faber but a bit harder to see in Beatty.

In the end, it becomes obvious that Beatty provokes Montag into killing him, as he could no longer endure living in such an oppressive world where he was playing the role of inquisitor.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Faber and Beatty are seemingly very dissimilar people. Beatty is confident with very stubborn values and beliefs. Faber cowers behind his door and doesn't want to stand up for his true beliefs. Granted, Beatty believes in what the majority believes - books are bad, knowledge leads to corruption, death, egotism etc. Whereas Faber would be in risk of death or burning if he stood up for his beliefs.

In comparison, both men are well read. Remember, Beatty spouts some famous quotations to Montag illustrating his wide range of knowledge despite his view that reading and books are dangerous. Beatty does not value the physical book whereas Faber cries out when Montag begins ripping pages from the Bible.

I hope this helps. Check out the Fahreheit section and look at the character page for more help.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

On the surface, these two men are very different.  Montag is losing faith in the society and in the part he plays as a fireman.  By contrast, Beatty defends both.  However, it seems to me that under the surface, they are both actually disillusioned.  It seems clear to me that Beatty has serious problems with the society and his role in it.  If he did not have such problems, it seems likely that he would not have pushed Montag into killing him.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial