In Fahrenheit 451, how does Beatty die?

Expert Answers

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

Captain Beatty dies when Montag aims the flame thrower at him and burns him alive.

In the course of their work in burning books, Beatty leads Montag straight to Montag's own house. As they stand at the front door, Montag's wife, Mildred, comes running out with a suitcase in her hand. At the same moment, a taxi screeches to the curb to pick Mildred up. Montag is shocked and grieved that Mildred may have been the one to give the alarm about the presence of books in the household.

Meanwhile, Beatty taunts Montag about the nature of fire and how the real beauty of fire is that it "destroys responsibility and consequences." He hints menacingly at getting rid of Montag with fire:

Now, Montag, you're a burden. And fire will lift you off my shoulders, clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical.

Dazed and maddened by his wife's betrayal, Montag snaps the safety switch on the flamethrower and proceeds to burn up everything in his house. Beatty tells him that, when he is finished, he will be arrested. Montag again asks whether it was Mildred who betrayed him. The Captain answers that her friends had betrayed him long before she ever did; he assures Montag that, one way or another, he would have been caught eventually.

Beatty continues taunting Montag, but Montag is still stunned that the life he and Mildred shared has just burned up in front of him. Eventually, Montag turns the flame-thrower towards Beatty. Beatty mocks him once more about being a "second hand litterateur" and prompts him to pull the trigger. Apparently, Beatty doesn't think Montag has the courage to kill him. As he walks towards Montag, Montag flips the switch on the safety-catch, aims the flame thrower at Beatty and burns him alive.

And then he was a shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling, gibbering mannikin, no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn as Montag shot one continuous pulse of liquid fire on him... Beatty flopped over and over and over, and at last twisted in on himself like a charred wax doll and lay silent.

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

In Fahrenheit 451, what happens to Chief Beatty?

In Fahrenheit 451, Captain Beatty is killed by Montag. This happens early in Part Three, when Beatty, Montag, and some other firemen are called to do their duty by setting fire to a house. What Montag does not realize, however, is that the destination is his own home and that it was his wife, Mildred, who reported his illegal book collection to the authorities.

Beatty has known for some time that Montag is in the habit of reading books, but he did not take action.  By Part Three, however, Beatty has grown weary of Montag's attitude (he says he is behaving like a "silly damn snob") and can ignore his illegal activities no longer. Moreover, Beatty also threatens to locate Faber, who is communicating with Montag via radio device. This prompts Montag to turn the flamethrower on Beatty instead of his own house:

And then he was a shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling, gibbering mannikin, no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn.

This is a turning point in the novel, since it forces Montag to leave the city and thus become a fugitive. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Fahrenheit 451, what happens to Chief Beatty?

After Beatty discovers that Montag is in communication with Professor Faber, he taunts him, insulting his reading comprehension and demanding that he turn over his flamethrower. Montag reacts in emotion, not thinking:

"Hand it over, Guy," said Beatty with a fixed smile.

And then he was a shrieking blaze, a jumping, sprawling, gibbering mannikin, no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn as Montag shot one continuous pulse of liquid fire on him.
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

Later, Montag rationalizes that Beatty, in depression about the upcoming war and in recognition that his acceptance of society was wrong, used Montag to commit suicide. Beatty's knowledge of a line from Shakespeare hints that he may have been as guilty of reading books as Montag. Although his death saved him from the bombs, Beatty's death by flamethrower is undeniably horrific and painful, and Montag finds himself forced to reconcile this killing, for self-defense, with other killings he has committed in the past by "just doing his job."

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
Last Updated on