Discussion Topic

Montag's confrontation with Beatty in Fahrenheit 451

Summary:

Montag's confrontation with Beatty in Fahrenheit 451 is a pivotal moment where Montag's growing disillusionment with society culminates in violence. Beatty taunts Montag, pushing him to a breaking point, leading Montag to use a flamethrower to kill Beatty. This act represents Montag's rebellion against the oppressive regime and his commitment to preserving knowledge and individual thought.

Expert Answers

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

In Fahrenheit 451, what quotes show Montag killing Beatty?

In part 3, Montag responds to a firecall and is surprised when Captain Beatty arrives at his home. Captain Beatty then makes Montag destroy his house using a flamethrower and instructs him to burn his book collection. Once Montag finishes burning his home, Faber begins to yell at him via the green bullet. Captain Beatty becomes suspicious, slaps Montag in the head, and picks up the green bullet. Beatty then listens to Faber speaking on the other end and threatens to track the device, which motivates Montag to switch the safety off the flamethrower.

As Montag points the flamethrower in Beatty's direction, the captain begins quoting Shakespeare, daring Montag to pull the trigger. Finally, Montag tells Captain Beatty, "We never burned right" and proceeds to pull the trigger. Bradbury vividly describes the scene:

And then he [Captain Beatty] 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. There was a hiss like a great mouthful of spittle banging a redhot stove, a bubbling and frothing as if salt had been poured over a monstrous black snail to cause a terrible liquefaction and a boiling over of yellow foam.

This description creates the image in the reader's mind of Captain Beatty liquifying from the intense heat as his body twists and jerks in pain. As Montag shoots the steady stream of flames, Bradbury describes Montag's reaction:

Montag shut his eyes, shouted, shouted, and fought to get his hands at his ears to clamp and to cut away the sound. Beatty flopped over and over and over, and at last twisted in on himself like a charred wax doll and lay silent.

After killing Captain Beatty, Montag threatens to shoot the other firemen and destroys the Mechanical Hound. The Mechanical Hound manages to wound Montag, who flees from the scene with a paralyzed leg and heads toward Faber's home. Later on, Montag thinks about Captain Beatty's reckless behavior and comes to the conclusion that he wanted to die. Montag thinks to himself,

Beatty wanted to die. In the middle of the crying Montag knew it for the truth. Beatty had wanted to die. He had just stood there, not really trying to save himself, just stood there, joking, needling, thought Montag, and the thought was enough to stifle his sobbing and let him pause for air.

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

In Fahrenheit 451, what quotes show Montag killing Beatty?

Montag kills Beatty at the beginning of part three of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. All through the book Beatty, Montag's fire chief, has been taunting Montag and propagandizing the book-burning philosophy that Montag despises. At the end of part two, they answer a fire alarm that takes them to Montag's house. In part three, Beatty gives Montag a flamethrower and orders him to destroy his own house and all the books that are hidden in it. Montag complies, but still doesn't hurt Beatty. However, when his friend Faber urges him to escape via a communications device in Montag's ear, Beatty finds the device and threatens to trace Faber's location and arrest him. That's when Montag turns the flamethrower towards Beatty, who taunts him and dares him to open fire, and Montag does. The quote says:

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. There was a hiss like a great mouthful of spittle banging a red-hot stove, a bubbling and frothing as if salt had been poured over a monstrous black snail to cause a terrible liquefaction and a boiling over of yellow foam. Montag shut his eyes, shouted, shouted, and fought to get his hands at his ears to clamp and to cut away the sound. Beatty flopped over and over and over, and at last twisted in on himself like a charred wax doll and lay silent.

As Montag escapes from the scene, he realizes that Beatty had wanted to die, and that's why he kept needling Montag and made no move to get out of the way when Montag aimed the flamethrower at him. Montag had never really wanted to kill Beatty or anyone else and is very sorry for what he has done.

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

In Fahrenheit 451, what quotes show Montag killing Beatty?

At the end of Part 2, Montag pulls up in the Salamander with Beatty in front of his own house. This is the "special trip" that Beatty has been referring to. Beatty continues to taunt him as Montag realizes what a great trap has been laid for him. Montag watches as Mildred, his wife, leaves with her bags packed. She won't look at him or interact with him. No, she just enters a waiting taxi with her suitcase, muttering about her "family". Beatty begins to grow more suspicious as Montag's words and tilted head indicate that he's talking to someone else. Finally, Beatty slaps Montag and the ear piece that Faber was using to communicate flies out of Montag's ear. Beatty grows more sure of himself and arrogant, insulting Clarisse and threatening Faber. Montag grows more agitated, finally taking action: 

He twitched the safety catch on the flame-thrower. Beatty glanced instantly at Montag's fingers and his eyes widened the faintest bit. Montag saw the surprise there and himself glanced to his hands to see what new thing they had done. Thinking back later he could never decide whether the hands or Beatty's reaction to the hands gave him the final push toward murder. The last rolling thunder of the avalanche stoned down about his ears, not touching him. (44) 

In a mirror image to the first few lines of the text, Montag's hands appear to act of their own volition. Beatty doesn't really seem to believe that he'll do it and he continues to move towards Montag. 

Montag only said, "We never burned right..."
"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. There was a hiss like a great mouthful of spittle banging a redhot stove, a bubbling and frothing as if salt had been poured over a monstrous black snail to cause a terrible liquefaction and a boiling over of yellow foam. Montag shut his eyes, shouted, shouted, and fought to get his hands at his ears to clamp and to cut away the sound. Beatty flopped over and over and over, and at last twisted in on himself like a charred wax doll and lay silent. (44)

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

In Fahrenheit 451, which passage describes Montag burning his home and killing Beatty?

Montag is conflicted. He is finally at a point that he feels he cannot go out and burn any more houses. On his last trip, he finds himself in front of his own home. This occurs at the end of Part II. (pg 110).

Beatty confronts him.

"Didn't I hint enough when I sent the Hound around your place." (pg 113)

Faber is talking to Montag in his ear. Montag is stunned that they have finally come to his house to burn it down. Beatty taunts him.

"What a dreadful surprise.....For everyone nowadays knows, absolutely is certain that nothing will ever happen to me. Others die, I go on.....By the time the consequences catch up with you, it's too late, isn't it Montag?"

Montag asks if his wife has turned him in and Beatty informs him that she did along with the neighbors he upset with his poetry reading. However, Beatty said he tried to downplay that report. Then Beatty gives Montag an order. He wants him to burn his own house by himself.

"Not with kerosene and a match, but piecework, with a flame thrower. Your house, your cleanup." (pg 116)

Montag does as he is told. He goes through each room of the house and sets it on fire. When he is finished, Beatty tells him he is under arrest. Beatty continues to taunt Montag until Montag finally takes the safety off the flame thrower and aims it at Beatty. Instead of showing fear, Beatty says,

"Why don't you belch Shakespeare at me, you fumbling snob?.......Go ahead now, you second-hand litterateur, pull the trigger." (pg 119)

Suddenly Montag shot the flame thrower, and Beatty was ablaze with fire.

".....no longer human or known, all writhing flame on the lawn as Montag shot one continuous pulse of liquid fire on him." (pg 119)

He then turned the flame thrower on the other firemen and told them to turn around. They did. The Hound was suddenly there, and he turned the flame thrower on him. However, the Hound was able to stick his anethesizing needle into his leg before he died. Montag now had to get out of town. They put on a citywide search for him, and he has an anethesized leg. He heads towards Faber's house.

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

In Fahrenheit 451, what does Beatty instruct Montag to burn his house with?

The answer to your question is simple:  Beatty tells Montag to burn his house with a flamethrower.  It says as much in the following quotation:

I want you to do this job ... not with kerosene and a match, but piecework, with a flamethrower.

This happens when Beatty and Montag go to Montag's house in Fahrenheit 451.  Beatty knows that Montag has taken a liking to reading and to books.  This quotation above is a demand by Beatty that Montag give up that curiosity. 

There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

The irony is that Montag is a firefighter whose job it is to burn the books that he is interested in!  And why does Beatty suggest a flamethrower as opposed to a simple match?  The answer lies in the degree of intensity of the action.  Beatty desires Montag to fully reject his love of books.  Therefore, Montag, can't just light a match and walk away.  Instead, Montag must be the instrument of destruction by engaging the flamethrower and watching the books burn.

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

In Fahrenheit 451, what does Beatty instruct Montag to burn his house with?

After Mildred turns him in, Montag and Beatty go to Montag's house. Beatty, knowing that Montag has been infected with curiosity about books, demands that he burn the house himself:

"I want you to do this job all by your lonesome, Montag. Not with kerosene and a match, but piecework, with a flamethrower. Your house, your clean-up."
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

This is meant to force Montag to reject books and his own interest, to return to his work by ridding himself of the very thing that he is supposed to stand against. By using a flamethrower, Montag will be confronted with everything he had, and everything he threw away by keeping books; the personal connection will be more powerful than simply dousing the house in kerosene and lighting it with a match. After he is finished, he may be allowed to reenter society, but Montag's refusal to accept his role helps him to escape after burning the house.

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