What ultimatum does Beatty give Montag in Fahrenheit 451?

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In part 1 of Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag participates in burning up the old woman inside her house after she refuses to leave her books. After many years as a fireman, this experience rattles him, and he begins to reevaluate his vocation. While he is at home, his curiosity grows about the books he has stashed away. He hides a book under his pillow so his wife, Mildred, will not find it. The next day, Montag oversleeps and then argues with Mildred about calling in sick to Captain Beatty, his supervisor.

Beatty, who became suspicious when Montag did not show up, comes to his home to “see how the sick man is.” Beatty seems sympathetic at first, saying that all firemen eventually are hit with a need to understand why they do what they do. As Millie frets about the book she has found under the pillow, Beatty ignores the clamor. He gives the Montags a very long lecture about the reduction of cultural knowledge, which has led to the removal of “all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!”

Before he leaves, he reminds Montag that the firemen are “the Happiness Boys,” as all of society depends on them for removing the distracting, dangerous books and the ideas they contain. He emphasizes Montag’s role in preserving their “happy world.”

The ultimatum comes just before Beatty walks out. He acknowledges that all firemen get the “itch” to know what books contain. When Montag asks what happens if a fireman takes a book home, Beatty threatens him by stating simply,

We let the fireman keep the book twenty-four hours. If he hasn’t turned it in by then, we simply come burn it for him.

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