Why might Captain Beatty want to end his own life in Fahrenheit 451?

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In "Fahrenheit 451", Captain Beatty's desire to end his life stems from his awareness of the superficial and unfulfilling nature of the society he lives in. Recognizing the mindless, unemotional existence that characterizes their world, he chooses "suicide by fireman", seeing no reason to resist death. This despair reflects the same dissatisfaction that prompts Montag to start reading books.

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In Fahrenheit 451, suicide is common.  This is revealed by the nonchalance with which the technicians treat Millie after her overdose.  It is not surprising that Beatty would just as soon die as remain alive.

Today, we call what Beatty does "Suicide by cop."  Beatty commits suicide by firemen.


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know why Beatty commits suicide all you have to do is look at the society in which he lives.  Beatty is intelligent--he's too intelligent not to know that his existence is lacking. 

Ironically, Beatty allows himself to be killed for the same reason Montag begins reading books--his existence sucks.   

The world they live in is mindless, superficial, unemotional, unenlightening, unfulfilling. 

The real question is:  why would anyone want to live?  

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An addition to the fine answer by my friend pohnpei:

Perhaps Beatty felt that life had become so superficial, so meaningless, that there was no reason to resist death when it came "knocking on his door."

When Montag first expresses his doubts about book-burning, Beatty gives him a long speech about the history and purpose of the practice.  Part of his thesis is that people prefer to live a superficial life empty of the kind of thinking that reading books requires:

Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all?  People want to be happy, isn't that right?...I want to be happy, people say...That's all we live for, isn't it?  For pleasure, for titillation?  And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.

When life becomes so empty, there isn't much reason to resist death. 

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I think that Beatty wants to kill himself because he does not like the fact that his whole life consists of burning books.  I think that he secretly really believes in books and can no longer take the idea that he is destroying them for his living.

In the story, we see Beatty being able to talk about books at many points.  He is able to quote from books at length.  It seems unlikely that anyone could have read that much just because he is trying to learn about the things he is destroying.

So I would say that he believes that books are important and he can no longer take the fact that he is destroying them.

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Why do you think Beatty would want to die?

Well, doesn't Beatty know an awful lot about the banned world?  Doesn't he quote an enormous amount of literary material to Montag, in order to say how the books contradict one another and betray him?  Maybe he only plays the part of one who hates literature, but secretly has found that it holds things that are of value or worth.

Personally, I like to think that he's a closet fan of literature, but more than likely, I believe that he may feel jaded by it, because the world it describes can never exist in the world in which he lives.  Furthermore, he may have some sort of grudge against literature, as it has opened his eyes to something new and wonderful, only to fail to provide him with a means of obtaining it in a society that doesn't allow books to be openly discussed and read.

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