|“||We're the Happiness Boys, the Dixie Duo, you and I and the others. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. We have our fingers in the dike. Hold steady. Don't let the torrent of melancholy and drear philosophy drown our world.||„|
|~ Capt. Beatty to Montag, on the importance of destroying books.|
Captain Beatty is the main antagonist of the bestselling Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451 and the 1966 film and 2018 remake of the same name. He is the chief of a fire station in a future society where books are illegal, and firemen's purpose is to burn them and any house that holds them.
He was portrayed by the late Cyril Cusack in the 1966 film, and Michael Shannon in the 2018 HBO remake, who also played Frankie Lombardo in Kangaroo Jack, Zod in Man of Steel, Rick Carver in 99 Homes and Colonel Richard Strickland in The Shape of Water.
Captain Beatty runs a fire station with an iron fist and employs firemen to set books and houses afire. Devious and calculating, he sends his employees, including the main protagonist, Montag, to prevent people from thinking about things and keep them "happy", according to the new laws. Not above showing the townspeople no mercy and torching those trapped inside houses, Beatty is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to achieve his goals.
When Guy Montag begins to question the reason behind burning books, Beatty pays him a visit and explains how books became illegal. As technology became more personalized and entertainment centered, book sales dropped off and attention spans grew shorter. Less people grew up to become intellectuals and became more distrustful than usual of those who did. This combined with many different groups trying to censor certain books that were offensive, which was soon expanded to all books. In Beatty's mind, people are happier without being exposed to written ideas. He tells Montag a fireman is permitted to read one book for 24 hours. He instructs Montag to burn the book after he discovers how useless it is.
Instead, Montag begins to question every aspect of his life. When he returns to the fire station, Beatty further tries to break his spirit. He subjects Montag to a barrage of contradicting literary quotes to show him how painful knowledge creates confusion and conflict. He reveals that he himself was once an avid reader and an intellectual before rejecting books and the new order.
A call comes in of a house containing books. It turns out to be Montag's house, Montag having been informed on by his wife Mildred. Though Montag obeys orders to burn his own house, Beatty continues to taunt him. When he discovers Montag has been in contact with a retired professor, he threatens to hunt him down. He taunts Montag until he turns his flamethrower on him. Beatty is burned alive while his own men look in confusion. While on the run, Montag reflects and concludes that Beatty had taunted him because he wanted to die.