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Free Study Guide-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Free Online Booknotes
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Mildred Montag

Mildred, normally called Millie in the book, is Montag's wife and the epitome of conformity. She is a product of the totalitarian system, having allowed her self to be fully shaped by the norms of society. She spends her days in front of three television screens, never having a thought of her own. She falls into a deep sleep each night with the help of sleeping pills and music piped into her ears. Her insipid lifestyle is further reflected in her emaciated body and chemically dyed hair.

Mildred is totally indifferent to her husband, treating him as if he were almost invisible. Although she has time to talk to her female neighbors about their television dream world, she never finds time to converse with Montag. She cannot even remember the time or circumstances of how she met her husband. She is also indifferent about life in general, as proven by the fact that she tries to kill herself, overdosing on sleeping pills. Her life is saved by the suicide orderlies, who are called to her rescue by Montag.

When Montag tells Millie about his stolen books and show them to her, she is horrified at his treachery to the system. He only gains her silence by reminding her that the government will see her as an accomplice. When he tries to talk to her about the content in the books or read some passage to her, she refuses to take part in it. In the end, she finally turns Montag in to the authorities. When they come to burn down the house and send the Mechanical Hound on her husband, she flees the house, never to be seen again in the novel. When Montag has to watch his home burning, he takes great pleasure in seeing the flames destroy Millie's television parlor, for he feels this room has allowed Millie to live in her meaninglessness, devoid of any thoughts.

As Montag listens to the bombs destroying the city, he thinks of Millie. He imagines her sitting alone staring at a blank television screen that no longer works; all she can see is the sad reflection of her own face before she herself is destroyed. The final irony is that Millie is destroyed by the system she has so willingly supported. Montag wonders if she ever understood what he was trying to accomplish.

Captain Beatty

Captain Beatty is Montag's boss at the firehouse and his nemesis. Like Montag, Beatty has a curious mind. In the past, it is obvious that he has read a variety of books, for he often quotes from them. But unlike Montag, Beatty is a staunch supporter of the system, never questioning its rules. He reiterates his firm belief that books are evil over and over again. He is also determined that every last book will be destroyed by his firemen.

Beatty is continually a threat to Montag. From almost the beginning of the novel, he seems to suspect there is something different about this fireman; he even sets the Mechanical Hound on Montag, trying to extract a confession from him. When Montag says nothing, Beatty is enraged by his determination. When Montag finally turns one book into him, Beatty is not tricked. He is sure that Montag has many more. As a result, he plans the destruction of Montag. Taking the unsuspecting "criminal" along, Beatty leads the fireman to Montag's home and forces him to ignite his own dwelling. Then when he discovers the tiny radio in Montag's ear, he promises that he will find who is attached to the other end and destroy him as well. Fearful for his own life, for Faber's life, and for the future of their plan, Montag feels he has no choice but to murder Beatty. He turns the igniter on him and watches his boss burn to death. Montag is amazed that he never tried to run away and believes that Beatty was so unhappy with his life that he was ready to die.

Throughout the book, there is something strangely unsettling about Beatty. Although he constantly states that books are evil and directs their burning, he also has a fascination for them, as evidenced in the many allusions and quotes he gives from texts he has read. It is obvious that he is a tortured man himself. Although that fact does not excuse his despicable behavior, it makes him appear as a complicated victim himself, instead of only as a one- dimensional villain. His easy acceptance of his own death by burning at the end of the novel seems to prove that he is ready to end his torment.

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