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How far would you go to preserve something that was lost from your society? Montag, the main protagonist of the book ‘Fahrenheit 451’​, kills his mentor,​ ​Beatty, with a flamethrower to preserve the freedom to read.

Montag is a fireman who burns books as a job due to the fact that in his world it breaks the law to read books. Montag along with his coworkers are all firemen and they are controlled by a man named Beatty, who is the boss of all the firemen. Montag starts off the book enjoying destroying books, but after meeting an odd young woman named Clarisse, he begins to change. Clarisse is an oddball in his society who is curious about her society and ends up talking with Montag when he is walking home on the street. After a short conversation between the two​,​ he begins to wonder whether books are actually useful or not and if the firemen are doing the correct thing. Mrs. Hudson is an old woman who had been secretly hiding books and would not give them up when the firemen arrived at her home. When Montag and the other firemen go to Mrs. Hudson’s house to burn the books she had been reading, Montag actually steals books from her house. Shortly after getting his hands on the books and reading them, Beatty, the captain of the firemen, starts to get suspicious of Montag. Montag convinces Mildred to read books, but she would not listen to him, so Montag goes to Faber, a retired English professor, for assistance. After Beatty discovers Montag has actually been reading books, they go to his home to burn all the books Montag owned. When Montag finishes burning them, Beatty also discovers that Montag has been getting assistance from Faber by talking to Montag through a small green object that Faber created. Beatty says he would then drop in on his friend too, but Montag burns him with a flamethrower before Beatty can.​ When Montag kills Beatty to preserve the freedom to read, it does not avenge the deaths of Mrs. Hudson and Clarisse, but Montag can justify killing Beatty.

Montag kills Beatty to preserve the freedom to read rather than self-defense. When Beatty said he would drop in on his friend Faber as well, Montag became extremely defensive and held up his flamethrower against Beatty. To Montag, Faber is more than just a person, he is the one who helped him develop and taught him the value of books. Montag doesn’t want Faber to die because he is the one with value and knowledge. During the conversation when Beatty discovers the green object hidden in Montag’s ear that allows him to talk to Faber, Beatty says: “‘We’ll trace this and drop in on him’. ‘No!’. He twitched the safety catch on the flamethrower” (Bradbury, 112). Actually, Montag killed Beatty in self-defense because when Beatty said he would drop in on his friend, only then did Montag react and Faber is part of Montag’s identity. Wrong, Montag knows he is running a risk and putting himself in danger, and when he does that, it is not about protecting himself. Montag claims he has nothing left to lose, so protecting himself is the least of his concerns. When Montag visits Faber and has a conversation with him, Faber says: “‘It’s a risk’. ‘That’s the good part of dying, because you’ve got nothing left, you run any risk you’d want’” (Bradbury, 81). Montag did not kill Beatty for his own protection, but he killed Beatty to preserve the freedom to read.

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Montag has not avenged the deaths of Mrs. Hudson and Clarisse because Beatty was only doing his job. Beatty could not have known what he was doing because he blindly followed the rules, and murdering Beatty for doing so is not just. Beatty was only doing what he was told, and killing him would definitely not clean up the mess that was created. When Montag questioned whether the fireman work was always like it was currently his co-workers responded with, “‘That’s rich!’. Stoneman and Black drew forth their rule books, and laid them out where Montag might read: 1. Answer the alarm quickly….” (Bradbury, 32). Beatty was the ringleader who controlled the deaths of Mrs. Hudson and Clarisse. When Montag kills Beatty, it avenges their deaths. Actually, when Montag kills Beatty, it does not avenge anyone’s death, because shortly after he kills Beatty, he hurts more people. Killing innocent people who were not aware of what they were doing does not avenge anything and Mrs. Hudson nor Clarisse would want this to happen. When Montag arrives at Mrs. Black’s house, he thinks to himself: “This isn’t good, but your husband did it to others and never asked about what others thought….” (Bradbury, 123). Even when Montag kills Beatty, he still has not avenged the deaths of Mrs. Hudson and Clarisse.

Montag can justify murder in the defense of books because he is fighting for what he believes is right. Montag kills Beatty for what he thinks is good for society, unlike the firemen who destroy books and lives while enjoying it. Montag may have killed Beatty, but at least he has changed from what the typical fireman was, a human being who burned books and people blindly for enjoyment. During the opening of the story, when Montag is finished burning a house up, he grins, “the fierce grin of all the men singed and driven back by the flame. It never went away, that smile, as long as he remembered” (Bradbury, 2). Still, Montag can not justify murder in the defense of books because killing Beatty does not help preserve books at all. All killing Beatty did was to prevent him from killing Faber, not to help books. Again, Montag killing Beatty in the defense of books is justifiable because not only does it prevent Beatty from dropping in on Faber, but he joins Granger’s group of scholars and their goal is to bring back books. Montag, joining them, helps the effort, even if it helps by the slightest amount. When Granger was talking to Montag about how they also made mistakes along the way, Granger says: “‘I struck a fireman when he burned my library years ago. You want to join us, Montag?’. ‘Yes’” (Bradbury, 143). Montag can indeed justify murder because he is fighting for what he believes is right.

The freedom to read is preserved when Montag kills Beatty, but it does not avenge the deaths of Mrs. Hudson and Clarrise. Montag is also able to justify murder in the defense of books. Montag may not have been the smartest protagonist, but he attempts to reach his goals by doing any action necessary, which makes him a very interesting main character. Many protagonists in stories are powerful and they still make mistakes like Montag, but they reach their goal in the end with the help of the people around them. Montag does get help from the people around him like Clarisse and Faber, but in the end, the story is left unfinished, he stays with Granger and his group leaves to rebuild the destroyed world. He contributes to the restoration of his world after the main story and is no longer the center focus of everything. Montag is a character who is blind at the beginning, not seeing what is wrong with the world but learns and attempts to fix the world in his own way. Instead of doing what he thought originally, he ends up carrying out Granger’s plans, which makes him incredibly admirable. Doing whatever it takes to complete a goal that he perceives to be the correct thing and changing it because he acknowledges that he might have been wrong is brave. Montag only lived in his society like everyone else, following what others think and not themselves, until he realized something was wrong. Instead of refusing to see the truth, he realizes it and does what he can to change the world.

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