A satanic presence enshrouded in "thunderheads of tobacco smoke," Captain Beatty is the shrewd, ruthless antagonist of the story; he is linked repeatedly to fire (which ultimately kills him) and to the Fates as represented by recurrent card games. As leader of a fire company, he hosts an unwholesome camaraderie with the bureaucratized book burners who follow his orders. Symbolically, he drives a "yellow-flame-colored beetle with…black, char-colored tires." Like the Mechanical Hound, he noses out information, such as the pattern of disloyalty in firemen, Montag's relationship with Clarisse, and the presence of books in Montag's house. He remains attuned to the idiosyncrasies of his men and is not deceived by Montag's feigned illness. His authoritarian nature surfaces in his terse order to Mildred to turn off her screens and to Guy to return to work later in the shift.
A malicious, destructive phoenix fire chief, Beatty is an educated, perceptive manipulator who surrounds himself with a nest of literary snippets. From this mishmash of aphorisms, he selects appropriate weapons with which to needle and vex Montag, his adversary, in a one-sided verbal duel. Beatty's stand against the dissenting fireman is an essential outgrowth of his role as the sole phoenix in this dark world. At Montag's bedside and later in front of his house, Beatty overestimates his control of a desperate man. When Montag sets him aflame (somewhat encouraged by Beatty), Beatty burns into black ash, opening the way for Montag to spring into his own incarnation as the succeeding phoenix and bringer of light.