About the Author
Aldous Huxley was born July 26, 1894, in the village of Godalming, Surrey, England.
The third son of Leonard Huxley, a writer, editor, and teacher, and Julia Arnold, also a teacher,
the young Aldous grew up in a family of well-connected, well-known writers, scientists, and educators.
At Aldous’ birth, the Huxley family and their relatives already commanded literary and philosophical
attention in Victorian England. Huxley’s grandfather, biologist T. H. Huxley, gained
recognition in the nineteenth century as the writer who introduced Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution
to a wide public and coined the word "agnostic." The elder Huxley’s writing contributed
to the growing debate on science and religion, a theme that would capture the imagination
of his grandson, Aldous.
Huxley’s mother was a niece of poet and essayist Matthew Arnold, who expressed the moral struggles
of the modern age and the retreat of a religion-based culture. Matthew’s father, Thomas Arnold, head
of Rugby School, had presided with earnest devotion over the theory and practice of education in his time.
Thus Aldous grew up in an atmosphere in which thought on science, religion, and education informed
and even dominated family life.
Living up to the expectations of "Grandpater," as T. H. Huxley was known
in his family, constituted a full-time, exhausting job for the children—Aldous included.
Academic and professional brilliance was expected as a matter of course, with no excuses allowed.
A family tendency toward depression compounded by this pressure may have contributed
to the suicide of Trevenan, Aldous’ elder brother.
At sixteen, the sudden onset of keratitis punctate, an eye disease, left Aldous nearly blind
and almost ruined his own chances for success. Fortunately, surgery corrected some
of his vision, but Huxley would suffer from complications in vision for the rest of his life.
Like all the sons of his family, Huxley attended Eton, a prestigious preparatory school,
and Balliol College, Oxford. His education, then, represented a privileged road to power
for wealthy and well-born British men who sometimes displayed real brilliance.
Huxley was among the best of them, certainly. Poor sight caused by the eye disease
prevented his pursuit of his first career choice, medicine, but he threw himself into study
of literature, reading with the help of a magnifying glass. In 1915, Huxley took
a First (highest honors) in English Literature.
A less formal, but nonetheless important part of Huxley’s education was his regular attendance
at Lady Ottoline Morrell’s get-togethers, which provided many literary, artistic, and political reformers
and experimenters the chance to meet and talk. Here Huxley met novelist Virginia Woolf, economist
John Maynard Keynes, and critics Bertrand Russell and Clive Bell—some of the most important
writers and thinkers of the time. Huxley’s early exposure to the ideas of such a diverse and progressive
group deeply influenced his world-view and his writing.
After taking his degree at Oxford, Huxley returned to Eton to teach. Among his pupils was Eric Blair,
who would later write such classics as 1984 and Animal Farm under the pseudonym
From 1919 to 1921, Huxley worked as an editor on the London journal Athenæum,
one of the best-known publications of the time. Huxley also contributed to Vanity Fair and
Vogue before devoting himself entirely to his own fiction and essay writing in 1924.
Huxley’s first published work was a collection of his poetry, The Burning Wheel (1916),
written when he was still in his early twenties. French novelist Marcel Proust praised Huxley’s
early efforts, and Huxley seemed destined for life as a poet. But with the publication of his first
two novels, Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923), Huxley emerged
as a particularly witty chronicler of modern life among the educated and pretentious.
Huxley further solidified his reputation as a satirist with the novel Point Counter Point (1928),
a scathing study of the breakdown of commonly held social values. Huxley followed up with another satire,
which would prove to be his most popular work—Brave New World (1932).
Like his previous novels, Brave New World is a "novel of ideas," in which the themes
the author wishes to explore take center stage, determining the action as well as the characterization.
Brave New World continued in Huxley’s familiar irreverent fictional style, showing readers
the absurdity of strongly held but little examined beliefs.
The work also marked a change in Huxley himself. The setting of Brave New World—a
future London rather than the familiar country houses and town houses of his previous fiction—seems
to have broken Huxley out of some habits of mind. In Brave New World, Huxley takes the problem of evil
much more seriously than in the past. The satirist had begun to evolve into the social philosopher.
After the publication of Brave New World, Huxley left England, living with his wife, Maria,
first in New Mexico—the site of the Savage Reservation in Brave New World—and
later in California, where surgery restored much of his vision.
In his new home, Huxley became involved in the study and practice of mysticism. His new philosophical
outlook informed his novel Eyeless in Gaza (1936), which promoted pacifism on the eve
of World War II. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939) makes the case
for the emptiness of materialism. Gradually, Huxley moved toward mystical writings, far from
the tone of his early satire. The Perennial Philosophy (1945) and The Doors of Perception
(1954) represent Huxley’s non-fictional expression of his interests, including even experimentation
with psychedelic drugs.
In Los Angeles, Huxley wrote screenplays for film versions of fictional classics such as Jane Eyre,
Pride and Prejudice, and Alice in Wonderland. He also continued writing fiction, notably
Ape and Essence (1948), a futuristic fiction set in Los Angeles after a nuclear war.
With Grey Eminence (1941) and The Devils of Loudon (1952), Huxley looked
backward to historical events to examine what he believed to be the hypocrisy of organized religion.
In addition to his fiction and screenplays, the planning and writing of biographies, essays,
and other works of non-fiction occupied him constantly during these years.
Huxley’s last novel, Island (1962), returns to the theme of the future he once explored
so memorably in Brave New World. The later novel, in which Huxley tried to create
a positive vision of the future, failed to come up to readers' expectations. Brave New World Revisited,
a series of essays addressing the themes of his early novel, represents a more successful rethinking
of future (and present) social challenges.
Huxley died of cancer in California on November 22, 1963. Although his novels—especially
Brave New World—still enjoyed great popularity, Huxley’s death received little notice
in the media at the time. The nation’s shock over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
overshadowed news of the writer’s death.
Honors and Awards
Huxley won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction from the University of Edinburgh
in 1939 for his novel After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. In 1959,
he received the Award of Merit and Gold Medal from the American Academy and Institute
of Arts and Letters and accepted an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of California.
The year before his death, he received the Companion of Literature from the British Royal Society of Literature.
About the Novel
Huxley wrote Brave New World "between the wars"—after the upheaval
of the First World War and before World War II. British society was officially at peace,
but the social effects of the Great War, as it was then called, were becoming apparent.
Huxley and his contemporaries wrote about changes in national feeling, questioning
of long-held social and moral assumptions, and the move toward more equality
among the classes and between the sexes.
The Russian Revolution and challenges to the British Empire abroad raised the possibility of change
on a world scale. At home, the expansion of transportation and communication—the cars,
telephones, and radios made affordable through mass production—also brought revolutionary
changes to daily life. With the new technology, distances grew suddenly shorter and true privacy rarer.
While people in industrialized societies welcomed these advances, they also worried about losing
a familiar way of life, and perhaps even themselves, in the process. The nightmare vision of the fast-paced
but meaningless routine of Brave New World reflects this widespread concern about the world
of the 1920s and 1930s.
The period also brought a new questioning of traditional morality, especially regarding sex.
Dress, language, and especially fiction expressed a greater openness for both women and men
in their sexual lives. Some hailed this change as the beginning of true individual freedom,
while others condemned it as the end of civilization itself. Huxley, with typical wit, uses the issue
for irony, creating an image of the young Lenina being scolded for her lack of promiscuity.
Sexual rules may change, Huxley tells his readers, but the power of convention remains the same.
Although set in the future, then, Huxley’s Brave New World is truly a novel of its time.
At a period of great change, Huxley creates a world in which all the present worrying trends
have produced terrible consequences. Movement toward socialism in the 1920s,
for example, becomes, in Huxley’s future, the totalitarian World State. Questioning
of religious beliefs and the growth of materialism, likewise, transforms into a religion
of consumerism with Henry Ford as its god. And if Model Ts roll off the assembly line
in the present, in a stream of identical cars, then in the future, human beings will be
mass-produced, too. Huxley’s future vision, by turns witty and disturbing, imagines
the end of a familiar, traditional life and the triumph of all that is new and strange
in the modern world.
In constructing an imaginary world, Huxley contributes to a long tradition—the utopian fiction.
"Utopia," from the Greek words for "no place" and "good place,"
first came into English in Sir Thomas More’s work Utopia (1516), a fictional account
of a far away nation whose characteristics invite comparison with More’s England. More used
his fictional Utopia to point out the problems present in his own society. Since then, writers
have created utopias to challenge readers to think about the underlying assumptions of their own culture.
Gulliver’s Travels (1726), by Jonathan Swift, seems at first to be a book of outlandish travel stories.
Yet throughout the narratives, Swift employs his fictional worlds ironically to make serious arguments
about the injustices of his own Britain. In utopian fiction, imagination becomes a way to explore alternatives
in political, social, and religious life.
In Huxley’s time, the most popular writer of utopian fiction was H.G. Wells, author
of The Time Machine (1895), The War of the Worlds (1898), A Modern Utopia
(1905), and many other novels. Wells held an optimistic view of the future, with an internationalist
perspective, and so his utopias reflected the end of national divisions and the growth of a truly
humane civilization, as he saw it. When Huxley read Wells's Men Like Gods, he was inspired
to make fun of its optimism with his characteristically ironic wit. What began as a parody turned
into a novel of its own—Brave New World.
The brave new world of Huxley’s novel is not a "good place," and so it is not,
in the strictest terms, a utopia. Huxley himself called his world a "negative utopia,"
the opposite of the traditional utopia. Readers have also used the word "dystopia,"
meaning "bad place," to describe Huxley’s fictional world and others like it.
Huxley’s dark view of the future opened a new door in fiction and seemed to revive interest
in the old traditional utopian form by giving it a modern edge. George Orwell’s Animal Farm
(1946) and 1984 (1949) build on the energy and meaning of their predecessor,
Brave New World. In Fahrenheit 451 (1950), science fiction writer
Ray Bradbury proposes a future society without history or literature, a dystopia of which
Huxley’s World Controller Mustapha Mond himself would probably approve.
In the 1960s, Anthony Burgess imagined his own futuristic London in A Clockwork Orange,
rehearsing the themes of control and the loss of self introduced by Huxley. And Huxley’s disturbing views
of science and technology have even echoed in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973),
where the anti-hero, wandering the streets of London during the V-2 raids of World War II,
discovers his own dark history of social (and sexual) conditioning.
The Structure of the Novel
As a writer, Huxley refused to be kept to simple, chronological structure in his fiction.
He characteristically experiments with structure, surprising his reader by juxtaposing
two different conversations or point of view. In Point Counter Point (1928), Huxley
even attempted to break out of traditional narrative structure altogether—to make fiction
imitate the flow of musical counterpoint.
In Brave New World, Huxley’s plan to create a futuristic world and then to introduce
John the Savage as an outsider demanded another kind of unconventional structure.
To achieve his effect, Huxley divides the novel roughly into thirds. The first part of the novel
establishes the dystopia—the London of the future—with enough detail
and background to encourage the reader to accept the world as a given. The second part
plunges the reader into a thoroughly different world—the Savage Reservation—to
experience the shock of the London characters who are traveling there as tourists.
The central part also introduces the real main character, John, in the only world
he has known since birth. The third part unfolds the events of John’s life in London
and his challenge of the dystopia.
Huxley’s structuring of Brave New World defies the conventions of both mainstream
and utopian fiction. In most traditional utopian novels, the utopia itself stands more or less
alone as a setting, with no distracting side-trips to other places. The only contrast to the utopia,
then, is the reader’s own culture and society. But in introducing the Savage Reservation,
Huxley introduces another fictional world—a rival and contrast to his dystopia
within the novel itself.
According to convention, the inclusion of the Savage Reservation should blur the clarity of the world
of London. But Huxley manages to bring his dystopia into even sharper focus with the trip to
the Savage Reservation. Both worlds emerge as believable and horrifying, each in its own way.
By holding the introduction of his main character until the middle of the novel, Huxley also flouts
narrative convention. In this, Huxley uses the reader’s expectations about structure to produce
a particular effect. Since convention dictates that the main character appear very early in the novel,
readers frequently become convinced that Bernard Marx will be at the center of the plot and theme.
Just when Bernard proves himself cowardly and weak, despite his rebelliousness, Huxley offers John,
the real main character.
Compared to Bernard, John appears truly heroic, at least initially, and, as a "savage,"
introduces a new perspective that Huxley uses upon the return to London. In bringing John into
a dystopia already familiar to the reader, Huxley can play the reader’s knowledge against
the character’s innocence. And the effect of this irony—Huxley’s strong point—intensifies
the climax and conclusion of Brave New World.
A Brief Synopsis
Brave New World opens in London, nearly six hundred years in the future
("After Ford"). Human life has been almost entirely industrialized—controlled
by a few people at the top of a World State.
The first scene, offering a tour of a lab where human beings are created and conditioned according
to the society’s strict caste system, establishes the antiseptic tone and the theme of dehumanized life.
The natural processes of birth, aging, and death represent horrors in this world.
Bernard Marx, an Alpha-Plus (or high-caste) psychologist, emerges as the single discontented person
in a world where material comfort and physical pleasure—provided by the drug soma
and recreational sex—are the only concerns. Scorned by women, Bernard nevertheless manages
to engage the attention of Lenina Crowne, a "pneumatic" beauty who agrees to spend
a vacation week with him at the remote Savage Reservation in New Mexico, a place far from
the controlled, technological world of London.
Before Bernard leaves, his superior, the D.H.C., spontaneously reveals that long ago he, too,
visited the Savage Reservation, and he confesses in sorrow that he lost the woman
who accompanied him there. Embarrassed by the disclosure of his socially unacceptable
emotion, the D.H.C. turns on Bernard, threatening him with banishment for his own social
sins—not engaging enthusiastically enough in sex and soma.
In the Savage Reservation with Lenina, Bernard meets a woman from London who gave birth
to a son about 20 years before. Seeing his opportunity to gain power over the D.H.C.—the
father of the child—Bernard brings Linda and John back to London and presents them publicly
to the D.H.C., who is about to banish Bernard.
Shocked and humiliated by the proof of his horrifying connection with natural birth, the D.H.C.
flees in terror. Once a social outcast, Bernard now enjoys great success, because of his association
with the new celebrity—John, called "the Savage."
Reared on the traditional ways of the Reservation and an old volume of the poetry of Shakespeare,
John finds London strange, confusing, and finally repellent. His quotation of Miranda’s line from
The Tempest—"O brave new world / That has such people
in it"—at first expresses his awe of the "Other Place" his mother
told him of as a child. But the quotation becomes ironic as John becomes more and more
disgusted by the recreational sex, soma, and identical human beings of London.
Lenina’s attempted seduction provokes John’s anger and violence, and, later, the death of Linda
further arouses his fury. At last, John’s attempt to keep a crowd of Deltas from their ration of soma
results in a riot and his arrest, along with Bernard and Helmholtz Watson, an "emotional engineer"
who wishes to be a poet.
The three face the judgment of World Controller Mustapha Mond, who acknowledges the flaws
of this brave new world, but pronounces the loss of freedom and individuality a small price to pay
for stability. Mond banishes Bernard and Helmholtz to the Falkland Islands and rules that
John must stay in London.
When his two friends leave for their exile, John determines to make a retreat for himself in a remote,
secluded lighthouse outside the city. There he tries to purify himself of civilization with ritual whippings
Drawn by the spectacle of his wild penances, reporters and crowds press in on John, who becomes
a public curiosity—a kind of human animal in a zoo. When Lenina appears in the crowd,
John furiously attacks her with the whip. John’s frenzy inflames the crowd, and, in accordance
with their social training, the violence turns into a sexual orgy, with John drawn in more or less unwillingly.
The next day, when John awakes from the effects of the soma, he realizes in horror
what he has done. The novel closes on an image of John’s body, hanging lifeless from
a wooden beam in his lighthouse retreat.
List of Characters
Bernard Marx – An Alpha-Plus psychologist, rumored to have
received alcohol in his blood surrogate, a circumstance that would explain his shortness.
Identifying himself as a true individual, Bernard bristles at the social pressures for conformity
and longs for the intense, heroic feelings but lacks the ability to be a rebel. He brings
John the Savage and Linda back from the Savage Reservation and so makes possible
the conflict that informs the last third of the novel.
John the Savage – The son born of parents from the brave new world
but raised in the Savage Reservation, John represents a challenge to the dystopia. He is
the character closest to being the hero of the novel.
Lenina Crowne – A technician, attracted by Bernard, in love with John.
A conventional young woman who is drawn unconsciously toward danger, she represents
ideal beauty for John.
Linda – John’s mother. An upper-caste Londoner, she commits
the ultimate social sin by bearing a child. She is deeply ashamed and longs for escape,
finding it in peyote, mescal, sex, and soma.
Mustapha Mond – The World Controller, intellectually and politically powerful.
He offers a historical view of the brave new world at the beginning of the novel and later debates John
and Helmholtz on society’s values. Mond sentences Bernard and Helmholtz to be banished to
the Falkland Islands and determines that John must stay in London.
Helmholtz Watson – Bernard’s friend, later a friend of John.
An Emotional Engineer, he longs to become a poet. He represents a more courageous
and intellectual character than Bernard.
The D.H.C. – The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, called
"Tomakin" by Linda. He occupies an important position in the brave new world
but loses it when Linda announces that he is the father of their son, John.
Henry Foster – An Alpha who is seeing Lenina Crowne.
He is a typically conventional Londoner.
Fanny Crowne – Lenina’s friend. Fanny represents the conventional views
of the brave new world. She encourages Lenina to pursue John sexually if he will not take the lead.
Popé – Linda’s lover in Malpais. Popé’s involvement
with Linda inspires John’s deep revulsion for sex.
Mitsima – An old Indian man in Malpais who begins to teach John
to mold clay and presides in the marriage ceremony John witnesses. He represents the beginning
and end of John’s involvement in the traditional life of Malpais.
Summaries and Commentaries
Chapter 1: Summary
The novel opens in the distant future at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre.
This institution plays an essential role in the artificial reproduction and social conditioning
of the world’s population.
As the chapter begins, the Director of the Centre (the D.H.C.) conducts a group of new students,
as well as the reader, on a tour of the facility and its operations—a biological version
of the assembly line, with test-tube births as the product. They begin at the Fertilizing Room,
move on to the Bottling Room, the Social Predestination Room, and the Decanting Room.
Along the way, the D.H.C. explains the basic operation of the plant—Bokanovsky’s
Process—in which one fertilized egg produces from 8 to 96 "buds"
that will grow into identical human beings.
The conditioning that goes along with this process aims to make the people accept and even like
their "inescapable social destiny." That destiny occurs within a Caste System
(or social hierarchy) ranging from the handsome and intelligent Alpha Pluses down to
the working drone Epsilons.
The chapter also introduces two workers at the Centre: Henry Foster, who will figure as a minor character
in the story; and "pneumatic" Lenina Crowne, a major character who will affect the destiny
of the novel’s protagonist.
Chapter 1: Commentary
In the reader’s first glimpse of the dystopia, Huxley drives home the significance of his futuristic world
with the motto "Community. Identity. Stability." All the technology, planning, and conditioning
of this World State exist solely to support and maintain these ends.
The Fordian world does not seem so menacing and sinister as Orwell’s 1984, but the reader
can see even in the first chapter that the cheeriness masks a dark reality. Personal identity—perhaps
even humanity itself—is strangled by the demands of community and stability.
On the tour, the D.H.C. briskly explains the technology of fertilization—the most intimate
human activity—as the carefully calculated, sterile procedure to produce identical people.
In a brilliant adaptation of Ford’s assembly line, the Central London Hatchery turns out (nearly)
interchangeable human beings, who, like the D.H.C. and Henry Foster, can complement one another
effortlessly, even to the point of completing each other’s sentences.
Stability requires both the elimination of differences (except with regard to caste) and the end
of dissatisfaction. The eugenics lab answers the identity challenge; conditioning manages satisfaction.
The D.H.C. announces piously that virtue and goodness spring from the work of the social predestinators,
whose job is "making people like their inescapable social destiny." With this statement,
Huxley introduces a major theme—the role of choice and even pain in becoming a full human being.
The D.H.C.’s dogma will meet a challenge with John, the "uncivilized" character
(introduced in Chapter 7).
Huxley employs several narrative techniques to introduce his dystopia in the first chapter.
The tour for new students affords a realistic opportunity for Huxley to explain the theories
and practices of stability while immersing the reader in the physical world of the dystopia.
A brief reference to the Hatchery itself—a "squat" building of "only
thirty-four stories"—also gives a sense of the surrounding landscape,
a city, by implication, of lofty heights. And, to further orient the reader, Huxley fixes
a date—a.f. 632—the number as well as the "a.f."
emphasizing the difference between the reader’s world and the futuristic world of the novel.
Note especially Huxley’s comparison of technology with nature and his point of making technology
more alive than nature itself. In the first chapter, Huxley describes the sunlight as cold and dead,
except when it hits the tubes of the microscopes, which turn it a buttery, sun-like yellow. In this world,
artificiality itself is a kind of power, competing with and augmenting the forces of nature.
Note, too, the inclusion of early twentieth-century prejudices in the dystopia; for example,
in the racially charged (and unscientific) comparisons of human ovaries and in the all-male
student group. Such details remind the reader that any futuristic fiction reveals as much
about a writer’s response to the present as hopes or fears for the future.
Chapter 1: Glossary
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon – the names of the castes of the dystopia.
They are the first five letters of the Greek alphabet, used most commonly in British schools and universities
as grades, equivalent to A, B, C, D, and F.
Bokanovsky’s Process – Huxley’s phrase. A method for producing
many identical eggs from a single egg. It is the basis for producing identical human beings.
Podsnap’s Technique – Huxley’s phrase. A method for speeding up
the ripening of mature eggs. The process makes possible the production of many identical
human beings at roughly the same time.
decanting – pouring from one container into another. Here, Huxley’s term for birth.
freemartin – an imperfectly developed female calf, usually sterile.
Here, Huxley’s term for a sterile woman. Most of the women of the dystopia are freemartins.
surrogate – a substitute.
lupus – any of various diseases with skin lesions.
demijohn – a large bottle of glass or earthenware, with a narrow neck
and a wicker casing.
A.F. – Huxley’s term, following all the dates in the modern era
Henry Ford – (1863–1947) U.S. automobile manufacturer
credited with developing interchangeable parts and the assembly-line process. Here,
the god-like figure of the dystopia.
lift – British word for elevator.
corpus luteum – a mass of yellow tissue formed in the ovary
by a ruptured graafian follicle that has discharged its ovum; if the ovum is fertilized, this tissue
secretes the hormone progesterone, needed to maintain pregnancy.
thyroxin – the active hormone of the thyroid gland.
Chapter 2: Summary
The D.H.C. continues his tour of the Centre in the Infant Nursery. Here he lectures the new students
on the importance of social conditioning as "moral education."
The D.H.C. oversees a demonstration of "Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning." Nurses expose
a group of babies to books and flowers and then add a violent explosion, alarm bells, shrieking sirens,
and finally an electric shock. This experience, notes the D.H.C., will "unalterably" condition
the reflexes of the babies so that they will develop an "instinctive hatred" of books and nature.
According to the D.H.C., such social conditioning ultimately maximizes economic consumption
among the population. To illustrate his point, he explains how a dislike of nature can be transformed
into a love of country sports—and that involves the consumption of a nearly endless variety
of manufactured consumer goods.
The D.H.C. also recounts an anecdote about little Reuben Rabinovitch to discuss "sleep-teaching
or hypnopædia"—the "greatest moralizing and socializing force of all time."
By way of an example, the D.H.C. and students look in on a sleep-teaching session on Elementary
Chapter 2: Commentary
In this chapter, Huxley continues his presentation of dystopian social stability with a close look
at the theory and practice of early conditioning. In the explanation of hypnopædia and infantile
conditioning, Huxley makes clear that the elimination of choice increases economic and social stability
but diminishes the potential for human growth.
The price of stability emerges most memorably in the scene in which Delta children—predestined
for rote factory work—receive their conditioning to dislike the books and flowers. The image of happy
babies crawling toward colorful books and beautiful blooms is filled with conventional sentimentality,
but Huxley’s reversal with the alarms and electric shock sharpens the reader’s response. The reality
of the conditioning represents its own legitimate argument against the theory of social, political,
and economic stability. Note again Huxley’s use of natural imagery as the complement to technology,
when the sun beams warmly on the flowers, almost as if offering aid in the conditioning.
Less violent, but nonetheless powerful, hypnopædia emerges as the source of underlying
assumptions and prejudices in the dystopia. The lesson in class consciousness gives each child
a social identity but cuts off the possibility of forming friendships outside of caste or even forming
opinions of one’s own. Throughout the novel, characters spout the sentiments of their hynopædic
training almost unconsciously and behave according to the precepts of the sleep-teaching. Even
those—like Bernard Marx—who are conscious of the techniques of hypnopædia
cannot fully escape its power. Again, the dystopian practice supports social stability but destroys
personal identity and independence.
The power of words—and responses to particular words—form an important theme
in Brave New World. Hypnopædia, Huxley makes clear, uses words at the vulnerable time
during sleep to produce unquestioning loyalty or aversion in people. The World State, in effect,
whispers into the ear of each of its sleeping young citizens to ensure compliance with the social order.
Banned words—especially "mother"—produce a strong response of revulsion
and shame, the effect of the carefully taught aversion to human reproduction.
Huxley draws the reader’s attention to this fact in a comic turn that forms a memorable part
of the students' discussion with the D.H.C. Shocked by the D.H.C.’s frank use of the words
"mother" and "father," the students blush and then grin, while Huxley
expresses their reactions by substituting the offending words with "crash."
As the chapter emphasizes, then, the state’s use of language plays an important role
in shaping people’s consciousness and manipulating their energies toward particular
social and economic goals.
Note the change in symbols from the pre-Fordian world. The D.H.C. makes the sign of the T
(as opposed to the cross), which the students repeat, in reverence to Henry Ford’s Model T
automobile, the product of the assembly line. The practiced piety recalls an earlier age, but the meaning
of the gesture has changed. The World State has appropriated the Christian symbol and turned it
into the Fordian T—significantly by cutting off the top of the cross. Even the symbols
of the dystopia make clear the diminishing possibilities for humanity.
Chapter 2: Glossary
Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning – Huxley’s term for the dystopian form
of infant training. The term derives from the classical conditioning system named for the Russian
physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849–1931).
viscose – a substance used in making rayon thread and fabric.
Model-T – the first car produced on Henry Ford’s assembly line.
hypnopædia – sleep-teaching.
asafœtida – a bad-smelling gum resin. It was formerly used to treat
some illnesses, or, in folk medicine, to repel disease.
viviparous – bearing or bringing forth living young, as most mammals
and some other animals do.
George Bernard Shaw – (1856–1950) British dramatist and critic.
Here, one of Huxley’s most famous contemporaries, whom he sarcastically singles out for particular
mention as an accepted genius of the dystopia.
Chapter 3: Summary
In this chapter, the D.H.C.’s tour moves outside into the garden, where the students watch
very young children engaged in sexual games. The D.H.C. tells the students—to
their shock—that such erotic play seemed abnormal in the time before Ford.
This chapter also introduces Mustapha Mond—Resident Controller for Western Europe
and one of the Ten World Controllers. Mond figures in the novel as a kind of enlightened dictator
("his Fordship"), who understands this brave new world, as well as the old world before Ford.
As the chapter dissolves into a verbal montage, Mond lectures on history—and its
suppression—beginning appropriately with Henry Ford’s adage: "History is bunk!"
Mond recalls a world ravaged by anthrax bombs and poison gases in the Nine Years' War, followed
by the great Economic Collapse, and finally the "choice between World Control and destruction."
As Mond notes, soma, the ubiquitous drug of choice in this brave new world, brought an end
to worry, while "stability" proved to be the keystone to social control—the
"primal and ultimate need."
The montage becomes more surrealistic as the chapter draws to a close, jumbling mottoes
of the World State with snatches of dialogue. For example, it fuses Ford and Freud (in psychological matters),
listens in on Lenina chatting with her friend Fanny, and introduces Bernard Marx, who will emerge
in subsequent chapters as a major character.
Chapter 3: Commentary
In this chapter, Huxley introduces the historical forces that led to the creation of the dystopia.
The analysis, delivered by World Controller Mustapha Mond, seems to contradict Ford’s own
statement, quoted by Mond, "History is bunk." With the appearance of the unconventional,
powerful Mond, Huxley offers a deeper, grittier vision of the dystopia than the sanitized explanations
of Henry Foster and the D.H.C.
Mond, the only character who knows both the pre-Fordian and Fordian worlds, lectures with passion
and detail on the self-destruction of the previous order (the world of the reader) and the building
of the World State, the only alternative to chaos. In a series of gory and terrifying images—some,
like the booted leg, inspired by the violence of the First World War—Huxley paints the agonized death
of the familiar world of democracy and individual freedom. From these ashes, the survivors brought forth
what they believed to be the only truly successful framework for living developed in the modern
age—Ford’s assembly line, with its concept of interchangeable parts, making possible
almost limitless production and consumption.
In Fordian times, Mond’s lecture makes clear, consumption and the enjoyment of consumption
is the primary human activity. The "viviparous" life—the ordinary family—no
longer exists, banished by the World State in favor of Conditioning Centres, where decanted children
grow up in an environment designed to ensure their loyalty to the social order and (much the same thing)
train them to consume appropriately. Here, Mond reminds the students, all their needs are met,
all obstacles to happiness removed.
Again, in this chapter, Huxley brings forward the theme of choice and pain as essential parts
of human life. If all obstacles are removed, as Mond says, if no one feels passion or pain,
what kind of human life is possible? At this point in the novel, Mond presents the life
of uninterrupted happiness as the ideal. Later (in Chapters 16–17),
Huxley reveals another, more complicated side to the World Controller, when Mond
debates on the subject of civilization and its price.
Even now, Huxley dramatizes the emptiness of a life controlled by the consumption of goods
and recreational sex. In a surrealistic series of jump-cuts from Mond to the people leaving work,
Huxley underlines the purposelessness of the "progress" evident in the dystopia.
Violent passion is avoided, but people still need a chemical "Violent Passion Surrogate"
once a month. Most women are sterile or practice contraception, yet they must submit to a chemically
induced fake pregnancy to maintain their physical and psychological health. Human nature has not changed,
obviously; the World State has simply redefined it and compensated for the difference with chemicals.
The most important chemical of all is soma, the drug sponsored by the state to reduce
or eliminate feelings of unhappiness. Non-toxic, with no after-effects, soma is the perfect drug
for dulling the senses against any perception of the emptiness of life. Soma is, therefore,
a powerful, essential tool for social control in the dystopia because it prevents the dissatisfaction
and rage that might result in revolution.
Bernard spurns soma in disgust, preferring, he explains, to feel his own emotional state,
however miserable. In refusing soma—the conventional means of remaining perpetually
happy—Bernard believes himself to be a rebellious, authentic human being. As the novel progresses,
however, Bernard’s desire to feel emotion freely will seem less heroic and more adolescent.
Chapter 3: Glossary
surreptitious – secret, stealthy.
auto-eroticism – masturbation.
Our Freud – Huxley’s phrase. A pious reference to Sigmund Freud
(1856–1939), Austrian physician and neurologist: father of psychoanalysis.
flivver – a small, cheap automobile, especially an old one.
Here, used respectfully to refer to Ford’s Model T.
anthrax – an infectious disease of wild and domesticated animals,
especially cattle and sheep, which is caused by a bacillus and can be transmitted to people.
ectogenesis – the growth process of embryonic tissue placed
in an artificial environment, as a test tube. Here, the conventional process of birth.
soma – an intoxicating plant juice referred to in Indian religious writings.
Here, Huxley’s term for a powerful calming and hallucinogenic drug without any serious side effects.
boskage – a natural growth of trees or shrubs.
pneumatic – inflated. Here, Huxley’s word describing a woman with a full,
Malthusian drill – Huxley’s phrase for practicing contraception.
From the word "Malthusian," referring to the theory developed by English economist
Thomas Malthus (1766–1834), that the world population tends to increase faster
than the food supply with inevitable disastrous results unless natural restrictions, such as war,
famine, and disease, reduce the population or the increase is checked by moral restraint.
Chapter 4: Summary
This chapter opens on an elevator where Lenina sees Bernard. She wants to talk with him
about their planned trip to New Mexico, but he seems hesitant. In fact, Bernard wants to express
his feelings to her, but when he tries, Lenina fails to notice. She’s late for a date with Henry Foster.
As Lenina and Henry take off in their helicopter for the date, their trip offers a panoramic view of London
and its suburbs. It unfolds as a miniature version of this futuristic world—from Charing-T Tower
to Hounslow Feely Studios to the Obstacle Golf Course.
The second half of the chapter returns to Bernard, who feels inadequate. Although an Alpha Plus,
Bernard worries over his short stature (due, apparently, to a mistake during his decanting as a test-tube embryo).
Because of this, he feels like a social "outsider": "I am I, and wish I wasn’t."
Bernard flies to Propaganda House to meet his friend, Helmholtz Watson, who writes state propaganda
as an Emotional Engineer. Despite his overpowering stature and success with women, Watson, too, feels
"all alone," because he has "too much ability." As a result, he senses a kinship
with Bernard—the knowledge they share that they are "individuals."
Chapter 4: Commentary
Here Huxley offers a contrast of two important and very different characters: Bernard, the Alpha-Plus
psychologist; and Lenina, the Gamma technician.
As an Alpha Plus, at the top of society’s strict caste system, Bernard should be enjoying every benefit
of his society especially reserved for the elite—including relative freedom. The other
Alphas—the D.H.C. and Henry Foster, for example—move through the futuristic world
with confidence and gusto. Even the unconventional Mustapha Mond seems happy, in his own way.
Bernard, however, lives in a state of misery, anxious and angry; short for his caste, he faces ridicule
from women, insubordination from inferiors, and exclusion from the cheery intimacy of social life
among his equals.
Bernard at once longs for and scorns the joys of his world. Infatuated with Lenina, he dreams
of a vacation alone with her but flinches when she mentions it in public. Sexually obsessed,
Bernard lingers over Lenina’s beauty but is repulsed by the conventional (for this world) attitude
Bernard may be a misfit, but he shows little of the true rebel’s conviction and seriousness of purpose.
When Bernard seeks the company of Helmholtz Watson, another Alpha who is dissatisfied with life,
Huxley offers a new view on his character by contrast. Although popular and socially successful in the ways
Bernard is not, Helmholtz nevertheless longs for some meaning in his life and work. Helmholtz’s discontent,
Huxley stresses, is on a higher plane than Bernard’s. In contrast to Helmholtz, Bernard seems merely childish
and whiny. In later chapters, Huxley sharpens this distinction between these two unhappy Alphas and constructs
a common resolution for them both.
Lenina, on the other hand, appears comfortable in the dystopia. Despite her daring experiment with her
long-standing relationship with Henry Foster, she is conventional by the standards of her world—cheery,
unthinking, and infantile. In her talk with Bernard, she displays all the unembarrassed enthusiasm for sex
that hypnopædia and social life have taught her since childhood. Still, her choice of Bernard seems
somehow rebellious, revealing an underlying, yet not fully recognized, dissatisfaction.
One brief, but significant scene occurs on the roof with the Epsilon elevator operator. In earlier chapters,
the Alphas who control the predestination of fetuses and the conditioning of infants maintain that the members
of every caste are happy, in their own ways. The sudden yearning expressed by the lowly Epsilon in his longing
cry—"Roof! ... Oh, roof!"— reveals for an instant that conditioning cannot completely
remove the human need for air, space, and beauty. There is a similar scene in Fritz Lang’s futuristic film
Metropolis (1927), in which a woman and children from the underground world suddenly glimpse
the richness and beauty of the upper world through opened elevator doors. In both works, the scenes
dramatize the unspoken injustice of the social hierarchy by bringing the lowest and the highest face to face,
creating the conflict that convention seeks to avoid.
Chapter 4: Glossary
parathyroid – any of usually four small, oval glands on or near the thyroid gland;
they secrete a hormone important in the control of the calcium-phosphorus balance of the body.
Charing-T Tower – Huxley’s re-creation of a London train station,
Charing Cross Station.
simian – of or like an ape or monkey. Here, used to describe the Epsilon
Chapter 5: Summary
This chapter opens with Lenina and Henry taking off in their helicopter when the Obstacle Golf Course closes.
They pass over Burnham Beeches—a satirical allusion to Shakespeare—and then the Slough
Crematorium. As they discuss death and "phosphorus recovery"—"we can go on
being socially useful even after we're dead"—Lenina reveals her class prejudices, especially
They fly to Westminster Abbey Cabaret, where they dance the evening away to the Malthusian Blues.
Despite the soma they consume, Lenina remembers her contraception in preparation for a night
of pneumatic sex.
The second half of the chapter follows Bernard as he flies past the chiming Big Henry—the Fordian
version of Big Ben—to the Fordson Community Singery. There he participates—without really
believing—in a kind of religious service that includes such rituals as the sign of the T,
blessed soma, and solidarity hymns. Under the influence of the sacramental soma,
the ceremony dissolves into an "orgy-porgy" of sex.
But while the others find the "calm ecstasy of achieved consummation," Bernard feels
only more isolated in his "separateness"—"much more alone, indeed,
more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before."
Chapter 5: Commentary
In this chapter, Huxley introduces the dystopian combination of religion and sex, featuring a date
in a cathedral/cabaret juxtaposed with a spiritual ritual that ends in an orgy.
Henry and Lenina’s dinner and dancing evening emphasizes the artificiality of their world.
The night is clear and starry, but they are unaware of the stars at all because of the overpowering
electric sky-signs that light up London. In this point, Huxley’s response to his own era—artificial
light already dominating the city night—strongly influences his ideas about the futuristic world.
Inside Westminster Abbey Cabaret—the new use for the historical, venerable site
where English kings and queens were once crowned—the domed ceiling offers
another sky altogether: a tropical sunset. Perception is also modified by the soma
served at dinner so that everyone and everything seems delightful. Even the music is
synthetic—a proudly advertised feature of the cabaret. Emotions, music,
scenery—all the elements of romance come already engineered by the state.
The evening ends, as conventionally it should, with recreational, non-productive sex. Huxley closes
the chapter before describing Henry and Lenina’s love-making, but leaves the reader to infer that it will
be just as artificial and manipulated as the rest of the evening.
Bernard’s "orgy-porgy" Solidarity Service—the biweekly pseudo-religious
meeting—parallels in many ways Lenina’s date with Henry. Music and soma
play important parts in the evening, enhancing mood and eliminating any inhibitions.
On their date, Lenina and Henry’s soma serves as a kind of after-dinner brandy,
while it becomes, in the Solidarity Service, a surrogate for the bread and wine of
the Christian Eucharist. In the service, soma and sex represent union
with a Greater Being and with each other.
Note especially the cries of the participants when they hear the "feet of the Greater Being"
as he approaches. Huxley draws on the tradition of the revival meeting here, and he also underscores
the similarity between religious ecstasy and sexual excitement—a point completed when
the service turns to orgy.
"Orgy-porgy"—the conventional close of the Solidarity Service—uses
group sex as a method of breaking down the perceived differences between people and so increasing
social stability. What might once have been the spontaneous expression of sexual feeling—even
an act of rebellion—becomes here merely another mandatory state activity.
Just as in Westminster Abbey Cabaret, the music at the Solidarity Service sets the pace,
initiates feeling, and manipulates actions. Again, Huxley lets the artificial atmosphere
descend to control the characters in the rituals of the dystopia.
Note, too, Lenina and Henry’s lip service to the worth of every individual. The belief
(hypnopædia at work) allows upper-caste members of the society to disregard
the truth about the deliberately arrested development of the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons
that serve them. Epsilons do not mind being Epsilons, Henry and Lenina tell each other,
because they know nothing else. Huxley has already offered a brief view of the longing
in lower-caste people, with the Epsilon elevator operator in Chapter 4.
Chapter 5: Glossary
Westminster Abbey – Gothic church (originally a Benedictine abbey)
where English monarchs are crowned; it is also a burial place for English monarchs, famous
statesmen and writers, etc. Here, the site of the Westminster Abbey cabaret, or nightclub.
orgy-porgy – Huxley’s term for a ritual sexual orgy, from the children’s
nursery rhyme, "Georgy-Porgy."
detumescence – a decrease in swelling.
diminuendo – a decrease in volume.
plagently – loudly and with resonance.
Chapter 6: Summary
As this chapter opens, Lenina worries about Bernard’s eccentric desire for privacy
and his tendency to question basic social assumptions. She thinks him "odd."
In a flashback to their first date, Lenina and Bernard quarrel when he hovers their helicopter
over the English Channel so that they can observe the power of Nature. Bernard wants
an adult—and emotional—relationship with Lenina, not just the mindless sex
that consummates their first date.
In the middle section of the chapter, Bernard submits his travel permit to the D.H.C., who remembers
his own holiday many years earlier to the Savage Reservation. The D.H.C. tells Bernard about the young
woman he took on his trip and how she disappeared mysteriously during their stay on the Reservation.
Embarrassed by his emotional reverie, the D.H.C. shifts attention by expressing his disappointment
in Bernard’s odd behavior outside work and threatens to exile him to Iceland. But this threat has
a tonic effect on Bernard, who later boasts about it to his friend Helmholtz, who likes Bernard
but hates his boasting and self-pity.
In the third section, Bernard and Lenina fly to Sante Fe, where they meet with the Warden of the Reservation.
As the Warden leers at Lenina and describes the Reservation—there’s no escape, and human birth
remains a reality—Bernard suddenly remembers that he left the eau de cologne tap running at home.
When Bernard calls Helmholtz about the tap, Watson gives him some bad news: the D.H.C. intends
to exile Bernard to Iceland. Appalled by the news, Bernard’s "theoretical courage" evaporates,
and Lenina persuades him to take soma to calm himself before they fly off to the Savage Reservation.
Chapter 6: Commentary
In Chapter 6, Huxley reveals Bernard’s pained recognition of the consequences of
his anti-social feelings and actions. The chapter further clarifies Bernard’s very shallow
attempts to be an individual and makes clear that he lacks the moral courage to suffer for freedom.
Up to now, Bernard has expressed his longing to feel something—anything—strongly.
Since passion is dangerous to social stability, the very thought of feeling intensely constitutes blasphemy,
as the shocked Lenina points out. All the conventions of this society—soma consumption,
regular recreational sex—are designed to prevent strong feelings like rage and prolonged sexual
desire from building up in emotional power. So far, Bernard has experimented with passion by avoiding
soma and nursing his anger, but in this chapter, he learns about actual, unavoidable strong
feelings—first at a distance, then very personally.
The D.H.C.’s shared memories of losing the young woman he was traveling with in the New Mexico
reservation represent a dangerous disclosure. In spontaneously confessing his anxiety and remorse
over the woman’s disappearance, the D.H.C. comes perilously close to admitting that he loved
her—a shocking social sin. The D.H.C.’s memory, still powerful enough to give him dreams,
is Bernard’s first close contact with an authentic emotional experience. But Bernard responds
with a characteristically adolescent reaction; instead of responding sympathetically, he cringes
and leers, at once fascinated and repulsed by the possibility of a superior’s vulnerability.
The chapter also features Bernard’s first personal experience of intense feelings, following
his discovery that the D.H.C. intends to transfer him to a remote sub-station in Iceland
for his lack of conventional "infantile decorum." Suddenly thrown into a genuine crisis,
the kind of trial he has been longing for in preference to the soothing soma-induced tranquility
of everyday life, Bernard panics, his courage gone without a trace. Like any other citizen of the dystopia,
he swallows soma against the harsh realities facing him and, in that gesture, proves
his supposed rebellion to be a shallow, cowardly farce.
Note that in introducing the Savage Reservation, Huxley employs the Warden as a kind of guide,
like Henry Foster and the D.H.C. in the first two chapters. Like Bernard and Lenina, the reader becomes
a tourist, about to enter yet another part of Huxley’s fictional world.
Chapter 6: Glossary
brachycephalic – having a relatively short or broad head.
Chapter 7: Summary
With their Indian guide, Bernard and Lenina enter the Savage Reservation. Lenina finds
everything here "queer."
Lenina soon discovers that she has forgotten her soma, so she must experience
the Indian village of Malpais as an unmedicated reality. In quick succession, she and Bernard
witness old age in the figure of an ancient Indian, Indian mothers nursing their babies,
and a hedonistic ritual dance that fuses Christian and Indian religion. This wild dance ends
with a coyote-masked shaman whipping a young man until he collapses—a blood
sacrifice to bring the rain and make the corn grow.
After this bloody spectacle, Bernard and Lenina meet a straw-haired, blue-eyed young man
dressed—incongruously, it seems—as an Indian. Strangely, too, the young man
speaks like a character from Shakespeare and tells them that his mother—Linda—comes
from the "Other Place." When he also mentions that his father was named "Tomakin,"
Bernard connects this young man with the D.H.C.’s visit to the Reservation.
The young savage introduces them to Linda—a "very stout blonde squaw,"
who tells Lenina and Bernard her strange story of being abducted by the Indians. She has spent
much of her life on the Reservation, she explains, where she gave birth to her son, John, the young savage.
Chapter 7: Commentary
In this chapter, Huxley opens another part of his dystopian world—the Savage
Reservation—contrasting it implicitly and explicitly with the world of London,
where the rest of the novel is set.
In one sense, Malpais represents the opposite of the rest of the dystopia, an "uncivilized"
place against which the reader—as well as tourists Bernard and Lenina—can gauge
the imagined progress of the "civilized" world. Here, on the Savage Reservation,
age changes people unchecked by chemicals and hormones; women give birth and breastfeed
their babies; and the natural process of decay produces sights and smells that appall the sensitive Lenina.
In fact, "Civilization is Sterilization" underscores most of Lenina’s experience in the Reservation.
Fordian London is so clean that birth and old age have been swept away entirely, like germ-producing bacteria.
But in Malpais, the pains of birth and death exist and endure unconquered—still the essential facts
of human life.
Lenina faces these facts most dramatically in her meeting with Linda, who seems her mirror-double,
the woman she might have been under different circumstances. (Note, for example, the similarity between
the names "Lenina" and "Linda.") Linda’s unspeakable fate—to become
a mother and to grow old—is nothing less than a horror, an obscenity, really, to a Fordian mind.
As an object of blasphemy and revulsion, Linda represents enormous power, one that Bernard will use
in a later chapter to regain his position, just as he will use Linda’s son, John, to improve his social standing.
The reader should note Huxley’s careful description of the flagellation ritual, a religious ceremony
to ensure a good food crop. Lenina finds the incessant drumming very familiar—just like
a lower-caste community sing—and her recognition draws attention to the underlying similarities
between civilized and uncivilized worlds. In both worlds, music can suspend inhibition and drive people
to unity and to action (recall, for example, Bernard’s Solidarity Service). Whether dressed in rough wool
or shiny viscose, Huxley reveals, people are still people, open and vulnerable to powerful suggestion.
Communities of all sorts—whether in Malpais or in London—use similar methods
to enforce conformity and so promote social stability.
Note especially the introduction of John, the outsider born on the reservation who emerges
as a contrast to Bernard in rebellious thought. Huxley dramatizes the conflict that will develop
between John and the expectations of the "Other Place" in his first exchange with Lenina,
a bizarre trading of Shakespearean verse and hypnopædic suggestion. From this chapter onward,
John and his struggle become the focus of the novel.
Chapter 7: Glossary
treble – high-pitched or shrill.
Octoroon – a person who has one black great-grandparent.
Good-morrow – old-fashioned greeting, used in Shakespeare’s time,
to mean "good day."
mescal – a colorless alcoholic liquor of Mexico made from pulque
or other fermented agave juice.
peyote – a small, spineless cactus of northern Mexico and
the southwestern United States, with rounded stems whose buttonlike tops are chewed,
specifically in religious ceremonies by Mexican Indians, for their hallucinogenic effects.
Chapter 8: Summary
In this chapter, John recounts his life on the Reservation to Bernard. Bernard senses how strange
and exotic such a life is, as compared to his own experiences. Indeed, he feels as if he and John
"were living on different planets, in different centuries."
John’s earliest memories involve his mother’s relationships with Indian men—especially
Popé, who also introduces Linda to the powerful hallucinogenic drug mescal (which she finds
similar to soma). John also remembers how the Indian women beat Linda, because she felt
no sexual restraints with their men.
As John grows, Linda teaches him to read. Popé finds an old volume of Shakespeare,
and the young boy studies it. In fact, John’s reading in Shakespeare inspires him to try to kill
Popé, who is in bed with Linda. As an adolescent, John is not allowed to undergo
the initiation ritual into adult Indian society like the other boys. Instead, John goes out alone
into the wilderness where he contrives his own physical trials to enter adulthood. His self-torture
gives him a vision of "Time and Death and God."
As John finishes his story, he and Bernard realize that they share the same feelings of being
"terribly alone." Suddenly inspired, Bernard invites John—and Linda,
too—to return with him to London. In response, John quotes Shakespeare:
"O brave new world ... ."
Chapter 8: Commentary
In this chapter, Huxley explores the character of John, the child born unexpectedly in
the Savage Reservation. A genetic Fordian raised in Malpais, John represents the potential
combination of civilization and tradition, but his life has been lonely and heartbreaking.
John is the true individual Bernard sometimes longs to be, and, as Huxley makes clear here,
being truly individual means living in pain. Because of his European appearance and
his mother’s sexual activity, John suffers rejection and humiliation at the hands of the elders
of Malpais as well as his peers. Banned from initiation into manhood, John has nowhere
to turn for help in his growth. An old volume of Shakespeare’s plays becomes his guide to life.
In the world of poetry and imagination, John’s spirit expands, gaining a unique although
eccentric strength and vitality.
Implicitly, Huxley compares the memorable, poetic phrases of Shakespeare’s poetry
with hypnopædia’s catchy lines. John absorbs Shakespeare’s poetry in a dream-like state,
not entirely understanding the words but receiving the message through repetition, just as
the young sleepers of the dystopia accept hypnopædic wisdom. In both cases,
the words form perception, shape behavior, and even inspire direct action. Reading
and meditating on Hamlet’s rage at his mother’s sexual relations, for example,
impels John to express his passion in a violent attack on Popé—a failed
attempt that nonetheless marks the beginning of John’s independent, adult life.
The chapter includes the first appearance of the quotation from The Tempest that gives
Huxley’s novel its title: "O brave new world / That has such people in it."
The difference between John’s awe of the wonderful "Other Place" and the reader’s
own knowledge of the dystopia produces powerful dramatic irony at a crucial point. The irony
of the phrase not only hints at the disappointment that awaits John but draws the novel together
for the reader as well, giving a coherent focus to Huxley’s satire. In later chapters, John himself
will repeat this phrase, as a means of expressing his changing reactions to the world of
London—the reality behind the fairy-tale "Other Place" his mother
once described to him.
Note especially in this chapter John’s own experience of conditioning, different in kind
but not in essence from the conditioning of infants and children in London. John associates
the reality of sex, for instance, with the absence of his mother, fear, humiliation, and intense
physical pain. This conditioning (accidental, but powerful) occurs early in his life, first when
Popé pushes him out of the bedroom, then when the women violently whip Linda
and him, and finally when the boys mock him for his mother’s sexual freedom. As a result,
John displays a strong, persistent aversion to sex, despite his longing for Lenina. Again,
Huxley makes the point that all people—civilized or uncivilized—are vulnerable
to powerful suggestion.
Chapter 8: Glossary
Chapter 9: Summary
While Lenina takes a soma-holiday, Bernard makes the necessary arrangements
to bring John and Linda back to London. He flies to Sante Fe where he telephones Mustapha Mond
for permission and then meets with the Warden.
During Bernard’s trip, John breaks into the Rest House, thinking that Bernard and Lenina
have left for London without him. Inside, John discovers Lenina’s suitcase and looks through
her clothes—including her zippicamiknicks.
When John finds Lenina fast asleep, he thinks of Shakespeare’s Juliet. He reaches out to touch
her—perhaps even to unzip her zippypajamas with a single pull—but stops himself,
thinking: "Detestable thought!"
John retreats when he hears the humming of Bernard’s returning helicopter.
Chapter 9: Commentary
In this very short chapter, Huxley presents two of his principal characters—Bernard and
John—in unexpected, exciting situations of power. The quick view of each character affords
the reader an opportunity to compare the men in similar circumstances. Predictably, Bernard proves
himself to be a shameless opportunist, while John reveals the complex, mixed feelings of his idealism.
Looking forward to revenging himself on the D.H.C. by bringing Linda and their son back to London,
Bernard positively beams with triumph, making his arrangements with masterly briskness and efficiency.
His patronizing tone and his expectations of deference contrast sharply with his usual hesitancy.
Here Huxley hints that Bernard—with power already gone to his head—will become
an unbearable phony, destined ultimately for a great fall.
John’s visit to the sleeping, soma-tized Lenina contrasts with Bernard’s scene in tone.
The mood here is a child-like wonder as John explores Lenina’s clothes and cosmetics and
is ecstatically bathed in her scent. John’s approach to the bed where Lenina lies continues
the mood of wonder and enchantment. Speaking in Shakespeare’s poetry, looking upon her
with awe and longing, John seems a character in a fairy tale—a figure in an ideal landscape.
John’s hesitancy to pull at Lenina’s zipper seems chivalrous in this context, an expression of respect
and poetic delicacy. Still, the scene recalls John’s early conditioning against sex and the possibility
that John is not merely restrained but repressed in sexual matters. With John’s sudden suppression
of sexual curiosity, Huxley deliberately breaks the romantic mood, introducing the jarring, comic image
of his character shaking his head "with the gesture of a dog shaking its ears as it emerges
from the water." John is not an ideal knight, Huxley points out, but a young man raised
as an outsider in the harsh conditions of Malpais and haphazardly educated by the example
of his displaced mother, the legends of the elders, and the poetry of Shakespeare. Nothing in Malpais
or London will ever be simple to such a complex, conflicted character.
Chapter 9: Glossary
agaves – plants of the agave family, such as the century plant.
zippicamiknicks – Huxley’s word for one-piece underwear for women.
Chapter 10: Summary
Back at the Bloomsbury Centre, the D.H.C. waits with Henry Foster to humiliate Bernard.
He plans to publicly confront Bernard in the Fertilizing Room, with its many high-caste workers.
When Bernard arrives, the D.H.C. announces in front of everyone his intention to transfer Bernard
to a "Sub-Centre of the lowest order." The D.H.C. explains that Bernard has "grossly
betrayed the trust imposed in him"—and that his unorthodox attitudes and behavior threaten Society.
Bernard responds by bringing in Linda, whose appearance—sagging and discolored
with age—horrifies and astonishes the crowd. She immediately recognizes the D.H.C.
as her "Tomakin" and tells him that he caused her to have a baby—to be a mother.
An "appalling hush" fills the room at the mere mention of this "smutty" word.
When John enters and calls the D.H.C. "my father," laughter breaks out among the crowd.
Completely humiliated, the D.H.C. rushes from the room.
Chapter 10: Commentary
This short chapter features the reversal of fortune that sets into motion the events that dominate
the rest of the novel.
The D.H.C.’s plan to chastise Bernard publicly before banishing him for his unorthodox behavior is,
the Director maintains, a necessity for social stability, but the D.H.C.’s pious protectiveness of
the social order masks his real reason for punishing Bernard—concern about Bernard’s
revealing his unconventional feelings for Linda. In making an example of Bernard for his behavior,
then, the D.H.C. is being hypocritical.
Bernard’s dramatic introduction of the middle-aged Linda and her son—the horrifying proof
of the D.H.C.’s social sins—represents a brilliant counter-attack, a public humiliation
that undercuts the D.H.C.’s moral authority to punish Bernard. The vision of the pompous
and hypocritical D.H.C. suddenly shocked into silent terror and revulsion makes the victory
a satisfying one for the reader, despite Bernard’s characteristic falseness and vindictiveness.
In later chapters, Bernard will reap the reward of this masterful surprise, not only avoiding
punishment but improving his social status.
The return home does not come up to either Linda’s or John’s high expectations, however.
Linda’s appearance—aging, bloated, coarse from hard living without chemical
enhancement—seems to be the ultimate punishment for becoming a mother,
and the assembled workers shrink from her in horror. John’s heartfelt declaration,
on his knees before the D.H.C.—"My father!"—incites
only uncontrollable laughter among the workers. The scene makes clear that Linda
will never be accepted back into the society of Fordian London, but that John may be
welcomed as an exotic curiosity. Young and handsome, he conforms to Fordian expectations,
while offering the possibility of surprise and sexual interest as well.
Note how Huxley returns the action to London with a few descriptive references to familiar
surroundings—the Social Predestination Room, the Nurseries, and at last the Fertilizing Room,
where the scene takes place. The descriptions remind the reader of the essential difference
between Malpais and London—natural birth versus the bottling and decanting of
fetuses—and prepares for the revelation of Linda and her son, the actual, physical
reality that the Fertilizing Room is designed to replace.
Chapter 10: Glossary
voluptuous – sexually attractive because of a full, shapely figure.
undulation – a swaying motion. Here, describing Linda’s sexually
provocative entrance into the Fertilizing Room.
scatological – having to do with excrement or excretion.
obliquity – a turning aside from moral conduct or sound thinking.
Chapter 11: Summary
As the chapter opens, the D.H.C. has resigned because of the scandal, and Linda has slipped into
a permanent soma-holiday. She is taking ever higher dosages that will eventually lead to her death.
Bernard suddenly finds himself popular because all upper-caste London wants to see John the Savage.
Bernard boasts to Helmholtz about his sexual conquests and lectures Mustapha Mond in
a report—offending both of them.
John, meanwhile, experiences a growing disillusionment with this "Brave New World"
(as he quotes Shakespeare). He vomits during a tour of a Fordian factory and discovers on his visit
to Eton that the library there contains no Shakespeare. He also goes on a date with Lenina to
a feely—which he compares unfavorably to Othello.
At the end of the date, John disappoints Lenina, dropping her off at her apartment without staying for sex.
He feels unworthy of her, while she is confused and frustrated.
Chapter 11: Commentary
In this chapter, Huxley features John’s discovery of the activities that come closest to imagination
and poetry in the world of Fordian London—taking soma and going to the feelies.
Huxley has introduced the effects of soma very early in the novel, and so the reader
is not surprised to find Linda on a more or less perpetual soma holiday now that
the drug is available to her once more. Soma, however, is new to John, and his worry
about the drug shortening his mother’s life gives Huxley the opportunity to expand on soma
once again. In explaining what he regards as soma’s benefits, Dr. Shaw uses
the word "eternity"—a concept John recognizes from Shakespeare’s poetry.
The moment represents a rare connection for the displaced character.
The chapter also offers a detailed description of the feelies, the popular entertainment
that combines the senses of smell and touch in a movie format. Bernard, the reader recalls,
disdained the feelies as beneath his intellectual dignity. Huxley’s presentation of John’s experience,
however, makes clear the strengths and weaknesses of the form, which Mustapha Mond describes
in Chapter 16 as "practically nothing but pure sensation."
As the chapter reveals, the feelies exist simply to soothe and titillate the senses, while leaving
the mind (or, rather, one’s conditioning) untouched. The story is pornographic, but conservative,
containing nothing at all to introduce doubts into a viewer’s sense of social order.
The reader should note the racially charged assumptions underlying Huxley’s satire of the feelies,
the plot revolving around a black man’s abduction and rape of a white woman. Again, the satire tells
the reader as much about Huxley’s present world as it does the futuristic, fictional world. The technology
is different, but the prejudice remains. Note also John’s later comparison of the feely he sees with Othello,
whose tragic hero, John recalls, is also a black man.
The erotic power of the feelies shocks John deeply, because his own unintentional conditioning
and poetic education mark off sex as a dangerous, filthy territory. In contrast, Lenina responds
enthusiastically to the stimulation and is hurt and confused by John’s refusal to end their evening
together with sex. The experience drives John back to Shakespeare—the world he
understands—and further isolates him from the civilized people of London.
Compared with John—now called "the Savage"—Bernard appears
shallow in his supposed individuality and his protests. Reaping the social rewards of his association
with a celebrity, Bernard pushes for power and attention. At last popular with women because
of his connection to John, Bernard forgets his earlier objections to recreational sex and throws himself
into promiscuity with real enthusiasm. He flaunts his unconventional views in public for the mere sensation
of risk-taking and even dares to lecture Mustapha Mond in his reports on John. The disapproving comments
of his superiors forewarn of Bernard’s ultimate fall from social grace.
Bernard’s heady experience of power and popularity contrasts sharply with John’s growing disillusionment.
Note especially John’s repetition of the "brave new world" quotation, now deeply ironic,
as he views a factory filled with Bokanovsky groups and vomits in disgust.
Chapter 11: Glossary
Ariel – a character from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Shakespeare describes him as a "airy spirit," with magical powers.
prognathous – having jaws that project beyond the upper face.
Penitentes – members of a penitential religious sect who whip themselves
to express remorse for sin and in hope of forgiveness. Here, the spiritual men of John’s Malpais home.
Etonians – students of Eton College, the most prestigious of British preparatory schools.
vitrified – changed into glass by heat.
Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury – Huxley’s term describing
the dystopia’s equivalent for the Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of the Church of England.
Capriccio – a musical composition in various forms, usually lively
and whimsical in spirit. Here, the term is used in describing the scent organ.
arpeggios – the playing of notes of a chord in quick succession instead
of simultaneously. Here, again, the musical term is used to describe the scent organ.
Chapter 12: Summary
Disgusted with the brave new world, John refuses to attend a party for the Arch Community Singster
of Canterbury. This embarrasses Bernard and destroys his newly won popularity.
Meeting with John and Bernard, Helmholtz reads an anti-social poem he has composed.
This reading inspires John to read Shakespeare aloud. Helmholtz’s initial delight at the poetic
language turns to laughter and ridicule when Shakespeare’s ideas about love and sex clash
with Helmholtz’s own social conditioning.
Chapter 12: Commentary
John’s preference for Shakespeare over the feelies leads to an explicit discussion of the power
of words to create and express emotion—and to upset the social equilibrium. The chapter
also dramatizes John’s rejection of Bernard for the more philosophical Helmholtz.
In defying Bernard’s demands for him to appear at a very important social gathering, John uses
two techniques of resistance—retreat and the Zuni language—both expressing
his indifference to and independence from the powerful people of the London world. Faced
with demand to behave as a conventional celebrity to ensure Bernard’s continued social success,
John returns to his Malpais identity, speaking Zuni and seeking comfort in the poetry of Shakespeare.
Bernard’s helplessness and John’s angry disillusion will grow in the coming chapters—creating
the climax and bringing about the events of the conclusion.
The main idea of the chapter comes into focus, however, with Helmholtz’s surprising composition
of a real poem, as opposed to the slogans and catchy phrases he usually creates as a writer
of hypnopædia and feely scenarios. The theme of the poem—solitude—reveals
dangerous anti-social leanings (promptly reported to the authorities) and opens the possibility
of a poetic response from John—a reading from Shakespeare.
Helmholtz’s delight and fascination hint that the "emotional engineer" may be able
to respond to and even compose the real poetry he feels compelled to try. Huxley holds the exciting
possibility before the reader—then suddenly whisks it away with Helmholtz’s loud guffaw
at the verses from Romeo and Juliet.
Helmholtz’s ability to enjoy Shakespeare goes only so far. After that point, Helmholtz’s conditioning
takes over, preventing him from sharing the imaginative vision offered by the poetry. The failure
to connect with real poetry—and with John—brings the chapter to a sad conclusion:
the image of a potentially free, potentially poetic individual suddenly reined in by the conditioned
narrowness of mind and heart.
Note here Mustapha Mond’s regretful censorship of a work he finds interesting, but socially dangerous.
Mond’s mixed feelings about the responsibility of his authority are revealed further in
Chapters 16 and 17.
Note, too, Lenina’s growing melancholy as John continues to avoid her. Unfamiliar with real emotion,
Lenina can only compare her authentic unhappiness with the chemically induced feelings of
a Violent Passion Surrogate. Unconsciously, Lenina’s natural emotions lead her into the behavior
associated with romantic love in the present world, as when she gazes at the moon.
Huxley also draws a dramatic contrast between John’s restraint and the Arch-Community Songster’s
guiltless enthusiasm for sex with Lenina. Unlike John, the Arch-Community Songster pulls vigorously
at Lenina’s zipper, ironically topped with the Fordian T, symbol of all that is holy and conventional
in the dystopia.
Chapter 12: Glossary
Lambeth Palace – the official residence in London of the
Archbishop of Canterbury since 1197. Here, the home of the Arch-Community-Songster
St. Helena – a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa.
It was Napoleon’s prison after his defeat by the British. Here, one of the many islands where Mustapha Mond
sends people who challenge the World State.
Chapter 13: Summary
Frustrated by John’s shyness, Lenina determines to take the sexual lead with "the Savage."
When John addresses her with the formality of Malpais tradition and Shakespearean poetry, the confused
Lenina simply undresses and approaches him directly. Horrified by Lenina’s sexual freedom, John pushes
her away, threatening to kill the "impudent strumpet." Lenina retreats in fear.
The chapter ends with a phone call for John with the news that his mother is dying.
Chapter 13: Commentary
In this chapter, Lenina determines to approach John for sex directly, rather than continuing to wait
for him to take her. In her attempted seduction, Lenina uncovers a disturbingly violent side to John.
So far in London, John has appeared quaint, innocent, and—with the exception of his refusal
to join Bernard’s party—agreeable. Lenina, who is eager for sex with "the Savage"
experiences frustration but interprets John’s indifference as simple shyness, which she can overcome
by taking a firm hand with him. The possibility that John’s sexual restraint is the expression of his own
deeply held values and beliefs never occurs to her.
Lenina’s frustration recalls the incident in Chapter 3 when a student remembers having to wait
a month before a young woman would have sex with him. The emotional intensity was "horrible,"
just like Lenina’s longing, but the passion ended with sexual relief. In taking the sensible Fanny’s advice
to force the issue with John—and thus get her anti-social feelings over with—Lenina
expects the same relief. Conditioned to think of sex as recreational and relationships as fluid
and changing, Lenina does not recognize that her curiosity, attraction, and regard for John is,
in fact, a serious infatuation that may become love.
The resulting seduction scene is a farce, with neither Lenina nor John knowing what the other
is really thinking or feeling. Lenina’s plan is straightforward—a direct invitation, undressing,
a few lines of a love song, and sex will most certainly follow. But John’s view of romance takes
a more complex form. Both the traditions of Malpais and the poetry of Shakespeare demand
a period of trials, an enforced labor, that will earn the lover the right to marry his beloved.
But trials, labor, and marriage have no meaning in the dystopia. In continuing her sexual approach,
Lenina unknowingly steps outside the boundaries that John’s education have set down for a worthy women.
In John’s eyes, if Lenina is not a prize to be won through suffering, then she must be a whore—a
"strumpet" to be scorned.
John’s early experience has taught him to associate sex with violence, and his conditioning suddenly
takes over as his romantic vision of Lenina disappears. As he shakes her violently, slaps and threatens
to kill her, he mutters Shakespeare’s most passionate verses about unfaithful women, the "drums
and music" of the fierce poetry goading him on in his fury. Again, Huxley underlines the relationship
of music with the disappearance of inhibition and the expression of strong emotion. John’s outburst
here looks forward to his later violent passions after leaving London—especially
the "atonement" that ends in his death.
Chapter 13: Glossary
strumpet – a prostitute.
fitchew – a polecat or weasel. John’s quotation of Shakespeare refers
to the popular tradition of the fitchew’s enthusiasm for mating.
civet – a yellowish, fatty substance with a musklike scent, secreted
by a gland near the genitals of the civet cat and used in making some perfumes. Here, John
quotes Shakespeare’s sarcastic use of the term to mean a sweet scent. Pure civet is foul-smelling.
usurp – to take or assume by force or without right.
Chapter 14: Summary
In this chapter, John goes to the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying to be with Linda at her death.
Music, scents, telescreens, and an unending supply of soma fill the ward, while Delta children
romp among the beds, learning to view death as pleasant and useful rather than something to be feared.
The children annoy John, making it impossible for him to speak with his dying mother. When Linda
wakes from a soma dream and mistakes her son for Popé, John’s misery turns to fury.
At the moment of death, Linda’s terrified eyes seem a reproach to her son. John leaves the hospital angry
Chapter 14: Commentary
The chapter offers a detailed description of the conventional manner of dying in the dystopia,
while dramatizing John’s very different expectations at the deathbed of his mother, Linda.
In the early chapters, Henry Foster, the D.H.C., and Mustapha Mond present the facts of death
in the dystopia as well as the social theories behind the practices. Everyone remains young-looking
through chemical treatments, until at sixty death comes in the form of "galloping senility,"
a rapid deterioration of mental and then physical powers. Death is characteristically antiseptic, cheery,
and meaningless, underscoring the social belief that the end of any one individual matters very little.
The ward in which Linda lies dying in a soma trance, then, is strictly conventional by
But John brings a different consciousness to Linda’s death, formed by life and death in Malpais,
and Shakespeare’s emotional death scenes. Bothered by cheery nurses and curious Delta children,
John tries to summon up his childhood memories of his mother, so as to rekindle his love for her
and to experience the meaning of his loss. Although the setting distracts John and the children infuriate him,
he still has hope of forging a union with his mother that will live beyond her death.
With Linda’s whisper, "Popé," however, John realizes that they are still apart,
separated by soma and sexual dreaming. To the end, Linda remains the well-conditioned
Fordian rather than John’s mother. Indeed, her last words are not "my son," or
"I love you," but the broken-off hypnopædic suggestion for recreational sex:
"Every one belongs to every ... ."
Note Linda’s last look, described in Huxley’s phrase as "charged with terror"—the sudden
realization of her mortality. To John, the look seems to reproach him; in fact, he believes that he has killed her.
John’s guilt about his mother’s death will re-emerge in later chapters, finally driving him to violence and
isolation—an end that Huxley hints at in the conclusion of this chapter, when John pushes away
a curious child roughly enough to force him to the floor.
Chapter 14: Glossary
caffeine solution – Huxley’s phrase for a tea-like drink in the brave new world.
Chapter 15: Summary
In the hospital vestibule, John sees Deltas lining up for their soma ration. "O brave
new world" rings hollowly in his head.
Suddenly inspired, John calls to the Deltas to give up the drug. When they fail to respond,
John seizes the soma and throws it out the window, causing a riot among the Deltas.
Bernard and Helmholtz arrive to save John, and they become involved in the riot themselves.
When the police come, they arrest John as well as Bernard and Helmholtz.
Chapter 15: Commentary
This short, but eventful chapter highlights the change in John’s perception of the dystopia
that will bring about the action propelling the novel toward its conclusion.
Twice earlier, John has quoted the line from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest,
in which Miranda, in awe, contemplates people from the outside world she has never
before seen: "O brave new world / That has such people in it!"
The first quotation, in Chapter 5, following John’s meeting with Bernard and Lenina
in Malpais, is straightforward and joyous. The second quotation, in Chapter 8,
occurs when John sees several identical Bokanovsky groups working in a factory.
Here, John delivers the line ironically, as an expression of his physical disgust
at inhuman sameness.
In this chapter, John sees Delta adults lining up for their soma ration, and their identical features
again appall him. Once more he repeats the quotation, but now the words seems to command him
to change the dystopian world into the beautiful ideal he once believed it to be.
In John’s sudden inspiration to action, Huxley validates the World State’s belief that uncensored
literature (the lines from The Tempest) and intense emotion—John’s sorrow at
his mother’s death and his disgust at the Delta children in the ward and the Delta adults lined up
for soma—can result in social unrest. John’s surprising call to the Deltas to turn away
from soma strikes—at least potentially—at the heart of social stability.
The Deltas unsurprising fury when John throws the soma out the window actually
causes a riot, the simplest and most direct form of social instability. Only a soma vapor
and soothing (anti-revolutionary) words applied immediately can stop the unrest.
Note again, when faced with the confused resistance of the dystopian mind—Lenina’s
puzzlement at his wooing, the Deltas' resentment at his cries for freedom—John begins
with poetry, moves to name-calling, and finally resorts to violence. Frustration and anger boil
within John whenever he encounters anyone who does not understand his values and vocabulary.
In this, John is far from a villain, but he is not really a hero, either. Malpais and Shakespeare
have sown the seeds of violent fury in him, as well as beauty and tradition. Despite his intentions,
John in not the idealistic revolutionary he thinks himself in this chapter.
Note also Helmholtz’s enthusiastic participation in the riot, contrasted with Bernard’s hesitancy
and his attempt to avoid arrest. This contrast—commitment versus cowardice—continues
into Chapter 16, when the three men face the judgment of World Controller Mustapha Mond.
Chapter 15: Glossary
dolychocephalic – having a relatively long head.
bursar – a treasurer, as of a college or similar institution.
Here, Huxley’s term for the person who holds and distributes soma
at the Park Lane Hospital.
carapace – the horny, protective covering over all or part
of the back of certain animals, as the upper shell of a turtle, armadillo, crab, etc.
Chapter 16: Summary
In this chapter, John, Bernard, and Helmholtz submit to the judgment of Mustapha Mond.
After they discuss the reasons for social control, Mond banishes Bernard and Helmholtz
to the Falkland Islands for their role in the riot. Bernard panics, but Helmholtz accepts
the new life, far from the pressures of conformity.
Chapter 16: Commentary
In this chapter—the aftermath of the soma riot—Mustapha Mond discusses
the importance of happiness and stability, even at the cost of truth and freedom. In a sense,
this is the conversation both John and Helmholtz have been waiting for—the explanation
of everything dissatisfying about the supposedly ideal social system.
As a World Controller who makes—and, accordingly, can break—the laws, Mond
reveals his own anti-social tendencies. Mond came to an acceptance of dystopian values,
he confesses, after a radical youth, during which he experimented with forbidden science.
Choosing a position of responsibility in preference to banishment—a decision he regrets
at times—Mond explains that he consciously took on the duty of making others happy
through social engineering. As someone who controls the dystopian world while remaining aware
of its flaws, then, Mond is the perfect character to answer the objections of Helmholtz and John.
In debating with Helmholtz and John, Mond concedes the validity of their literary loyalties.
Comparing the feelies and Shakespeare, Mond unhesitatingly comes down on the side
of Shakespeare. But he objects to the poetry on social grounds; Shakespeare’s tragedies
require a dangerous instability, now an outdated concept. Stability, rather than truth or beauty,
represents the true human value in this age.
In an extraordinary lecture, Mond defends the society’s repressive control over its people—even
the development of deliberately brain-damaged fetuses—in the name of human happiness.
John’s proposal that the predestinators could, at least, make everyone an Alpha meets with
an immediate rejection by Mond. The best society, he explains, "is modeled on
the iceberg—eight-ninths below the water line, one-ninth above."
Mond’s declaration that in his society everyone is happy—even (and, he argues, especially)
Epsilons—recalls the image of the Epsilon elevator-operator, sighing in joy at his brief glimpse
of the roof before being sent back down into the darkness again. Mond’s satisfaction with his own view
of the dystopia is apparent, but Huxley leaves the matter of freedom and justice open to the reader.
Note the different ways in which each of the three characters responds to Mond. John seems
interested to find someone in the brave new world who can understand (if not share) his values
and is even familiar with Shakespeare. John debates Mond directly and intelligently, without lapsing
into name-calling or violence as he has with Lenina and later with the Deltas.
For his part, Helmholtz forges a bond of understanding with the World Controller. Both men respect
each other, clearly, and Mond even envies Helmholtz his interesting future in banishment, outside
the confines of conformity.
In contrast, this chapter reveals Bernard at his lowest point, with all his former daring and rebelliousness
evaporated. Silent and anxious throughout the discussion, he panics and breaks down when he hears
the sentence of banishment. In Chapter 17, however, Bernard will return, humbled but in better spirits,
ready to face his punishment.
Chapter 16: Glossary
chary – careful or cautious; not given freely.
platitude – a commonplace or trite remark.
paroxysm – a sudden attack or spasm.
abjection – a state of misery and degradation.
scullion – a servant doing the rough dirty work in a kitchen.
Here, Mustapha Mond uses the word humorously to describe his lowly position early in his career.
Falkland Islands – a small group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean,
off the coast of South America. Here, the place of Bernard’s and Helmholtz’s banishment.
Chapter 17: Summary
In this chapter, Mond and John discuss the brave new world—especially the absence of God.
As their discussion unfolds, John expresses his disgust at the casual ease of living in a society where
science and conditioning abolish all frustrations. Mond counters that John is claiming "the right"
to be unhappy, and John agrees.
John’s formal acceptance of all the horrors of sickness, poverty, and fear—capped by Mond’s
terse "You're welcome"—ends the chapter.
Chapter 17: Commentary
In this chapter, Mond continues his discussion of the practical philosophy of the world he controls.
With Bernard and Helmholtz gone, Mond and John concentrate on the issues that distinguish
the traditional world—John’s Malpais as well as the reader’s world—from the dystopia,
especially a belief in God.
Mond and John’s experiences of religion oddly complement one another. Mond knows about God
and religion from the forbidden books he has read—the Bible, the medieval Imitation of Christ,
and the relatively modern works of Cardinal Newman and William James. John, in contrast,
has actually lived a religious life in Malpais, surrounded by the rituals of worship and purifying
himself in fasting and suffering.
Mond’s argument against religion in his world is materialistic—the main point being
that the culture of comfort has made God obsolete. According to Mond’s view, people turn
to religion only when age and discomfort impel them to look beyond the physical world.
But if age and discomfort are banished, the physical, material world never loses its pleasure.
Thus, Mond argues, God is irrelevant in the brave new world. In contrast, John’s argument
stems from a belief in self-denial and suffering as a means to the good—by which
he means virtuous—life. Where Mond sees comfort as the pinnacle of human experience,
John sees it as a barrier to growth and spirituality. A life of constant amusement and pleasure,
he argues, is "degrading."
In his response, Mond accepts the virtues of Christianity—kindness, patience, long-suffering—as
reasonable and even socially valuable, but points out that soma can do as well as years of painful
self-denial in producing virtuous behavior. In a memorable phrase, Mond describes soma
as "Christianity without tears."
John, of course, rejects this view immediately, because, according to his definition, a worthwhile
human life requires suffering and danger, from which will spring nobility and heroism.
The discomfort and the pain, John maintains, are an essential part of freedom, beauty, and religion.
This disclosure brings the discussion—and the novel itself—to its climax.
Huxley poses a choice between freedom and comfort. John, the Savage, has made his case
for freedom, and Mond for the stability and comfort of the brave new world. The two world-views
are obviously incompatible in their own minds, although Huxley leaves open an option for the reader
to find a middle way.
Now Mond and John face each other squarely, and the choice emerges clearly. Control means comfort
at the loss of freedom. But freedom means the possibility of disease, starvation, and misery. Faced with
the choice, John chooses freedom, replying to Mond’s list of horrors, after a long silence: "I claim
The obvious misery of freedom’s possibilities, John’s hesitancy, and Mond’s indifference—a
noncommittal "You're welcome"—combine to dampen this climactic stand by John.
The choice of freedom as it is defined by Mond is not a real victory, and John is still not a true hero.
Both Mond and John show themselves incomplete in this chapter, their different world-views shallow
and unimaginative. The conclusion to the discussion will drive John into isolation, but Huxley also means
to inspire the reader to explore the assumptions of each character and to think beyond the frame of the novel
toward the world itself—and the combinations of freedom and control that might enhance rather
than limit life.
Chapter 17: Glossary
Cardinal Newman – (1801–1890) John Henry Newman,
English theologian and writer.
neurasthenia – a former category of mental disorder, including
such symptoms as irritability, fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and localized pains without apparent
physical cause, thought to result from weakness or exhaustion of the nervous system.
Here, Mustapha Mond’s description of normal emotional tension.
Chapter 18: Summary
As Bernard, now calm and resigned, prepares to leave with Helmholtz for the Falklands,
John makes plans to retreat to a place of his own, far from the society he has rejected.
In a lighthouse outside London, John undergoes purification for "eating civilization."
Fasting, whipping himself, and vomiting, John strives to exorcise the guilt he feels for Linda’s death
and his horror of sexual contact with Lenina.
Reporters, film crews, and then crowds intrude on his privacy. When Lenina herself approaches him,
lovesick and heartbroken, John attacks her with a whip. A riot breaks out and turns into a sexual orgy.
John awakens the next day, groggy from soma, and realizes what has happened.
Filled with despair and self-loathing, he kills himself.
Chapter 18: Commentary
The concluding chapter of the novel brings John the Savage into direct physical conflict with
the brave new world he has decided to leave. The sudden violence, shocking as it is, has been
prepared for ever since the visit to Malpais and, in some ways, echoes the flagellation ritual
Lenina and Bernard witness on the Savage Reservation.
Left on his own, John reveals the true form of his religious feeling—self-destructive rituals
of purification by vomiting and whipping himself. Tortured by the memory of his mother’s death,
he will not let himself enjoy even the simplest pleasures of his austere life—making a bow,
The intensity of his self-punishment, the lack of a positive focus for his spiritual feelings, make clear
that John’s life is not influenced by the hermits of Christianity but by the demons of his own guilt.
If the dystopia is the horrifying spectacle of a life with nothing but self-serving comfort, John’s lighthouse
retreat emerges as the equally horrifying vision of a life with nothing but self-induced pain. As different
as they are, both worlds represent emptiness and purposelessness.
In contrast, note Bernard’s sudden maturity as he prepares to leave for the Falklands with
his fellow-exile, Helmholtz. Their genuine regard for one another and the relative freedom
of the island community they are joining give promise of a life much more humane than
the one they leave behind.
Outside society, yet still assaulted by the media, just as the suitor of the Maiden of Matsaki
is tormented by stinging insects, John suffers a harsher punishment than his friends.
In his guilt and isolation, any sexual memories of Lenina immediately incite him to
whipping—a penance that draws leering crowds to view him as they would an animal
in the zoo.
As a result, John’s refuge becomes his cage—his habits of purification a mere trick
for the tourists. Free from the trappings of the civilization he hates, John is nevertheless still
imprisoned within himself, in his uncontrollable feelings of longing and repulsion. In striving
to live a truly human life, John becomes, in the eyes of the crowd, less than human.
Note that John’s sexual feelings are still linked to violence, the result of his unintentional conditioning
in Malpais. Guilt over his sexual longing for Lenina arouses deep anger that habitually erupts in
the ritual flagellation. The original meaning of the whipping—to turn the mind away from
thoughts of sexual pleasure—is lost in rage and lust as he imagines whipping Lenina,
a disturbing image that looks forward to the end of the chapter.
The "orgy of atonement" represents the sudden, explosive combination of the two worlds
of the novel. Overcome by religious and sexual frenzy—a parallel Huxley has already drawn
in the Solidarity Service of Chapter 5—John’s furious attack on Lenina becomes,
in the crowd’s conditioned response, "orgy-porgy." Without willing it, John merges
into the brave new world he has been trying to escape, yielding to the sexual desire he has so long
John’s suicide represents self-loathing, his disgust at becoming sexually indiscriminate, in the way
Linda and Lenina were conditioned to behave. His death puts an end to the possibility of living independently
outside the dystopia—except on the socially sanctioned island outposts—or changing it from within.
As he explains in his Foreword to Brave New World, Huxley later regretted his decision
not to give John a third choice—a middle way between the Savage Reservation and
the world of London. Brave New World Revisited goes some way in imagining
that middle way for the readers of the novel. In this original ending, however, hope for
a humane society is lost with the death of its eloquent—if flawed—defender.
Chapter 18: Glossary
turpitude – baseness, vileness, depravity. Here used to refer to
John’s feelings about Lenina.
Bernard Marx receives so much attention in the early part of Brave New World that it seems
as if Huxley has chosen him for the main character. Later, however, John the Savage takes
the central role in the novel.
In a society of perfectly flawless people, Bernard’s flaw—his short stature—marks him
for ridicule. The rumored cause, alcohol in his blood surrogate, links him chemically to the lower castes
and undercuts his Alpha Plus status. Bernard himself is painfully aware of others’ responses to his
un-Alpha-like shortness, and his lack of confidence stems from anxiety about rejection.
Bernard’s feelings about his difference develops into an inner resentment nurtured by
his own egotism—a frame of mind that produces much emotion but little action.
Although he wants to be an individual, to feel strongly and act freely, Bernard shows
little creativity or courage.
Marked as an outsider, Bernard revels in pent-up anger and disgust at those who reject him.
To his social equal, Helmholtz, he alternately brags and whines about his anti-social feelings
of rebelliousness, yet when faced with superiors, Bernard is characteristically subservient
and cowardly. Suddenly a social success, he makes the very most of his association with John
to seize the power he once pretended to scorn, flaunting his unorthodoxy just for attention.
In this, Bernard proves himself a hypocrite.
When compared with John and Helmholtz, Bernard remains shallow and uninteresting,
despite his loneliness and obvious pain. His experience with John and his friendship
with Helmholtz, however, bring him to a certain maturity by the end of the novel. Bernard
goes to the Falkland Islands more of a real human being than he ever was before.
John the Savage
The only person in the brave new world born naturally of a mother, John represents a unique
human being in the novel, with an identity and a family relationship unlike any other character.
Although the son of two upper-caste Londoners, he grows up in the squalor of the Savage Reservation.
Disconnected, rejected, John is not truly a part of Malpais or of London. His only society is Shakespeare’s
imaginative world, a realm he inhabits with energy and misguided idealism. John is the true loner,
the individual Bernard imagines himself at times, and his life, accordingly, is filled with confusion and pain.
John represents the most important and most complex character of Brave New World,
a stark contrast to Bernard, the would-be rebel. Bernard’s dissatisfaction with his society
expresses itself most characteristically in sullen resentment and imagined heroism,
but John lives out his ideals, however unwisely. In turning aside Lenina’s advances,
John rejects the society’s values. He acts boldly in calling the Deltas to rebellion
and in throwing out the soma. Finally, he faces the powerful Mustapha Mond
deliberately and intelligently and sets out on his own to create a life for himself,
which ends in tragedy.
If anyone, John should be the character to challenge and to bring down the Brave New World
that is stifling humanity. In the end, John cannot change the society, because he is blocked
within and without. Mustapha Mond makes clear the power of the World State to resist
any unstablizing force. But John is also held back by his own destructive tendencies
toward violence and self-loathing.
Although John despises conditioning, Huxley reveals that John has been conditioned, too.
Because of the terrible conditions of his life in Malpais, John associates sex with humiliation
and pain and character with suffering, and this destructive view gains further power in John’s
response to the poetry of Shakespeare.
John’s conditioning limits his ability to act freely, making him a deeply flawed potential hero.
His death is the result of his own imperfect understanding as well as the inhuman forces
of the brave new world.
"Awfully pneumatic" and proud of her sexual attractiveness, Lenina seems at first
a conventional woman of a society in which comfort, pleasure, and materialism are the only values.
As the novel progresses, however, Lenina emerges as a conflicted character, more complex
than she seems initially.
Although she may not acknowledge it, Lenina rebels against her conditioning for sexual promiscuity,
the belief that "every one belongs to every one else." At the onset, she is continuing
an unconventionally long and exclusive sexual relationship with Henry Foster. Even in returning
to normal sexual behavior, she again rebels, choosing the socially misfit Bernard Marx.
Without completely understanding her motivations, Lenina explores the emotional territory
outside recreational sex with far more daring than Bernard, the supposed rebel.
Lenina’s relationship with John brings her to an emotional, physical, but not intellectual experience
of love, while her unaccustomed vulnerability makes her the victim of John’s violence twice.
She represents the rare potential to see beyond conditioning, but cannot live freely.
A thoroughly conventional brave new world woman dropped unexpectedly in a very different society,
Linda faces the challenge of understanding traditional morality. But Linda’s sense of the normal moral
world—drilled into her by her early conditioning—consists of equal parts recreational sex
and soothing drugs. Beyond finding the rough equivalents of her own world’s social occupations—peyote
and mescal for soma, for instance—she never seriously engages the culture she lives in.
As a result, she remains isolated, condemning her son John to a marginal existence as well.
As Linda herself points out, she has no training for the life she has had to live as a mother.
Filled with shame for having a baby and longing for her home, Linda wraps herself in a blanket
of mescal and peyote, remaining intoxicated and barely aware of John and his needs as a growing
young man. For John, she feels an intense mixture of love and revulsion, complicated further
by her obsession with Popé. The strange quality of his mother’s feelings for him
obviously has an effect on John himself, especially in his relationships with women.
After her long years of struggle and shame on the Savage Reservation, Linda throws herself
into soma holidays, shortening her life by her addiction. At the end, for the confused,
angry woman, death comes as a release, despite her terror.
The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning—or "Tomakin," as Linda
calls him—seems at first a strictly conventional man, absolutely conservative
in his outlook and demeanor. Respectful to superiors, snappish—even
cruel—with anti-social inferiors like Bernard, he upholds the highest standards
of brave new world morality.
Yet, paradoxically, he has had an intense experience of love and regret that has changed him
inwardly forever. His sadness at losing Linda and the guilt he feels for leaving her represent
truly human responses in an inhuman world. Sensibly, the D.H.C. keeps the memory of Linda
to himself for all the years he climbs the career ladder. The unexpected reminder of
the Savage Reservation catches him off guard, leaving him vulnerable, first to fear
of exposure and then to Bernard’s plan for revenge.
With the D.H.C., Huxley emphasizes the connection of fear of discovery with hypocrisy.
Bernard’s exposure of the D.H.C.’s relationship with Linda and John, their son, gains
most of its energy and comic force from the D.H.C.’s hypocritical denunciation
of anti-social behavior. In this, the character and his public humiliation recall
traditional unmasking scenes in fiction involving corrupt religious or other
well-respected social figures. Still, the D.H.C. shows himself very human
in the long-term emotional effects of his traumatic situation. Again, Huxley
hints at the possibility of true feelings despite conditioning but undercuts
the hope in the end.
The Controller, one of the ten men who run the World State, represents a combination
of past and present, convention and rebellion. A man of two worlds, Mond is familiar
with the history that others are forbidden to know, and so his thinking ranges both
inside and outside the present social order. The maker of the rules, as he says,
can break them as well, if he wishes.
Only Mond’s extraordinary power keeps him safe from whispers of his dangerous knowledge
and collection of unorthodox books. He is untouchable but not unreachable. With Helmholtz
and John, Mond discusses the unspoken assumptions of the society they find so constricting,
even confessing his own youthful experiments in challenging authority. Mond knows the nature
of the malcontent—he once was one—but he is committed to keeping the society
stable. He uses his power for others’ happiness, he explains, not his own.
During his lectures, Mond expresses his unique views on the themes of freedom, happiness,
civilization, and heroism. His dry delivery contributes much to the satiric tone of the novel.
In his intellect and wit, Mond is the character who most resembles Huxley himself.
Helmholtz represents a sharp contrast to his close friend, Bernard. Unlike the flighty,
whiny Bernard, Helmholtz shows himself to be emotionally stable even in his deep
dissatisfaction. Bored with mindless recreational sex and soma-taking,
he simply abstains, saving his energies for what he believes to be more valuable activity.
In this, Helmholtz shows himself to be a more serious rebel than Bernard.
Helmholtz voices the inarticulate feeling of meaningless in the life of brave new world citizens.
Helmholtz has something to say, he believes, but he cannot find the words within him.
In his struggle to find meaning and expression for his feeling of emptiness, Helmholtz
emerges as one of the most fully human and engaging characters of the novel.
Society and the Individual in Brave New World
"Every one belongs to every one else," whispers the voice in the dreams
of the young in Huxley’s future world—the hypnopædic suggestion discouraging
exclusivity in friendship and love. In a sense in this world, every one is every one else as well.
All the fetal conditioning, hypnopædic training, and the power of convention molds
each individual into an interchangeable part in the society, valuable only for the purpose
of making the whole run smoothly. In such a world, uniqueness is uselessness and uniformity
is bliss, because social stability is everything.
In the first chapter, the D.H.C. proudly explains the biochemical technology that makes possible
the production of virtually identical human beings and, in doing so, introduces Huxley’s theme
of individuality under assault. Bokanovsky’s Process, which arrests normal human development
while promoting the production of dozens of identical eggs, deliberately deprives human beings
of their unique, individual natures and so makes overt processes for controlling them unnecessary.
The uniformity of the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons is accomplished by careful poisoning
with alcohol and produces—in Huxley’s word—"sub-human" people,
capable of work but not of independent thought. For these lower-caste men and women, individuality
is literally impossible. As a result, built on a large foundation of identical, easily manipulated people,
the society thrives. Stability lives, but individuality—the desire and/or ability to be
"When the individual feels, society reels," Lenina piously reminds Bernard, who strives
without success for a genuine human emotion beyond his customary peevishness. This inability
is a kind of tragic flaw in Bernard. Even love—acknowledging and cherishing another’s
unique identity—represents a threat to stability founded on uniformity. The dystopia’s
alternative—recreational sex—is deliberately designed to blur the distinctions
among lovers and between emotions and urges, finding its social and ritual expression in
This organized release of sexual urges undercuts passion, the intense feeling of one person
for another, as the individuals subordinate even their own sexual pleasure to the supposed joy
of their society’s unity. At the Solidarity Service, Bernard finds the exercise degrading, just as anyone
clinging to any idealism about sex would be revolted. John’s sensitive feelings about love suffer
even from the representation of such an orgy at the feelies. Significantly, it is the morning after
his own experience of "orgy-porgy" that John commits suicide. His most private,
cherished sense of love and of self, he feels, has been violated.
In Huxley’s dystopia, the drug soma also serves to keep individuals from experiencing
the stressful negative affects of conflicts that the society cannot prevent. Pain and stress—grief,
humiliation, disappointment—representing uniquely individual reactions to conflict still occur
sometimes in the brave new world. The people of the brave new world "solve" their conflict
problems by swallowing a few tablets or taking an extended soma-holiday, which removes
or sufficiently masks the negative feelings and emotions that other, more creative, problem-solving
techniques might have and which cuts off the possibility of action that might have socially disruptive
or revolutionary results.
The society, therefore, encourages everyone to take soma as a means of social control
by eliminating the affects of conflict. John’s plea to the Deltas to throw away their soma,
then, constitutes a cry for rebellion that goes unheeded. Soma-tized people do not know
their own degradation. They are not even fully conscious that they are individuals.
Both Bernard and John struggle against the society’s constant efforts to undermine their individuality,
but one character reveals a deeper understanding of the stakes than the other. Bernard rails loudly
about the inhumanity of the system. His outrage stems from the injustices he suffers personally,
but he apparently is unwilling or unable to fathom a debate or course of action against the malady
because he is an Alpha Plus upon whom the process has been at least partially successful.
Once Bernard receives the sexual and social attention he believes is his due, his complaints
continue merely as a show of daring and bravado. He sees no reason and feels no moral
or social compunction to fight for the rights of others oppressed by the social system.
John, on the other hand, truly challenges the brave new world with a view of freedom that includes
everyone, even the Deltas who reject his call for rebellion. Although John, like Bernard, suffers
from the oppression of the World State, John is able to frame his objections philosophically
and debate the issue face to face with World Controller Mustapha Mond because, although
John is genetically an Alpha Plus, he has not undergone the conditioning necessary to conform.
His objection is not only his own lack of comfort, but the degradation of slavery imposed by the society.
John’s acceptance of a free human life with all its danger and pain represents an idealistic stand
beyond Bernard’s comprehension or courage. Flawed, misguided, John nevertheless dares to claim
his right to be an individual.
By the end of the novel, all the efforts to free the individual from the grip of the World State have failed,
destroyed by the power of convention induced by hypnopædia and mob psychology. Only Helmholtz
and Bernard, bound for banishment in the Falkland Islands, represent the possibility of a slight
hope—a limited freedom within the confines of a restrictive society.
The battle for individuality and freedom ends with defeat in Brave New World—a decision
Huxley later came to regret. In Brave New World Revisited, a series of essays on topics suggested
by the novel, Huxley emphasizes the necessity of resisting the power of tyranny by keeping one’s mind active
and free. The individual freedoms may be limited in the modern world, Huxley admits, but they must be
exercised constantly or be lost.
Brave New World Revisited: Further Thoughts on the Future
In 1958, Aldous Huxley published a collection of essays on the same social, political,
and economic themes he had explored earlier in his novel Brave New World. Although
the form differs—the work is nonfiction instead of fiction—Huxley’s characteristic
intelligence and wit enlivens the essays of Brave New World Revisited just as it did in his novel.
Brave New World has been called a "novel of ideas," because Huxley takes
as his primary focus for the fiction the contrast and clash of different assumptions and theories
rather than merely the conflict of personalities. In Brave New World Revisited, Huxley dispenses
with the fictional construct altogether and lets the ideas themselves form and inform his work.
In a sense, then, Huxley opened his debate about the future in fiction—for artistic
purposes—and then continued it in philosophy with persuasion in mind.
Part of Huxley’s reason for "revisiting" the themes of Brave New World stems
from his horrified recognition that the world he created in fiction was in fact becoming a reality.
In the depths of the Cold War, a totalitarian world state—a Communist dictatorship,
perhaps—seemed a distinct possibility; and so, with the world on the verge of destruction
or tyranny, Huxley felt compelled to search for and find the hope for freedom missing in his novel.
In describing the modern, postwar world, Huxley acknowledges the prophetic power
of George Orwell’s 1984. In communist nations, Huxley points out, leaders used
to control individuals with punishment, just as the representatives of Big Brother frighten
and at times torture citizens into submission in Orwell’s novel. But in the Soviet Union
at least, the death of Stalin brought an end to the "old-fashioned" form
of universal tyranny. By the late 1950s, in the Soviet bloc, governments attempted
to control high-ranking individuals with rewards—just as in Brave New World.
Meanwhile, the government continued to enforce conformity on the masses by fear of punishment.
Communist totalitarianism, therefore, combined the Brave New World and 1984 styles
of oppression. Both novels proved sadly prophetic.
Still, Huxley argues, the future will look more like Brave New World than 1984.
In the West, pleasure and distraction, used by those in power, control people’s spending,
political loyalties, and even their thoughts. Control through reward poses a greater threat
to human freedom because, unlike punishment, it can be introduced unconsciously and
continued indefinitely, with the approval and support of the people being controlled.
In place of the Nine Years’ War—the calamity that brought the society of Brave New World
into being—Huxley points to the danger of overpopulation as the trigger for tyranny. Just as
the fictional war brought the call for a totalitarian World State, the chaos caused by overpopulation
may be demanding control through over organization. Instead of many little businesses producing
necessities, an over-organized society allows big business to mass-produce anything and everything
saleable, while controlling consumer spending through commercials and social pressure.
The resulting programmed consumption—"Ending is better than mending"—of
Brave New World had already begun to take over the post-war world, at least in the West.
The literal consumption of soma-like drugs also captures Huxley’s attention. By the 1950s,
readily available tranquilizers adjusted people to a maladjusted culture, smoothing out any inconvenient
instincts of resistance, just as a soma-holiday eliminated the recognition of unhappiness.
Huxley takes particular pride, mixed with dismay, at the prophetic quality of his own future vision.
In the 1950s, commercial jingles—what Huxley calls "singing
commercials"—seem to invade and take over the conscious mind and culture,
in the same way that the brave new world runs smoothly on the slogans of hypnopædia.
Hypnopædia itself, of course, was a well-respected reality by the time of Brave New World Revisited.
And the use of subliminal persuasion, a method for introducing subconscious suggestions, had already caused
a scandal in American movies. Although subliminal persuasion does not appear in Brave New World,
Huxley wishes aloud that he had included it, since the unconscious power of the suggestions seems perfect
for the cheery authoritarianism of the dystopia.
In general, Huxley warns his readers that they may be talking themselves into accepting a world
that they would reject, if only they were fully conscious of its nature. But, distracted by consumerism
and pleasure, people seldom truly engage the reality they are living, just as the citizens of
the brave new world seldom recognize the restraints of their society. Unconscious manipulation
through language—propaganda—keeps individual minds open to any suggestions,
even the most inhuman.
Huxley cites, from recent history, Hitler’s power of manipulation through language as a frightening example.
Quoting from the dictator’s autobiography, Huxley emphasizes the importance of Hitler’s skillful use
of propaganda in motivating citizens to support his leadership. Hitler, for instance, deliberately scheduled
his public addresses at night, a time when fatigue makes people vulnerable to suggestion, excitable,
and most likely to succumb to the mass hysteria Hitler produced at his rallies. Huxley’s fictional Controllers
of the brave new world follow the same pattern with the Solidarity Services, a ritual of programmed
mass hysteria to produce social loyalty. A different form of the same suggestibility occurs in light sleep,
the period when the hypnopædic voices whisper society’s wisdom into the ears of children
and young adults. In both cases, the rational self has its guards down, and any
message—however irrational—may make its way into the mind and influence behavior.
According to Huxley, even in the 1950s, propaganda emanates from those who want to control
behavior on a large scale, just as the World Controllers of Brave New World want to maintain stability.
Dictators like Hitler use propaganda to whip up support and to direct violence against anyone identified
as the enemy. In the 1950s, Huxley argues, propaganda represents the principal tool of
the "Power Elite," C. Wright Mills's term for the government and business leaders
controlling communication and the economy. Through commercials, subliminal messages, and
careful suppression of challenging truths, Huxley declares, propaganda is infiltrating the language
of society, becoming perhaps the only way to speak at all. If the trend continues, Westerners may be
in danger of becoming as unconsciously manipulated and enslaved as the citizens of the brave new world.
Identifying the enemy of freedom as propaganda, Huxley finds the solution that eluded him
in Brave New World. Education in the recognition and resistance of propaganda must be
the responsibility of every individual. Referring to the brief history of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis,
Huxley emphasizes that government and other authorities may oppose the unmasking of anti-rational,
manipulative language for their own reasons. Still, Huxley insists, the only hope lies in the active mind,
able and willing to make its own judgments. Individual freedom, compassion, and intelligence—the
very qualities missing in the dystopia of Brave New World—can guide the fully conscious,
fully human mind into a truly free, truly human future.