Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World Chapter 12 Summary
- Chapter 12 starts with Bernard yelling through a locked door to John, begging him to come out because "everyone is waiting" for him.
- John has a cow. He yells something in Zuñi, the language of the Indians on the Reservation.
- All the people who came to see the Savage, in turn, have a cow themselves. And they take it out on Bernard by making fun of his less-than-perfect physique.
- Meanwhile, Lenina sits alone, planning her attack. Her sex attack, that is. (Actually, what she has in mind is more of a "I have the biggest crush ever on you!" sort of thing.)
- Then she hears that John isn't coming out to play, and she feels like she's just been hit with a Violent Passion Surrogate (again, don't ask us).
- Bernard's ego, meanwhile, is deflating like a balloon as everyone talks about what a loser he is.
- The whole thing is particularly mortifying, since at this "Meet the Savage" dinner party the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury was in attendance. (He's a big deal. People know him.)
- Very angry, the Arch-Community-Songster leaves. Adding insult to injury, he takes Lenina with him. For some sex. Ouch.
- Bernard is devastated. He takes some soma to deal with it. (What ever happened to "wanting to feel anger"?)
- In the meantime, John is holed up in his room reading Romeo and Juliet.
- Next we jump to Mustapha Mond, who is reading a paper called "The New Theory of Biology." He decides it is novel, genius, and all-around awesome, but that it can't be published because it's subversive. Also, he suspects the author may need to be moved to a remote location devoid of all human contact.
- The problem with the paper is that it discusses a notion of "purpose." This is dangerous: if the upper castes start thinking about purpose, they may come to believe that conditioning serves some purpose other than everyone's immediate happiness. And that spells trouble. It spells it with the letters u-p-r-i-s-i-n-g.
- Back to John, who is enmeshed in the ecstasy that is Romeo and Juliet, or, more specifically, Romeo's description of his gorgeous new flame.
- We jump momentarily to Lenina, who finds that she has to take soma just to bring herself to sleep with the Arch-Community-Song-whatever guy.
- Bernard is himself in the middle of a lovely soma-induced sleep, but by the time he wakes up, he's sober.
- John confronts him and says that, this morning, with Bernard being all grumpy, he's much more like the guy he was at Malpais when they first met. John adds that he would "rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness" that Bernard was having.
- Bernard responds to this nugget of enlightenment gold by complaining about how John ditched the dinner party and cost him (Bernard) his reputation.
- Finally, Bernard comes around to admitting that he's being a twerp. But inwardly he continues to harbor a "secret grievance" against John, which means that revenge is likely coming soon.
- Now the text gets all philosophical about how Bernard really just needs to take his revenge out on one victim, any victim, and since the Arch-Singer guy is out of the question, the Savage is the easiest target. It's the job of friends, Huxley tells us, to suffer for us when our enemies are too inaccessible.
- Which brings us to Bernard's other "friend-victim": Helmholtz Watson. Now that he's been burned, Bernard goes to his buddy, the popular, sexy Alpha male, for help.
- Helmholtz, a true champ and a good friend, forgets that Bernard was a total jerk earlier and offers his services.
- Unfortunately, this offer backfires, as Bernard realizes that, if Helmholtz can act like this, he is not only better looking, physically stronger, and more well-liked than Bernard, but he is also more magnanimous. He realizes that Helmholtz's general awesome nature stems from true character, not from the false products of soma.
- Because of this, Helmholtz becomes another guy on whom Bernard would like to take some revenge.
- Although, as it turns out, Helmholtz is also having some trouble with Authority. The trouble goes a little something like this:
- Helmholtz was giving a lecture on Advanced Emotional Engineering, more specifically, the use of rhyming propaganda. He then presented some… er… questionable rhymes as an example, and to see what their reactions would be. The Principal then threatened to fire him, and now he's a "marked man."
- Bernard quite reasonably wants to know what the rhymes were.
- The rhymes are a poem about being alone, about being melancholy and reflective in one's solitude. In his poem, Helmholtz becomes aware of the "presence" of some "absurd essence," but something more solid and more real than all the girls he has sex with. (For those of you actually looking at the poem in your text, when he lists the names "Susan" and "Egeria," those are his examples of vapid (dull or lifeless) women he at one time or another passed the time with.) The "presence," whatever it is, makes him realize that his copulations (i.e., sex) with women are actually "squalid" (dirty).
- Bernard reminds Helmholtz that solitude is against the law; Helmholtz is all, "Yeah, I know, thanks."
- Helmholtz then delivers the second of his two beautiful passages in Brave New World: "I feel as though I were just beginning to have something to write about. As though I were beginning to be able to use that power I feel I've got inside me—that extra, latent power. Something seems to be coming to me." We suggest you go compare this to his passage in Chapter 4: Part 2.
- When Helmholtz and John get together, it's clear that they are kindred spirits. And that Bernard is jealous. So to deal with it, he takes some more soma.
- During their third time together, Helmholtz reads his lines to John. But John responds with, "Listen to this" and brings out his old, tattered Shakespeare book.
- Fortunately, Helmholtz isn't easily discouraged. He's way into the poetry John reads, which happens to be "The Phoenix and the Turtle," one of Shakespeare's poems.
- While Helmholtz and John are sharing a moment, Bernard, quite high, interrupts with: "Orgy-porgy!" This becomes a running gag: every time Helmholtz and John get together to read Shakespeare, Bernard sits around and interjects "Orgy-porgy!" to irritate them. Finally, Helmholtz tells him if he does it again he'll kick him out.
- So one day they're hanging out and reading Romeo and Juliet. John secretly imagines himself as Romeo and Lenina as Juliet. Helmholtz, meanwhile, is enticed by the language but doesn't understand the subject matter—how can someone get so worked up over a girl?
- Things are going great until John reads aloud the lines in which Juliet refuses, at her parent's command, to marry Paris. She's busy grieving over her cousin's death and, secretly, pining for Romeo.
- At this tragic moment, Helmholtz busts out laughing. First of all, the words "mother" and "father" are obscene. Second of all, the idea of then forcing their daughter to sleep with someone, and of her making such a fuss, is "smutty" and "absurd." Also, the idea of Tybalt being dead but not being burned up to be used for his phosphorous is laughable.
- The Savage is so offended that he locks the book away and, in all likelihood, puts on his pouty face.
- Helmholtz is still guffawing, but he composes himself enough to declare that Shakespeare could write so well, could write "such X-ray phrases" because he had something really juicy to write about. And what does he (Helmholtz) have to write about? Nothing. He needs "some other kind of violence and madness," something other than lust or marriage or family issues, but he doesn't know what that might be.
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