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Brave New World

Brave New World


by Aldous Huxley

Tools of Characterization

Character Analysis

Direct Characterization

Huxley isn't one for subtlety. It isn't enough to show Bernard's insecurity around the lower castes; instead, we get this: 

The mockery made him feel an outsider; and feeling an outsider he behaved like one, which increased the prejudice against him and intensified the contempt and hostility aroused by his physical defects. Which in turn increased his sense of being alien and alone. A chronic fear of being slighted made him avoid his equals, made him stand, where his inferiors were concerned, self-consciously on his dignity.

Then we get to Helmholtz, whose physical appearance clues us in to his self-confidence. But then Huxley goes into telling mode again:

A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect. […] A mental excess became in its turn a cause of wider separation. That which had made Helmholtz so uncomfortably aware of being himself and all alone was too much ability. What the two men shared was the knowledge that they were individuals. […] It was only quite recently that, grown aware of his mental excess, Helmholtz Watson had also become aware of his difference from the people who surrounded him.

This goes on and on for much of the novel, again leading people to believe that Brave New World was more of a forum for Huxley's ideas than a true (or at least classic) novel.


Since everyone is obsessed with material goods in Brave New World, clothing is a good measure of character. On one level, clothing will tell you to what caste an individual belongs. Gammas wear green, Deltas wear khaki, Epsilons wear black, etc. But the way women talk about clothes is particularly revealing as well. Fanny and Lenina, as good, "healthy," conditioned members of society, are very into attire—just look at the way Fanny admires Lenina's Malthusian belt (itself a tool of characterization, since wearing contraceptives on your belt is a good indication of your sexual habits). Linda, too, talks a lot about clothing, evidence that she, or at least her priorities, haven't really changed at all in the last twenty years. The anecdote of John wearing rags because Linda didn't know how to mend worn-out garments reminds us that she seems woefully ill-suited to live on the Savage Reservation. We were also a fan of Lenina's sleeping attire—a "onesey," as a nod to her infantile behavior.


Names are a big deal in Brave New World. We're going to do this list-style, OK? But before we start, note that all the connections we've made here between characters in the novel and historical figures are speculative. We can only give these with varying degrees of certainty. We can be fairly sure, for example, that the "Marx" in Bernard Marx refers to Karl Marx, but others, like the "Fanny" in Crowne, are educated guesses. So feel free to argue, disbelieve, and raise your eyebrows. We expect nothing less. Oh, and we listed everyone alphabetically by last name.

Herbert Bakunin: Mikhail Bakunin was a Russian anarchist revolutionary. George Herbert was a Welsh priest famous for writing holy hymns.

Bokanovsky's Process: Maurice Bokanovsky was a French bureaucrat who made a big deal out of how the government should be more efficient. Sounds like a Brave New World fit to us.

Darwin Bonaparte: Charles Darwin, as you probably have heard, is the guy who came up with the Theory of Evolution. Aldous Huxley had family ties to Charles Darwin, since T.H. Huxley, his grandfather, was a big Darwin-supporter in his day. Napoleon Bonaparte was a French general who conquered much of Western Europe back in the 19th century.

Fifi Bradlaugh: Charles Bradlaugh was the first atheist in parliament, which is fitting, since we meet Fifi at Bernard's pseudo-religious and highly ritualistic Solidarity Service.

Fanny Crowne: Fanny Brice was a cute actress popular around the time Huxley was writing this novel. Since the fictional Fanny seems mostly to serve the role of a stereotypical, objectified sexual being in Brave New World, this works for us. You've also got Fanny Brawne, who was a romantic interest for John Keats, who is referenced in Huxley's novel in the character of Miss Keate, the Eton Headmistress. 

Lenina Crowne: Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary communist who appropriated Marxism and ended up a leader of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Lenina, a conformist and essentially tool of the totalitarian government, doesn't exactly live up to her name. Perhaps this goes to show that all "Leninism" necessarily ends in conformity. John Crowne was a late-17th-century dramatist whose plays often revolved around some sort of heroic, romantic love. This, too, is ironic for a girl of Lenina's, shall we say, dating habits.

Clara Deterding: Clara was the name of Henry Ford's wife, and Henri Deterding is famous for founding the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company. It's appropriate that we meet this character in the same paragraph that we meet Joanna Diesel.
Joanna Diesel: Rudolf Diesel was the German engineer who designed the diesel engine.

Sarojini Engels: Friedrich Engels was a social theorist who helped Karl Marx (also referenced in Brave New World) write The Communist Manifesto. Sarojini Naidu was a poet and freedom fighter in India in the first half of the 1900s.

Henry Foster: The real Henry Foster was an officer in the British Navy and a scientist whose discoveries were in subjects related to sea travel, such as magnetism and pendulum measurements. If Huxley's character is a nod to this historical Henry Foster, then it might have to do with the fictional Foster's preoccupation with numbers and measurements. The other contender for this reference is John Foster, a British essayist who was a die-hard supporter of regimented education. Since Foster knows all about engineering and conditioning the embryos, this is a great representation of what "education" has become in this brave new world. The first name "Henry" also gets "Henry Ford" into the mix again.

Jean-Jacques Habibullah: Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an enlightenment philosopher who had a lot to do with socialism and the French Revolution. Amir Habibullah Ghazi was the President of Afghanistan at the time Huxley was writing Brave New World.
Benito Hoover: Benito Mussolini was an Italian fascist dictator. At the time Huxley was writing Brave New World, he was the prime minister in Italy. Herbert Hoover was President of the United States from 1929-1933, but the fictional Benito's last name might also refer to The Hoover Company, since they were using mass-production when Huxley was writing.

John: John the Baptist is the biblical figure who baptized Jesus Christ.

Miss Keate: John Keate was the headmaster of Eton in 1809, known for his tendency to beat boys silly with a birch.

The Malthusian Belt: Thomas Malthus was a British economist who did his most influential work in the late 1700s. His "Principle of Population" was a provocative theory that said that Earth's population would grow out of control if we didn't do something about it; namely, stop having so many babies. Of course, Huxley's "Malthusian Belt" is full of contraceptives, so it's easy to see the connection. Interestingly, Malthus used to hang out with Rousseau, who is also referenced in Brave New World via his first name, Jean-Jacques.

Bernard Marx: George Bernard Shaw was a playwright living in London at the time Huxley wrote Brave New World. Shaw was a socialist and advocated equal political rights for women—this fits nicely when we think about Bernard's disgust with Lenina being treated as a sexual object. Karl Marx is the famous "father of Communism"—he believed the mistreated lower classes would rise up and throw off the yoke placed on them by the upper classes. It's funny that Bernard is himself an Alpha who ultimately prefers the superficial luxury of high society to dealing with any real problems, social or otherwise.

Primo Mellon: Miguel Primo de Rivera was a Spanish dictator in power while Huxley was writing Brave New World. Andrew William Mellon was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the same time period.

Mustapha Mond: Mustapha Mond basically has a stereotypical famous leader name. At the time Huxley was writing Brave New World, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was the president of Turkey, having just founded it from scratch. You've also got a string of famous Mustafa's before this particular Mustafa, all of whom were the Sultans of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. (OK, fine, so modern Turkey wasn't totally built from scratch.) The fictional Mustafa's last name, Mond, means "world" in French. You've also got a British guy named Alfred Mond, a politician in the early 1900s, whom you might want to look into that as well.

Podsnap's Technique: Mr. Podsnap is a detestable character in Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend, although probably not as detestable as making humans mature in a mere two years, which is the technique he lends his name to in Brave New World.
Popé: In August of 1680, there was a rebellion in San Juan, New Mexico called The Navajo Pueblo Rebellion, a.k.a. Popé's Rebellion, since it was led by a Native American of that name against the Spanish settlers.

Pfitzner and Kawaguchi: Hanz Pfitzner was a German composer famous for the opera Palestrina. This opera features the Council of Trent, which was the Catholic's church meeting to deal with all this new Protestant Reformation hullabaloo. Ekai Kawaguchi was a Japanese monk. It's fitting that both men point back to religion, since the fictional characters went against what at the time were common religious beliefs by developing ectogenesis (the process by which embryos can be raised outside of the womb).

Morgana Rothschild: Fata Morgana is another name for Morgan Le Fay, the evil temptress who made life difficult for King Arthur of legend. Rothschild is the last name of a prominent banking family in England, though it's a fairly common name and we can't be sure just what Huxley's referring to here.

Dr. Shaw: Like the character of Bernard Marx, this seems to be a reference to George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist.
Calvin Stopes: John Calvin was a theologian who started Calvinism, which essentially says that we're all predetermined by God to do whatever it is that we do. This is a highly ironic name, since this fictional character is the singer with a band of sexophonists. Again, sex has perverted religion. The "Calvin" part of his name may also refer to Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States from 1923-1929.

Polly Trotsky: Leon Trotsky was a Marxist Communist active in the early 20th century. He was expelled from the Soviet Union when Joseph Stalin came to power. In Brave New World, Polly Trotsky is the little girl who is distressed to find that her male playmate isn't interested in hunting her zipper, which is generally amusing. Also, H.G. Wells (referenced in Brave New World by the character Dr. Wells) wrote a comic novel called The History of Mr. Polly, so the character of Polly Trotsky might be a nod to that as well.

Helmholtz Watson: Hermann von Helmholtz was a famous German physicist. Let's just say that, if we were physicists, we would know an equation or two named after him. John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who sort of started behaviorism (the theory that you can alter behavior with conditioning, and also that changing behavior is the best way to effect psychological change). He's also the guy responsible for the "Little Albert" experiment in which an infant was given a rat to play with. They became good friends, which went just fine until a bunch of scientists started making loud scary noises when the rat was around. Even when they took away the noises, Albert was scared of the rat. This is basically a less-cruel version of the electrocuting-babies practice we see in Brave New World.

Dr. Wells: H.G. Wells was a famous writer of science fiction novels. You've probably heard of his works, especially The War of the Worlds or the The Time Machine. He actually studied biology under T.H. Huxley, who was Aldous Huxley's grandfather. T.H. was an ardent supporter of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Social Status

In novels, social status often can be an indication of character. In Brave New World, social status almost completely defines character, since individuals are engineered by caste. Bernard and Helmholtz are only allowed their dissatisfaction and intellectual curiosity because they are Alphas. We don't even hear much about the other castes. What's great is that John doesn't have a caste—which is perfectly appropriate to his role as an outsider.

Speech and Dialogue

The dialogue in Brave New World is chockfull of hypnopaedic, or sleep-taught, sayings. Phrases such as "a gram is better than a damn," "Was and will make me ill, I take a gram and only am," "everyone belongs to everyone else," and "ending is better than mending" are all demonstrative of the consumerist, capitalist, and totalitarian aims of the World State. Of course, the characters that use these lines the most (Lenina and Foster) are those most brainwashed and least "free" in Brave New World.