Huxley can get pretty dramatic in Brave New World. Just check out that moment in Chapter 13 when Lenina forgets to give a bottle its immunization. The text is all, "Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days from that moment, a promising young Alpha-Minus administrator at Mwanza-Mwanza was to die of trypanosomiasis." Or the end of Chapter 3: "Slowly, majestically, with a faint humming of machinery, the Conveyors moved forward, thirty-three centimeters an hour. In the red darkness glinted innumerable rubies." Whoa there. Lighten up.
Fortunately, that's where the parody comes in. Brave New World manages to combine this dark sort of drama with healthy sprinklings of grinning puns and parodies, like "Thank Ford!" or "Orgy-porgy." Huxley also has a good time with the different taboos of the World State. As readers, we can't help but laugh when students turn pale and feel sick at hearing the word "mother."
It's pretty easy to see that Brave New World is science fiction. Just read the first chapter. The world in which the novel takes place is highly imaginative and completely different from our own. Because it portrays a futuristic society in which, to put it bluntly, everything sucks, and also because this novel helped define the genre, we feel confident about labeling it as dystopian literature, too.
The philosophical bit arrives in Chapters 17 and 18, where the novel is often criticized for reading like a treatise in the form of dialogue. It gives the impression that Huxley wrote Brave New World to promote his own philosophical beliefs rather than to write a perfect exemplar of the novel form.
Brave New World is chockfull of references to one Shakespeare play after another. (See "Allusions.") But the most important reference, at least thematically, is to The Tempest. The line in question is this: "Oh, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in 't!" In Huxley's novel, the line is spoken by John, the "Savage" raised on an Indian Reservation who, as an adult, is brought to the "civilized" World State, a.k.a. Huxley's futuristic bad place. An avid Shakespeare reader, John is excited about the prospect of visiting a "new world."
So now we go to The Tempest to see what's up. In the play, you've got a young woman named Miranda, who has been on an island her entire life with only her father and two little spirits. So she's basically never seen a man that's a good contender for a romance. Then, a ship comes up on shore with lots of men. She spots one of the men, Ferdinand, and gets all excited. But this line, the "brave new world" line, comes at the end of the novel, when she finally sees all the other men. As you can see, there's a lot of sexuality beneath the surface here.
Which brings us back to the irony of having John the Savage repeat this line. Since John is adamantly anti-sex, it's likely that he's ogling the new world and the "goodly creatures" in it without addressing those goodly creatures' sexuality. On the other hand, we know he's already smitten with Lenina when he quotes Miranda, so he might be alluding to the sexual undertones, although probably not consciously (as we know, John beats himself up when he starts thinking sexual thoughts, but there's no guilt to be seen at the point when he repeats the line).
John ends up reciting this quote several times throughout the book, and, as you'll read in "Allusions," this is a great way to examine how his view of the civilized World State—the "brave new world"—changes. And not in a good way, either.
OK, let's start with the time. Huxley establishes in Chapter 1 that the year is A.F. 632. We are told in Chapter 3 that the introduction of the first Ford Model-T was year "zero" for this calendar, and our car-fanatic friends tell us that this monumental event happened in 1908 (C.E.). Then we talked to some other friends who are good with numbers, and they came up with 2540 as the year in which Brave New World takes place. Or, in layman's terms, THE FUTURE.
But Huxley isn't one for layman's terms. He creates an incredibly elaborate and nuanced setting for his novel. He provides details about everything from technology (vibro-vacuum massage, scent organ) to professions (Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, World Controller) to down-time activities (Centrifugal Bumble-puppy, anyone?), and from the cityscape (the seven skyscrapers twinkling over Guildford) to individual buildings (The Internal and External Secretions Factory, The Hounslow Feely Studio). Basically everything you see capitalized has something to do with Huxley setting up an atmosphere for his tale.
In essence, the more disturbing the setting and the more complete the picture, the more effective the novel. If Brave New World creeps you out, Huxley did his job well. All this elaborate detail, while sometimes outlandish, makes the idea of a "World State" that much more plausible in our minds. We start to see how a society like this might function, down to the smallest detail. It's also the details that allow Huxley to parody our own world so effectively. Christianity has crosses; they have T's. We say, "Thank God!"; they say "Thank Ford." We play mini-golf; they play Obstacle Golf. See where this is going?
Finally, as far as a specific setting goes, there's a clear dichotomy between the Savage Reservation and the civilized world. The two landscapes act as a foil, which we talk about more in "Character Roles" (which is tricky of us, since settings aren't characters).
Les utopies apparaissent bien plus réalisables qu'on ne le croyait autrefois. Et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissante: comment éviter leur réalisation définitive?… Les utopies sont réalisables. La vie marche vers les utopies. Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classe cultivée rêveront aux moyens d'éviter les utopies et de retourner à une société non utopique moins "parfaite" et plus libre.
Utopias seem to be much more achievable than we formerly believed them to be. Now we find ourselves presented with another alarming question: how do we prevent utopias from coming into existence? …Utopias are possible. Life tends towards the formation of utopias. Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which intellectuals and the privileged will dream of ways to eliminate utopias and return to a non-utopic society less "perfect" and more free.”
—Nicholas Berdiaeff, translated from the French by Shmoop
Besides being a really cool word, a utopia is an ideal or imaginary place or society. The etymology of the word utopia is Greek: ou means no or not, and topos means place. No place.
But we thought utopias were good things? Why is there a “no” embedded within the word itself? Probably because utopias are not real, but are imaginary places. Needless to say, this epigraph is all about utopias. And it just so happens that, in reading Brave New World, we a get a VIP tour of a dystopia (a.k.a. the opposite of a utopia).
That’s right. We begin with a French guy telling us to avoid utopias like the plague, and we finish with a rousing look into the misery and horrors of a dystopia. By process of deduction, it sounds to us like any words ending in -topia are bad news (with the exception of Dinotopia and Fruitopia). It also sounds to us like Brave New World explores said French man’s warning.
The “French guy” who authors this epigraph is in fact a Russian man named Nicholas Berdiaeff. Berdiaeff was a Russian philosopher born in 1874, and he became a great influence on Aldous Huxley and on many of Aldous Huxley’s literary contemporaries. In his youth, Berdiaeff was very scholarly and good at school. He committed himself to Marxism while in college. Marxism is a kind of thought that wonders why certain people in a society have more money and power than others. Check out “The Great Depression” in Shmoop History for more information.
After a while, Berdiaeff was exiled to places like Siberia for expressing his Marxist beliefs, which were not too popular among the rich and the powerful. Though he ultimately gave up on Marxism, Berdiaeff maintained the same passion for freedom and equality. He believed in individuality and the creative potential of humans. Eventually landing in France, he encountered the existentialists (a group of philosophers who questioned the meaning of life and who believed that individuals gave meaning to their own lives), and the two entities got along famously.
Now we are going to turn you into professional Shmoop translators. Lets discuss the idea of “lost in translation.” Translations are tricky because where there is a word with a certain meaning in one language, there might not be an equivalent word with the exact same meaning in another language. Though we have provided a Shmoop translation, we want to take a moment to showcase three important words in the French version: “réaliser,” “angoissante,” and “marcher.” These three words are like golden nuggets or like loaded guns. They are packed with meaning that their English counterparts can’t fully capture.
Réaliser means much more than “to realize,” and realizable means much more than just possible. In fact, we don’t quite have an equivalent word in the English language to convey the full meaning of this verb. In our Shmoop translation, we have translated the phrase, “les utopies sont réalisables” as “utopias are possible.” But, in fact, when Berdiaeff uses this word, he implies that utopias loom large; that they are much closer and more definitive than a possibility. While the English word “possible” is a bit uncertain, the French word realizable is more definite, and it seems to have little ominous clouds following it around.
Angoissante has been translated as “alarming,” but, really, it means something more like anxiety-inducing or terrifying. In this sense, when Berdiaeff says, “et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissante,” he’s really saying, brace yourself, because now we find ourselves presented with a really horrifying question.” This one word, angoissante, gets our heart racing, our blood pumping, and our emotions flowing.
Marcher does mean “to walk” in French, but it also means, literally, “to march.” This word, therefore, has more of a soldierly connotation. In this way, life doesn’t just “tend” toward utopias (as we have translated)—it marches toward them. It also makes us think that utopias are inevitable and are marching toward us.
In this excerpt of Berdiaeff’s famous utopic words, we see him very worried that utopias are more achievable than ever before. In his mind, a utopia is no longer imaginary; as its meaning suggest, but it is becoming real. His message is not, “when can we have a perfect world and solve all of our global problems?” but rather, “how can we keep the world from ever becoming perfect?”
If we were to design a bumper sticker for Berdiaeff, it would say, “perfection shmerfection.” Though he does not explicitly say so, we get the feeling that Berdiaeff believes utopias to be achievable because of the technological and societal progress humans had made at the time. To him and to Huxley, both writing in the early 20th century, humans had already made lots of big advancements and discoveries like cars, penicillin, and ice cream machines. We see this kind technological sophistication in Brave New World.
By "taunting" style, we're actually referring to the way that Huxley delays the disclosure of important information. For example, in Bernard's orgy-porgy scene, we don't really know it's an orgy until two-thirds of the way through. Even then, we're never explicitly told what's up—we're just given enough info to put two and two together ourselves. The same goes with the orgy scene at the end, where we don't know if John has sex with Lenina or not, but we're left with enough clues to make a reasonable assumption. And look how we find out about John's death. The whole time the visitors are calling his name, we think he's dead, but we're being taunted with the prospect of a cash-in moment when all will be revealed. The revelation itself is also telling. Instead of saying that John is dead, the text just shows us his dead hanging feet (attached presumably to his dead, hanging body).
Precision of language in Brave New World is a beautiful example of form matching function. Huxley describes a society in which scientific exactitude is everything: eighty-eight cubic meters of index cards, two hundred sixty-seven days for the bottles to travel along the conveyor belt at thirty-three centimeters per hour, etc. Similarly, the language of the novel itself is almost as precise. Check this out: "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. But whereas the physically defective Bernard had suffered all his life from the consciousness of being separate, 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." Exact enough for you? This language has as much control over displays of emotion, thoughts, and opinions as the World Controllers have over centimeters, days, and grams.
Animal imagery is rampant in Brave New World. Just look at the first chapter. There's the repetition of "straight from the horse's mouth," Foster's implicit claim that "any cow" could merely hatch out embryos, the platitude that "Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs." Later, when John goes to the hospital, he sees the Delta children staring at Linda with "the stupid curiosity of animals." The hordes of identical bokanovskified twins seem to him "maggots." It looks like Huxley's message is clear: the new world has so dehumanized its citizens that they now resemble little more than animals. The irony is that "civilization" should seek to elevate man, to make him less primitive, to put some distance between him and the other creatures of the world.
Animalistic traits really come into play when it comes to sex, probably because that's one of the basest, most universal instincts. John even quotes the "goats and monkeys" line from Othello, delivered when the hero imagines his wife copulating with another man the way that animals do. Also, Mustapha's response to John's comment – "Nice tame animals, anyhow," is brilliant (on the part of Huxley, not on the part of Mustapha). While John is disgusted by the bestial nature of the new world's promiscuity, he misses the purpose behind it: animals are tame. Animals can be controlled. In this way, the people of the World State are like pets – not like free people.
But it gets really interesting in Chapter Eighteen, when the crowds come swarming to see John standing around whipping himself for having dirty thoughts. The descending helicopters are described as "locusts" and then "grasshoppers" – fits with what we've seen so far. But it soon becomes clear that, while John (and, the tone seems to suggest, Huxley as well) condemns the civilized folk for being animals, they view him in much the same way. They throw food at John as though he's an animal in the zoo. (Huxley makes this explicit for us with the phrase "as to an ape.") This explains why they take pleasure in his suffering: because they can't see him as a person. To them, he's just animalistic entertainment.
This raises an interesting question for us: of the savages and citizens, who is more human, and who more animalistic? The notion of suffering seems to have a lot to do with this. John tries to prove his humanity by inflicting pain on himself. Clearly, no animal would revere the soul over the body enough to do so. It seems likely, then, that John's suicide is the only definitive way to establish his identity as a human being and not as a creature.
"Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant" – that's what Mustapha says of soma. It's arguably the best tool the government has for controlling its population. It sedates, calms, and most importantly distracts a person from realizing that there's actually something very, very wrong – the citizens of the World State are enslaved. (Just think about the name; soma = "sleep" in Latin.)
John, of course, picks up on this in Chapter Fifteen; that's why he chucks the stuff out of the window in the name of freedom. This Mel-Gibson-in-The Patriot moment is not so effective, and mostly because of the way that soma enslaves its users – happiness. Everyone is trapped by happiness. And those are some tough chains to break.
Another thing to think about here is Mustapha's famous claim that soma is "Christianity without the tears." We get the "without the tears" bit, since a consequence-free high seems to speak for itself, but what does this drug have to do with religion? Well, as we've said, soma is an opiate that allows its users to be controlled. Brave New World seems to argue that Christianity functions in much the same way. It controls through pacification. It offers comfort, but at the expense of individuality. What do you think?
An electric fence borders the Savage Reservation and separates the primitive world from the civilized world. The question, of course, is which is which? If you look at it in a certain light – a world of people subservient to their every desire and impulse, with no sense of restraint whatsoever vs. a world of ritualistic self-mutilation. Neither looks particularly civilized (or particularly appealing). Also, did you notice that the electric fence is surrounded by dead animal carcasses? The pilot declares that these creatures "never learn," meaning seeing others die of electrocution doesn't condition the other animals out of leaping at the fence again. Conditioning is one of the dehumanizing processes in the World State, so it's interesting that animals in fact can not be conditioned.
This is a really small passage in Chapter Thirteen, and it's easy to miss if you're reading quickly. That being said, it's arguably the most skilled, artistic moment in Brave New World, partly because it's so minute. Huxley, for once, wasn't flagrantly obvious. He didn't beat us over the head, he just inserted a little anecdote and let it stand on its own.
Lenina, distraught by her unchecked and unsatisfied desire for John, gets flustered at work and accidentally misses giving one bottle its immunization against sleeping sickness. The story then halts for a minute while the narrative reveals this: "Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days from that moment, a promising young Alpha-Minus administrator at Mwanza-Mwanza was to die of trypanosomiasis – the first case for over half a century."
Beautiful. Look at the specificity on display here: ""Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days." Then Huxley uses "trypanosomiasis" instead of "sleeping sickness." He's really driving home the notion of scientific exactitude. This is the same sort of horrifying precision we saw in Chapter One, when the Director and Henry Foster outlined with a sickening barrage of numbers the way in which humans are created and grown. The difference is that here, the chain of cause and effect isn't effectively controlled by the human hand. After all, humans are fallible, so as exact and as rigid men like Mustapha might think their system is, there are always going to be errors, mistakes, and other minor disasters. So while this passage is horrifying, it's also hopeful, – Lenina, in making this error, has proven herself more human than machine.
But mostly, we're impressed with the fact that Huxley didn't tell us this in the subsequent paragraph, so maybe that's the real achievement here, gorgeous literary artistry aside.
Did you notice that all the clothing in the World State has zippers on it? Because in case you didn't, Huxley helps us out with his repeated "zip," "zip," "zip," often followed by "zip," and even occasionally, "ZIP!" This is as simple as it sounds: zippers = easy access. In this world of instant gratification, buttons would cause people to lose precious seconds of nakedness.
If that wasn't enough, you can probably say something about the sterilization of passions, the technology-infused perversion of sex, and the repetitive, rhythmic, almost musical sound of the zippers. Or not.
In other places of this guide we discuss the connection between sex and violence in Brave New World. All the violence is vaguely sexual, all the sex vaguely violent. (That's our premise, but feel free to argue, complain, and list your general grievances. We want to hear them.) Music comes in because it connects the two – in this novel, both acts have a strangely controlled rhythm to them. Let's start with Bernard's Solidarity Service. The whole sexual fiasco starts with a ritual singing of "Orgy-porgy." (For lyrics, see your book. We don't want to get into that.) As far as we can tell, the orgy actually happens during the singing. Observe: "'Orgy-porgy…' In their blood-coloured and foetal darkness the dancers continued for a while to circulate, to beat and beat out the indefatigable rhythm. 'Orgy-porgy…'"
So you get the picture.
Then you've got John's almost-sex scene with Lenina, when she throws her naked body at him and he says, "AH, my virgin eyes!" and so forth. Notice what he says? "Impudent strumpet." Or, more accurately, he says, "Impudent strumpet, impudent strumpet, impudent strumpet," and very possibly, "impudent strumpet." Do you hear a rhythm here? Huxley even points it out: "'…impudent strumpet.' The inexorable rhythm beat itself out. 'Impudent…'"
Once you start looking for it, you see "rhythm" everywhere in Brave New World. Look at the drums Lenina hears at the Savage Reservation – followed shortly by the ritualistic, rhythmic whipping of one the Native Americans. Then you've got the "zip, zip, zip" of Lenina's clothes coming off. Because of this, we're prepared for the big moment at the end of the text when everyone dances around, singing Orgy-porgy, having sex, and "beating one another in six-eight time." It's the most violent and the most explicitly sexual moment in all of Brave New World – and it's couched in musical rhythm.
The World State seeks to control everything about its citizens and environment. The weather, of course, presents a bit of difficulty. As far as we can tell, the World Controllers haven't figured out how to make the weather, so instead they try to control the perceived environment, through soma and indoctrination. Observe Lenina and Henry's drug trip: "They were inside, here and now – safely inside with the fine weather, the perennially blue sky. […] The depressing stars had travelled quite some way across the heavens. But though the separating screen of the sky – signs had now to a great extent dissolved, the two young people still retained their happy ignorance of the night." Then there's that calming, controlling song that seems to be forever playing in the background: "Skies are blue inside of you, / The weather's always fine."
Of course, the weather is not always fine, and those that recognize as much are those who are able, even for the briefest of moments, to step outside the distorted reality of the World State and look the real world in the stormy face. We're thinking… Bernard and Helmholtz. Look at Bernard's date with Lenina – he takes her to the edge of the water to look at the weather, which "ha[s] taken a change for the worse; a south-westerly wind ha[s] sprung up, the sky [is] cloudy." Interestingly, it is this dreary image that makes Bernard feel "as though [he] were more [himself], […] not just a cell in a social body."
Of course Lenina just switches on the radio, which quite appropriately is playing the "skies are blue inside of you" ditty.
Helmholtz picks up where Bernard left off as far this weather thing goes. Throughout the novel, he's been wanting to write something with the passion of Othello – it's just that all the passionate topics (love, jealousy, hatred, family, age, death) aren't available to him as subject matter. What is it that he can understand that makes him feel, perhaps, as though he, too, is more than "just a cell in a social body"? What's the only intense, violent thing left in the World State?
Um…peanuts? No, the weather. Look at what Helmholtz says at the end of his conversation with Mustapha: "I should like a thoroughly bad climate […]. I believe one would write better if the climate were bad. If there were a lot of wind and storms, for example…"
The choice of Henry Ford as the deity-like figure in Huxley's dystopia reveals the new world's value system. Henry Ford was famous for the perfection of mass production and the assembly line. In Huxley's world, even humans are mass-produced and grown with the help of, yes, that's right, an assembly line. Efficiency, production, and consumerism are the most important values here; not morality, compassion, or piety (as might be the case with a more traditional deity).
Bottles are introduced in Chapter One as the new way in which humans are created and grown. Right off the bat, this just seems very, very wrong. But far more disturbing than the notion of little zygotes inside bottles is the notion of full-grown humans being similarly trapped. Now we're in the realm of the metaphor. Of course, Huxley being Huxley, we're told directly that this is what he's going for in Brave New World. Look at Mustapha's words in Chapter Sixteen: "Even after decanting, [man is] still inside a bottle – an invisible bottle of infantile and embryonic fixations. Each one of us, of course, […] goes through life inside a bottle."
Let's go back to some earlier mentions of bottles.
Take a look at Lenina and Henry's date: "Bottled, they crossed the street; bottled, they took the lift up to Henry's room on the twenty-eighth floor. And yet, bottled as she was […], Lenina did not forget to take all the contraceptive precautions." OK, great, Lenina and Henry are trapped inside a bottle. But what is it that traps them? Let's look at some more text: "Lenina and Henry had what they wanted […] they might have been twin embryos gently rocking together on the waves of a bottled ocean of blood-surrogate." OK, so when the text talks about them being bottled, what it really means is that they're infantile. Makes sense, right? Pre-infants are grown inside bottles, so infantile imagery should go hand in hand with bottle imagery.
Now look at one more passage, this time the Orgy-porgy scene with Bernard: "And as they sang, the lights began slowly to fade – to fade and at the same time to grow warmer, richer, redder. […] In their blood-coloured and foetal darkness the dancers continued […] in the red twilight."
Wait a minute…red light…does that sound familiar? Indeed, yes. Hop back to Chapter One and listen to Henry Foster: "Embryos are like photograph film […]. They can only stand red light." Exclamation point! If the twelve people at the solidarity service are bathed in red light, it must have something to do with them being embryos, with them being bottled, and with them being infantile – just like Henry and Lenina on their date. So what do these two scenes have in common?
Sex. The adults who are bathed in red light and trapped inside metaphorical bottles are made infantile when they have sex. Why? Think about babies. When they want something, they cry. When they're hungry, they eat. They basically have no restraint. They're servants to their impulses. There's no length of time for them between a desire and the consummation of their desire. If this language also sounds familiar, it's because we took it from Mustapha Mond in Chapter Three: "Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation. Shorten that interval, break down all those old unnecessary barriers." Because the adults of the World State have been trained to give into their every desire, especially sexual impulses, they have also been trained to be infantile, to be bottled, to be just like those embryos bathed in the red light. And as proud as we would like to be for coming up with this all on our own, we have to give credit to Bernard, who very famously said to Lenina in Chapter Six: "[We're] infants where feeling and desire are concerned. […] That's why we went to bed together yesterday – like infants – instead of being adults and waiting."
The tragedy lies in the results of such infantile behavior. Mustapha claims that the indulgence of all impulses is freeing – the citizens of the World State are freed from the pain of waiting and wanting. In fact, however, it is this sort of indulgence that imprisons the citizens and bottles them up just like infants. They aren't free to act on impulses, they are instead slaves to their basest desires.
In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley is a fan of giving his readers a ton of information. As such, the point of view is incredibly omniscient. That is, we get to know everything about every character—even the subconscious stuff they don't realize themselves. Check this out: "He knew that what he was saying was absurd in its injustice […]. But in spite of this knowledge […] Bernard continued perversely to nourish […] a secret grievance against the Savage." And we get this sort of psychoanalysis for most of the major characters in the text. That's omniscience for you.
One more thing. Take another look at Chapter 1. You start off with an objective, detached description of the "squat, grey building of […] thirty-four stories." Easy enough. But before you know it, you're getting the Director's words without any quotations or "he said" tags. Observe:
"Bokanovsky's Process," repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.
One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.
"Essentially," the Director concluded, "bokanovskification consists…"
What's going on with that paragraph in the middle? Why doesn't it have quotes around it? It's easy to think that the narrative voice reveals this information. But in fact, the paragraph is part of the Director's speech, it's just that we're not explicitly told as much.
This is actually a nifty grammatical technique called "Implied Indirect Discourse," though you usually only hear the term when you learn Latin or Greek. The label is less complicated than it sounds. Start with "discourse." Discourse = speech. If you've got a sentence that reads, "Marie said 'hello,'" then "hello" is the discourse. Indirect means no quotations, so your sentence would say, "Marie said hello." "Hello" is now your indirect discourse. Implied indirect discourse is indirect discourse without the little "Marie said" tag. The tag is implied. No quotes = indirect discourse. No quotes and no tags = implied indirect discourse, which is what you have going on in the early chapters of Brave New World.
In Brave New World we don't really start this Booker plot until more than halfway into the novel; things get tricky when there's a protagonist shift like you have here. (This is also one of the reasons Brave New World is criticized as being a far-from-perfect novel.) But once you get to Chapter 9-ish, it's a shoo-in for a "Voyage and Return" discussion. John literally goes from one world to another, and in case you missed it, he explicitly says as much. Also, there's the title.
The dream stage doesn't last too long. In fact, it really only lasts the duration of the flight or so.
John's disillusionment sets in as soon as he sees the dehumanization in the World State. Clearly, this is not the place for him. The "shadow of oppression" that Booker discusses is particularly clear in the case of Linda, who is essentially enslaved by her dependence on soma.
Lenina revealing herself as a complete "strumpet" really pushes John to the edge. But it's Linda's death, and more importantly, the callous reaction of others to her death, that pushes him over it. John's soma-destroying freak-out is the summation of his Nightmare Stage.
John tries to make an escape by secluding himself at the lighthouse, but his self-mutilation there distorts what ought to be a return to normalcy, to his own world. His death may be thrilling, but it isn't exactly an escape and return. Or is it? If John defined the difference between the two worlds as being that of suffering and the absence of suffering, then his death was either the ultimate form of self-punishment, or the ultimate escape from suffering. What do you think?
Because the setting is unique in this novel, much of the Initial Situation consists of dunking the reader into this very different environment. There's a reason Huxley spends three chapters bringing us up to speed on what's happened in the last 600 years or so, and we conveniently get a detailed vision of the novel's present in the meantime. As far as the new reader knows at this point, Bernard is the protagonist. The central conflict for both him and Helmholtz is melancholy or mild discontent. Bernard's love for Lenina is also part of this stage, since as far as we can tell things have been this way for a while.
On the Lenina front, Bernard has finally asked her out, only to find that she's as dull as any other programmed citizen. More importantly, however, is the impending threat to life as he knows it, starting right about the time that Helmholtz reveals Bernard's impending exile to Iceland. Conflict, Part Deux, begins when Bernard decides it would be a good idea to bring John back to the civilized world. We're pretty sure this spells trouble, especially because there's another hundred pages or so to go. Also, John starts falling in love with Lenina, which for a Shakespeare-quoting man cannot go well.
Everything goes downhill pretty fast. But to be fair, we could see it coming. John's incompatibility with "civilization" was clear from the start, so it was only a matter of time before his chastity clashed with Lenina's promiscuity, his self-denial with soma, and his love of Shakespeare with the feelies. The major complication scene drags out over Chapters 17 and 18, where John and Mustapha can finally clash in person. It doesn't get much more complicated than a philosophical treatise pretending to be a novel. (Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing.)
We're pretty sure an S&M mass-orgy is as climactic as it gets.
We don't exactly know what happened with John. We're not sure if he had sex with Lenina during the mass-orgy, and for a few moments we're not even sure what happened in the big scene at all.
Not much can happen once the protagonist has died, so we're definitely in denouement land here. It's kind of a weak version of this stage, but let's face it: we're all still feeling overwhelmed from that climax.
An interpretation for this conclusion is subject to debate. What is going on with these hanging feet? Check out the imagery Huxley uses. The feet, he says, are like "unhurried compass needles." Does a compass hint at technology? Maybe. Is there something to be said about that? It's possible. You've also got the very precise listing of directions: "north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west," etc., which actually reminds us of the thirty-three centimeters per hour bit in Chapter 1—it's the horror of scientific precision all over again. There's also a sense of rhythm here, with the feet turning one way and then the other, and rhythm is big in Brave New World. So while we can't say definitively what the conclusion is to Brave New World, and what the image of John's dead, hanging body has to do with it, we can at least get a sense of the larger, thematic points it addresses.
The three acts of Brave New World can be marked roughly by the changes in setting. The first act, therefore, runs from Chapter 1 up though Chapter 6: Part 2, and it takes place in the civilized world of London.
It follows that Act II covers Bernard and Lenina's time in the Savage Reservation: Chapters 7, 8, and 9. It is during Act II that we have our protagonist switch from Bernard to John.
The last act begins right around the time John is puking his guts out in response to the new world. The transition from Act II is his shifting opinion of the nature of society, from admiration to disgust.