Study Guide

Brave New World Quotes

  • Identity

    Chapter 1

    Told them of the test for sex carried out in the neighborhood of Metre 200. Explained the system of labelling—a T for the males, a circle for the females and for those who were destined to become freemartins a question mark, black on a white ground. (1.64)

    Like age, sex can be an ambiguous element of identity in Brave New World.

    And in effect the sultry darkness into which the students now followed him was visible and crimson, like the darkness of closed eyes on a summer's afternoon. The bulging flanks of row on receding row and tier above tier of bottles glinted with innumerable rubies, and among the rubies moved the dim red spectres of men and women with purple eyes and all the symptoms of lupus. The hum and rattle of machinery faintly stirred the air. (1.52)

    The image of sheer mass production comes across here perhaps more than anywhere else in Brave New World. The creepy red light business adds to the reader's discomfort, and even the individuals working in the room are altered by its color (hence Lenina having purple eyes and coral teeth).

    Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big rather prominent teeth, just covered, when he was not talking, by his full, floridly curved lips. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? Fifty-five? It was hard to say. And anyhow the question didn't arise; in this year of stability, A. F. 632, it didn't occur to you to ask it. (1.8)

    To eliminate individual identity, specific aspects of identity have been removed—in this case, age.

    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. (1.12)

    Of course, nothing else speaks to the lack of identity in Brave New World more than this, the Bokanovsky process. If individuals have identical genes and are raised in the same environment (think mass-conditioning as a youth), then there's not really anything to distinguish one from another.

    A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. (1.1)

    This is an interesting motto, to say the least—we get the "community" and "stability" part, but identity is an odd duck, since the whole governing factor of the World State is that individual identity has gone by the wayside. The way we look at it is that identity is couched in community and stability—it exists only within those bounds.

    Chapter 2
    The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

    Not so much like drops of water, though water, it is true, can wear holes in the hardest granite; rather, drops of liquid sealing-wax, drops that adhere, incrust, incorporate themselves with what they fall on, till finally the rock is all one scarlet blob.

    "Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!" The Director almost shouted in his triumph. "Suggestions from the State." He banged the nearest table. "It therefore follows…" (2.85-6)

    Here is some insight as to why "Identity" is part of the World State's Motto. Individual identity may be erased, but through conditioning, a new, communal identity can be written over it.

    Chapter 3

    Fanny worked in the Bottling Room, and her surname was also Crowne. But as the two thousand million inhabitants of the plant had only ten thousand names between them, the coincidence was not particularly surprising. (3.58)

    The upper castes may not consist of dozens of identical copies, but individuals still lack any sort of independent identity.

    Bernard Marx

    "Talking about her as though she were a bit of meat." Bernard ground his teeth. "Have her here, have her there." Like mutton. Degrading her to so much mutton. She said she'd think it over, she said she'd give me an answer this week. Oh, Ford, Ford, Ford." He would have liked to go up to them and hit them in the face—hard, again and again. (3.139)

    Bernard's disgust has much to do with identity; he feels that Lenina is being defined solely by her body—as mere "meat."

    Chapter 4: Part 2

    But if she were to say yes, what rapture! Well, now she had said it and he was still wretched—wretched that she should have thought it such a perfect afternoon for Obstacle Golf, that she should have trotted away to join Henry Foster, that she should have found him funny for not wanting to talk of their most private affairs in public. Wretched, in a word, because she had behaved as any healthy and virtuous English girl ought to behave and not in some other, abnormal, extraordinary way. (4.2.2)

    Bernard builds up an unrealistic expectation of Lenina. He makes her out to be extraordinary because he feels he himself is extraordinary—he creates a false identity that she proves unable to fulfill.

    Yes, a little too able; they were right. A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect. Too little bone and brawn had isolated Bernard from his fellow men, and the sense of this apartness, being, by all the current standards, 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. (4.2.15)

    The mirrored characters of Helmholtz and Bernard make it clear that identity has as much to do with how others perceive an individual as with how that individual perceives himself.

    Chapter 5: Part 1
    Lenina Crowne

    "What a marvellous switchback!" Lenina laughed delightedly.

    But Henry's tone was almost, for a moment, melancholy. "Do you know what that switchback was?" he said. "It was some human being finally and definitely disappearing. Going up in a squirt of hot gas. It would be curious to know who it was—a man or a woman, an Alpha or an Epsilon.…" He sighed. (5.1.13-4)

    Not only has individual identity been destroyed, but so has the very notion of what it means to be a human. This society has been dehumanized to the point where dead bodies are akin to a thrilling bump in the road. The interesting part of this passage is that Henry is momentarily bothered by this fact. Lenina, of course, isn't. Dissatisfaction and individuality are solely the realm of the males in the novel.

    "I suppose Epsilons don't really mind being Epsilons," she said aloud.

    "Of course they don't. How can they? They don't know what it's like being anything else. We'd mind, of course. But then we've been differently conditioned. Besides, we start with a different heredity."

    "I'm glad I'm not an Epsilon," said Lenina, with conviction.

    "And if you were an Epsilon," said Henry, "your conditioning would have made you no less thankful that you weren't a Beta or an Alpha." (5.1.9-12)

    What's interesting about this conversation is that Henry is completely conscious of the manipulations used to craft identity in the World State—and yet he still isn't bothered by them.

    Chapter 5: Part 2

    Sarojini apologized and slid into her place between Jim Bokanovsky and Herbert Bakunin. The group was now complete, the solidarity circle perfect and without flaw. Man, woman, man, in a ring of endless alternation round the table. Twelve of them ready to be made one, waiting to come together, to be fused, to lose their twelve separate identities in a larger being.

    […]

    "Ford, we are twelve; oh, make us one,
    Like drops within the Social River,
    Oh, make us now together run
    As swiftly as thy shining Flivver." (5.2.11-6)

    It's hard to get more explicit than the lyrics of this song. In fact, it's so explicit that we'll just let it speak for itself as far as notions of identity go.

    Chapter 6: Part 1
    Bernard Marx

    "In a crowd," he grumbled. "As usual." He remained obstinately gloomy the whole afternoon; wouldn't talk to Lenina's friends (of whom they met dozens in the ice-cream soma bar between the wrestling bouts); and in spite of his misery absolutely refused to take the half-gramme raspberry sundae which she pressed upon him. "I'd rather be myself," he said. "Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly." (6.1.11)

    Bernard highlights one of the key powers of soma—the ability to strip an individual of what little personal identity he has left.

    Chapter 6: Part 2

    "That'll teach him," he said to himself. But he was mistaken. For Bernard left the room with a swagger, exulting, as he banged the door behind him, in the thought that he stood alone, embattled against the order of things; elated by the intoxicating consciousness of his individual significance and importance. Even the thought of persecution left him undismayed, was rather tonic than depressing. He felt strong enough to meet and overcome affliction, strong enough to face even Iceland. And this confidence was the greater for his not for a moment really believing that he would be called upon to face anything at all. People simply weren't transferred for things like that. Iceland was just a threat. A most stimulating and life-giving threat. Walking along the corridor, he actually whistled. (6.2.11)

    For John, individuality lies in his knowledge of Shakespeare. For Helmholtz, it is in his writing. For Bernard, however, it lies in rebellion against authority. Unfortunately, Bernard ends up being a weakling.

    Chapter 10

    "I know. But that's all the more reason for severity. His intellectual eminence carries with it corresponding moral responsibilities. The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray. It is better that one should suffer than that many should be corrupted. Consider the matter dispassionately, Mr. Foster, and you will see that no offence is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behaviour. Murder kills only the individual—and, after all, what is an individual?" With a sweeping gesture he indicated the rows of microscopes, the test-tubes, the incubators. "We can make a new one with the greatest ease—as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself. Yes, at Society itself," he repeated. "Ah, but here he comes." (10.7)

    The process of mass production—more than any other factor—has rendered meaningless the life of any one person in the World State.

    Chapter 11

    There was no envy in the comment; good-natured Fanny was merely stating a fact. Lenina was lucky; lucky in having shared with Bernard a generous portion of the Savage's immense celebrity, lucky in reflecting from her insignificant person the moment's supremely fashionable glory. Had not the Secretary of the Young Women's Fordian Association asked her to give a lecture about her experiences? Had she not been invited to the Annual Dinner of the Aphroditeum Club? Had she not already appeared in the Feelytone News—visibly, audibly and tactually appeared to countless millions all over the planet? (11.82)

    Like Bernard's, Lenina's identity—as perceived by others—changes as a result of her contact with John. But her identity in her mind changes in a very different way; she starts to wonder if she may be capable of emotion that runs deeper than those easily fulfilled desires for promiscuity.

    And, in effect, eighty-three almost noseless black brachycephalic Deltas were cold-pressing. The fifty-six four-spindle chucking and turning machines were being manipulated by fifty-six aquiline and ginger Gammas. One hundred and seven heat-conditioned Epsilon Senegalese were working in the foundry. Thirty-three Delta females, long-headed, sandy, with narrow pelvises, and all within 20 millimetres of 1 metre 69 centimetres tall, were cutting screws. In the assembling room, the dynamos were being put together by two sets of Gamma-Plus dwarfs. The two low work-tables faced one another; between them crawled the conveyor with its load of separate parts; forty-seven blonde heads were confronted by forty-seven brown ones. Forty-seven snubs by forty-seven hooks; forty-seven receding by forty-seven prognathous chins. The completed mechanisms were inspected by eighteen identical curly auburn girls in Gamma green, packed in crates by thirty-four short-legged, left-handed male Delta-Minuses, and loaded into the waiting trucks and lorries by sixty-three blue-eyed, flaxen and freckled Epsilon Semi-Morons.

    "O brave new world…" By some malice of his memory the Savage found himself repeating Miranda's words. "O brave new world that has such people in it." (11.39-40)

    It is fitting, then, that the one aspect of the World State that disgusts John more than anything else is this very process of mass production.

    Chapter 12

    Bernard's other victim-friend was Helmholtz. When, discomfited, he came and asked once more for the friendship which, in his prosperity, he had not thought it worth his while to preserve. Helmholtz gave it; and gave it without a reproach, without a comment, as though he had forgotten that there had ever been a quarrel. Touched, Bernard felt himself at the same time humiliated by this magnanimity—a magnanimity the more extraordinary and therefore the more humiliating in that it owed nothing to soma and everything to Helmholtz's character. It was the Helmholtz of daily life who forgot and forgave, not the Helmholtz of a half-gramme holiday. Bernard was duly grateful (it was an enormous comfort to have his friend again) and also duly resentful (it would be pleasure to take some revenge on Helmholtz for his generosity). (12.49)

    Bernard's identity has certainly changed since he met John—which also has some relation to his new soma habit. What little individuality he had before John arrived is destroyed by the drug. What Bernard envies in Helmholtz isn't necessarily any one aspect of his identity, but the fact that he has an identity at all.

    Chapter 13
    John the Savage

    "Oh, you so perfect" (she was leaning towards him with parted lips), "so perfect and so peerless are created" (nearer and nearer) "of every creature's best." Still nearer. The Savage suddenly scrambled to his feet. "That's why," he said speaking with averted face, "I wanted to do something first… I mean, to show I was worthy of you. Not that I could ever really be that. But at any rate to show I wasn't absolutely un-worthy. I wanted to do something." (13.41)

    Like Bernard and Helmholtz, John also struggles with an identity crisis. He needs to prove both to Lenina and to himself that he a man of principle, strength, and honor.

    Chapter 14

    Her lips moved. "Popé!" she whispered again, and it was as though he had had a pailful of ordure thrown in his face.

    Anger suddenly boiled up in him. Balked for the second time, the passion of his grief had found another outlet, was transformed into a passion of agonized rage.

    "But I'm John!" he shouted. "I'm John!" And in his furious misery he actually caught her by the shoulder and shook her. (14.38-40)

    This is a particularly painful problem of identity for John; in the throes of his Oedipus Complex, the thought of his identity meshing with that of Linda's lover is both repulsive and appealing. (This is a lot like his feelings for Lenina, come to think of it.)

    Chapter 15

    He woke once more to external reality, looked round him, knew what he saw—knew it, with a sinking sense of horror and disgust, for the recurrent delirium of his days and nights, the nightmare of swarming indistinguishable sameness. Twins, twins.… Like maggots they had swarmed defilingly over the mystery of Linda's death. Maggots again, but larger, full grown, they now crawled across his grief and his repentance. He halted and, with bewildered and horrified eyes, stared round him at the khaki mob, in the midst of which, overtopping it by a full head, he stood. "How many goodly creatures are there here!" The singing words mocked him derisively. "How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world…" (15.3)

    John resorts to thinking of the bokanovskified twins as animals, but this is a coping mechanism. To face the thought of multiplied, identical humans is disgusting and unbearable, so he mentally strips them of their humanity.

    John the Savage

    "But do you like being slaves?" the Savage was saying as they entered the Hospital. His face was flushed, his eyes bright with ardour and indignation. "Do you like being babies? Yes, babies. Mewling and puking," he added, exasperated by their bestial stupidity into throwing insults at those he had come to save. The insults bounced off their carapace of thick stupidity; they stared at him with a blank expression of dull and sullen resentment in their eyes. "Yes, puking!" he fairly shouted. Grief and remorse, compassion and duty—all were forgotten now and, as it were, absorbed into an intense overpowering hatred of these less than human monsters. (15.37)

    Again, John has trouble recognizing any sort of humanity in these people; in his mind, their identities shift from "maggots" to that of "less than human monsters."

    Chapter 17

    "We are not our own any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves, we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We are not our own masters. We are God's property. […] as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man—that it is an unnatural state—will do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end…" (17.20)

    These words are quoted by Mustapha from Cardinal Newman's writings. Amazingly, these words about God can also be applied to the World State and its society. The citizens are "not [their] own masters," they are certainly not independent, and they definitely did not make themselves. Hmm!

    Mustapha Mond

    "My dear young friend," said Mustapha Mond, "civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency. In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have got to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended—there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense." (17.47)

    It's not only the conditioning that strips man of individual identity, but his life situation in the World State as well. Man is given neither the instrument nor the opportunity for individual thought, not to mention individual action.

    Chapter 18

    The Savage had retreated towards cover, and now, in the posture of an animal at bay, stood with his back to the wall of the lighthouse, staring from face to face in speechless horror, like a man out of his senses. (18.71)

    And in case you missed that animal imagery before…

    Others at once took up the cry, and the phrase was repeated, parrot-fashion, again and again, with an ever-growing volume of sound, until, by the seventh or eighth reiteration, no other word was being spoken. "We—want—the whip."

    They were all crying together; and, intoxicated by the noise, the unanimity, the sense of rhythmical atonement, they might, it seemed, have gone on for hours-almost indefinitely. (18.83-4)

    It is the need to be part of a community—to lose individual identity—that drives the citizens to partake in the masochistic orgy of the final chapter. In their minds, it is no different than, say, a Solidarity Service.

    Like locusts they came, hung poised, descended all around him on the heather. And from out of the bellies of these giant grasshoppers stepped men in white viscose-flannels, women (for the weather was hot) in acetate-shantung pyjamas or velveteen shorts and sleeveless, half-unzippered singlets—one couple from each. In a few minutes there were dozens of them, standing in a wide circle round the lighthouse, staring, laughing, clicking their cameras, throwing (as to an ape) peanuts, packets of sex-hormone chewing-gum, pan-glandular petite beurres. And every moment—for across the Hog's Back the stream of traffic now flowed unceasingly—their numbers increased. As in a nightmare, the dozens became scores, the scores hundreds. (18.70)

    The citizens have made John into an animal (an ape) in their minds, just as John makes them into animals (grasshoppers). Human identity is completely absent from this final scene.

  • Science

    Chapter 1
    Henry Foster

    "Reducing the number of revolutions per minute," Mr. Foster explained. "The surrogate goes round slower; therefore passes through the lung at longer intervals; therefore gives the embryo less oxygen. Nothing like oxygen-shortage for keeping an embryo below par." Again he rubbed his hands.

    […]

    "The lower the caste," said Mr. Foster, "the shorter the oxygen." The first organ affected was the brain. After that the skeleton. At seventy per cent of normal oxygen you got dwarfs. At less than seventy eyeless monsters. (1.70-4)

    Science is being abused here for purposes of harm; notice that this new world hasn't made smarter men to fill the role of Alphas; it has simply degraded everyone else.

    The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

    "I shall begin at the beginning," said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. "These," he waved his hand, "are the incubators." And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. "The week's supply of ova. Kept," he explained, "at blood heat; whereas the male gametes," and here he opened another door, "they have to be kept at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes." Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs. (1.9)

    Here begins a key feature of the way science is presented in Brave New World: horrifying precision. A mere two degrees of temperature separates male gametes from female ones, yet this difference is exact and crucial.

    In the Bottling Room all was harmonious bustle and ordered activity. Flaps of fresh sow's peritoneum ready cut to the proper size came shooting up in little lifts from the Organ Store in the sub-basement. Whizz and then, click! the lift-hatches hew open; the bottle-liner had only to reach out a hand, take the flap, insert, smooth-down, and before the lined bottle had had time to travel out of reach along the endless band, whizz, click! another flap of peritoneum had shot up from the depths, ready to be slipped into yet another bottle, the next of that slow interminable procession on the band. (1.32)

    The mechanized process of the bottles at this stage of the novel parallels what we see later to be the mechanized actions of fully adult humans.

    The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables. (1.2)

    Science has sterilized what would otherwise be natural human life. Even light, a product of the natural world, has been deadened by this controlled environment.

    Chapter 2

    Roses and electric shocks, the khaki of Deltas and a whiff of asafœtida—wedded indissolubly before the child can speak. But wordless conditioning is crude and wholesale; cannot bring home the finer distinctions, cannot inculcate the more complex courses of behaviour. For that there must be words, but words without reason. In brief, hypnopædia. (2.80)

    Huxley presents the notion of "hypnopædia" in the most chilling of ways. The reader, of course, instinctively rebels against the thought of being brainwashed, but the Director's casual admittance that the sleep-taught lessons are "irrational" and "without reason" sickens us further.

    The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

    "These early experimenters," the D.H.C. was saying, "were on the wrong track. They thought that hypnopædia could be made an instrument of intellectual education…"

    […]

    "The - Nile - is - the - longest - river - in - Africa - and - the - second - in - length - of - all - the - rivers - of - the - globe…" The words come rushing out. "Although - falling - short - of…"

    "Well now, which is the longest river in Africa?"

    The eyes are blank. "I don't know."

    […]

    "Whereas, if they'd only started on moral education," said the Director, leading the way towards the door. The students followed him, desperately scribbling as they walked and all the way up in the lift. "Moral education, which ought never, in any circumstances, to be rational." (2.54-60)

    Science has its limits. It is interesting that science—an entirely rational subject—can be employed to indoctrinate irrational inclinations.

    "They'll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an 'instinctive' hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They'll be safe from books and botany all their lives." The Director turned to his nurses. "Take them away again." (2.26)

    "Nature" has no meaning in this new world; Mustapha Mond will later explicitly make the point that there is no such thing as "instinct," or if there is, it is no different from what citizens are programmed to believe.

    Chapter 3

    Outside, in the garden, it was playtime. Naked in the warm June sunshine, six or seven hundred little boys and girls were running with shrill yells over the lawns, or playing ball games, or squatting silently in twos and threes among the flowering shrubs. The roses were in bloom, two nightingales soliloquized in the boskage, a cuckoo was just going out of tune among the lime trees. The air was drowsy with the murmur of bees and helicopters. (3.1)

    Science is contrasted with nature here. The children are naked, but they play games with somewhat futuristic contraptions, explained in the next paragraph as Centrifugal Bumble-puppy. The air is filled with bees, but also helicopters.

    From her dim crimson cellar Lenina Crowne shot up seventeen stories, turned to the right as she stepped out of the lift, walked down a long corridor and, opening the door marked GIRLS' DRESSING-ROOM, plunged into a deafening chaos of arms and bosoms and underclothing. Torrents of hot water were splashing into or gurgling out of a hundred baths. Rumbling and hissing, eighty vibro-vacuum massage machines were simultaneously kneading and sucking the firm and sunburnt flesh of eighty superb female specimens. Every one was talking at the top of her voice. A Synthetic Music machine was warbling out a super-cornet solo. (3.56)

    Science isn't totally bad in Brave New World. But it's these kinds of perks (massages, music, perfume) that shield the horrors of new technology. Even John later admits that he's a fan of some of this stuff.

    "Phosgene, chloropicrin, ethyl iodoacetate, diphenylcyanarsine, trichlormethyl, chloroformate, dichlorethyl sulphide. Not to mention hydrocyanic acid."

    […]

    Ch3C6H2(NO2)3+Hg(CNO)2=well, what? An enormous hole in the ground, a pile of masonry, some bits of flesh and mucus, a foot, with the boot still on it, flying through the air and landing, flop, in the middle of the geraniums—the scarlet ones; such a splendid show that summer! (3.156-60)

    While it is science that the Controllers use to control their citizens, it is also science that brought about the need for totalitarian control in the first place. Hearing this, is it really so hard to believe Mustapha's later claim that science, though it has its benefits, is essentially dangerous?

    "Going to the Feelies this evening, Henry?" enquired the Assistant Predestinator. "I hear the new one at the Alhambra is first-rate. There's a love scene on a bearskin rug; they say it's marvellous. Every hair of the bear reproduced. The most amazing tactual effects." (3.42)

    Sexual propriety has obviously gone by the wayside—a moral collapse seemingly hastened by technology such as "the feelies."

    "I know, dear. But some people are better if they begin earlier. Dr. Wells told me that brunettes with wide pelvises, like me, ought to have their first Pregnancy Substitute at seventeen. So I'm really two years late, not two years early." She opened the door of her locker and pointed to the row of boxes and labelled phials on the upper shelf. (3.70)

    As much as this society can condition its citizens' minds, their bodies are still at the mercy of natural processes.

    "It only remained to conquer old age."

    […]

    "All the physiological stigmata of old age have been abolished. And along with them, of course…"

    […]

    "Along with them all the old man's mental peculiarities. Characters remain constant throughout a whole lifetime." (3.228-235)

    Old age is dangerous for a number of reasons in Brave New World. Mustapha argues that man thinks more in his old age. Of course, this means that thought itself—like scienceis inherently dangerous. Physical deterioration remained a problem, but the fact that old age is defined as a problem at all reflects the State's stance that individuals exist only to serve the community.

    Mustapha Mond

    "In the end," said Mustapha Mond, "the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods of ectogenesis, neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopædia…" (3.184)

    Rock smashes scissors, scissors cut paper, paper covers rock, and science beats force. The question is, is there a difference between control by "force" and control by "science?" Can "science" be seen as just another—if more sophisticated—form of violence?

    Chapter 4: Part 1
    Henry Foster

    Henry Foster had had his machine wheeled out of its lock-up and, when Lenina arrived, was already seated in the cockpit, waiting.

    "Four minutes late," was all his comment, as she climbed in beside him.

    […]

    "There's the Red Rocket," said Henry, "just come in from New York." Looking at his watch. "Seven minutes behind time," he added, and shook his head. (4.1.29-32)

    Henry's character reflects an obsession with exactitude in the new world.

    Chapter 4: Part 2

    The various Bureaux of Propaganda and the College of Emotional Engineering were housed in a single sixty-story building in Fleet Street. In the basement and on the low floors were the presses and offices of the three great London newspapers—The Hourly Radio, an upper-caste sheet, the pale green Gamma Gazette, and, on khaki paper and in words exclusively of one syllable, The Delta Mirror. Then came the Bureaux of Propaganda by Television, by Feeling Picture, and by Synthetic Voice and Music respectively—twenty-two floors of them. Above were the search laboratories and the padded rooms in which Sound-Track Writers and Synthetic Composers did the delicate work. The top eighteen floors were occupied the College of Emotional Engineering. (4.2.6)

    Everything is automated in the new world. Huxley's exact descriptions and precise names reflect the values of this world.

    Chapter 5: Part 1
    Henry Foster

    "Phosphorus recovery," explained Henry telegraphically. "On their way up the chimney the gases go through four separate treatments. P2O5 used to go right out of circulation every time they cremated someone. Now they recover over ninety-eight per cent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult corpse. Which makes the best part of four hundred tons of phosphorus every year from England alone." Henry spoke with a happy pride, rejoicing whole-heartedly in the achievement, as though it had been his own. "Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we're dead. Making plants grow." (5.1.5)

    Science has dehumanized even death. Henry's admiration of this process reflects how deeply ingrained is the lesson that individuals exist only to serve the community.

    Chapter 6: Part 1
    Lenina Crowne

    "But it's horrible," said Lenina, shrinking back from the window. She was appalled by the rushing emptiness of the night, by the black foam-flecked water heaving beneath them, by the pale face of the moon, so haggard and distracted among the hastening clouds. "Let's turn on the radio. Quick!" She reached for the dialling knob on the dash-board and turned it at random.

    "… skies are blue inside of you," sang sixteen tremoloing falsettos, "the weather's always…"

    Then a hiccough and silence. Bernard had switched off the current.

    […]

    "It makes me feel as though…" he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, "as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn't it make you feel like that, Lenina?" (6.1.17-23)

    It's no coincidence that the radio is singing about blue skies while Bernard is trying to get Lenina to face the elements. Technology paints over the ugly parts of reality, but the consequence is ignorance and weakness, as we see in Lenina's character.

    Chapter 7
    Mustapha Mond

    "That's because we don't allow them to be like that. We preserve them from diseases. We keep their internal secretions artificially balanced at a youthful equilibrium. We don't permit their magnesium-calcium ratio to fall below what it was at thirty. We give them transfusion of young blood. We keep their metabolism permanently stimulated. So, of course, they don't look like that. Partly," he added, "because most of them die long before they reach this old creature's age. Youth almost unimpaired till sixty, and then, crack! the end." (7.22)

    In eliminating the aging process, science has destroyed a very basic element of the human experience. Mustapha comments that old age is dangerous for the community—not because of physical frailty, but because of mental prowess. Sadly, Lenina is too caught up in the former to acknowledge the latter during her visit to Malpais.

    Chapter 8

    And she would tell him about the lovely music that came out of a box, and all the nice games you could play, and the delicious things to eat and drink, and the light that came when you pressed a little thing in the wall, and the pictures that you could hear and feel and smell, as well as see, and another box for making nice smells, and the pink and green and blue and silver houses as high as mountains, and everybody happy and no one ever sad or angry, and every one belonging to every one else, and the boxes where you could see and hear what was happening at the other side of the world, and babies in lovely clean bottles—everything so clean, and no nasty smells, no dirt at all—and people never lonely, but living together and being so jolly and happy, like the summer dances here in Malpais, but much happier, and the happiness being there every day, every day… He listened by the hour. (8.26)

    John is originally enthralled by the very same technology that will horrify him later in the novel.

    Chapter 9
    Bernard Marx

    "I ventured to think," stammered Bernard, "that your fordship might find the matter of sufficient scientific interest…"

    "Yes, I do find it of sufficient scientific interest," said the deep voice. "Bring these two individuals back to London with you." (9.9-10)

    Bernard uses "science" to cloak his selfish motivations (i.e., preventing his own deportation to an island).

    Chapter 11

    "Twelve hundred and fifty kilometres an hour," said the Station Master impressively. "What do you think of that, Mr. Savage?"

    John thought it very nice. "Still," he said, "Ariel could put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes."

    "The Savage," wrote Bernard in his report to Mustapha Mond, "shows surprisingly little astonishment at, or awe of, civilized inventions. This is partly due, no doubt, to the fact that he has heard them talked about by the woman Linda." (11.30-2)

    Bernard misses the point; John can't distinguish between the fantastic (but very real) science of the civilized world and the fantastic, fictional world of Shakespeare. That is why he "shows surprisingly little astonishment."

    The completed mechanisms were inspected by eighteen identical curly auburn girls in Gamma green, packed in crates by thirty-four short-legged, left-handed male Delta-Minuses, and loaded into the waiting trucks and lorries by sixty-three blue-eyed, flaxen and freckled Epsilon Semi-Morons.

    […]

    But the Savage had suddenly broken away from his companions and was violently retching, behind a clump of laurels, as though the solid earth had been a helicopter in an air pocket. (11.39-42)

    John's reaction here is fitting. On a surface level, he is disgusted by the dehumanization in the civilized world, so he throws up. On the other hand, he is purging himselfas he will later do intentionallyof the nastiness of science by which he feels corrupted.

    "No, we can't rejuvenate. But I'm very glad," Dr. Shaw had concluded, "to have had this opportunity to see an example of senility in a human being. Thank you so much for calling me in." He shook Bernard warmly by the hand. (11.13)

    Notice how casually Dr. Shaw treats Linda's impending death, even to John's face; his interest in "science" trumps any concern for human life.

    The scent organ was playing a delightfully refreshing Herbal Capricciorippling arpeggios of thyme and lavender, of rosemary, basil, myrtle, tarragon; a series of daring modulations through the spice keys into ambergris; and a slow return through sandalwood, camphor, cedar and newmown hay (with occasional subtle touches of discorda whiff of kidney pudding, the faintest suspicion of pig's dung) back to the simple aromatics with which the piece began. The final blast of thyme died away; there was a round of applause; the lights went up. In the synthetic music machine the sound-track roll began to unwind. It was a trio for hyper-violin, super-cello and oboe-surrogate that now filled the air with its agreeable languor. Thirty or forty barsand then, against this instrumental background, a much more than human voice began to warble; now throaty, now from the head, now hollow as a flute, now charged with yearning harmonics, it effortlessly passed from Gaspard's Forster's low record on the very frontiers of musical tone to a trilled bat-note high above the highest C to which (in 1770, at the Ducal opera of Parma, and to the astonishment of Mozart) Lucrezia Ajugari, alone of all the singers in history, once piercingly gave utterance. (11.93)

    Huxley makes it quite clear: technology is more capable than natural, human ability. The "scent organ" easily passes from the lowest note ever uttered by a human to the highest. On the other hand, the boundaries for high and low are still those that have been set by humans, very similar to the way science itself is bound by human invention.

    Chapter 12

    "A New Theory of Biology" was the title of the paper which Mustapha Mond had just finished reading. He sat for some time, meditatively frowning, then picked up his pen and wrote across the title-page: "The author's mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published." He underlined the words. "The author will be kept under supervision. His transference to the Marine Biological Station of St. Helena may become necessary." A pity, he thought, as he signed his name. It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purposewell, you didn't know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castesmake them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere, that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true. But not, in the present circumstance, admissible. He picked up his pen again, and under the words "Not to be published" drew a second line, thicker and blacker than the first; then sighed, "What fun it would be," he thought, "if one didn't have to think about happiness!" (12.39)

    It's interesting that Mustapha thinks a discussion of purpose to be heretical. He worries that the idea of purpose will make people think about God, which means that his World State hasn't done a great job of satisfying man's larger questions, his grander curiosities. Thus, science has not been able to substitute religion. In this way, science has failed.

    Chapter 13

    A V.P.S. treatment indeed! She would have laughed, if she hadn't been on the point of crying. As though she hadn't got enough V.P. of her own! She sighed profoundly as she refilled her syringe. "John," she murmured to herself, "John…" Then "My Ford," she wondered, "have I given this one its sleeping sickness injection, or haven't I?" She simply couldn't remember. In the end, she decided not to run the risk of letting it have a second dose, and moved down the line to the next bottle.

    Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days from that moment, a promising young Alpha-Minus administrator at Mwanza-Mwanza was to die of trypanosomiasisthe first case for over half a century. (13.10-1)

    This is a brilliant interruption to the rest of the story in Brave New World. We see that human life is utterly at the mercy of science. Of course, you could take a different point-of-vieweven science is subject to the fallacies of human error.

    Chapter 14

    It was a large room bright with sunshine and yellow paint, and containing twenty beds, all occupied. Linda was dying in companyin company and with all the modern conveniences. The air was continuously alive with gay synthetic melodies. At the foot of every bed, confronting its moribund occupant, was a television box. Television was left on, a running tap, from morning till night. Every quarter of an hour the prevailing perfume of the room was automatically changed. "We try," explained the nurse, who had taken charge of the Savage at the door, "we try to create a thoroughly pleasant atmosphere heresomething between a first-class hotel and a feely-palace, if you take my meaning." (14.2)

    The need for so many contraptions is a testament to the serious nature of death. Science may dehumanize the process, but it takes a whole lot of technology to do it.

    Chapter 16
    Mustapha Mond

    It's the same with agriculture. We could synthesize every morsel of food, if we wanted to. But we don't. We prefer to keep a third of the population on the land. For their own sakes – because it takes longer to get food out of the land than out of a factory. Besides, we have our stability to think of. We don't want to change. Every change is a menace to stability. That's another reason why we're so chary of applying new inventions. Every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive; even science must sometimes be treated as a possible enemy. Yes, even science."

    […]

    "Yes," Mustapha Mond was saying, "that's another item in the cost of stability. It isn't only art that's incompatible with happiness; it's also science. Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled." (16.51-3)

    The World Controllers clearly recognize the threats to their power and to their ability to control. But to "muzzle" science would seem an impossible task. Or not… what does Brave New World argue? Can science be contained?

    It's curious," he went on after a little pause, "to read what people in the time of Our Ford used to write about scientific progress. They seemed to have imagined that it could be allowed to go on indefinitely, regardless of everything else. Knowledge was the highest good, truth the supreme value; all the rest was secondary and subordinate. True, ideas were beginning to change even then. Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered. Still, in spite of everything, unrestricted scientific research was still permitted. People still went on talking about truth and beauty as though they were the sovereign goods." (16.65)

    Why does Mustapha find conflict between "truth and beauty" and "comfort and happiness"? The distinction he draws between them is false, as is the distinction drawn between "dangerous science" and "helpful science." Comfort stems from technology, which stems from invention, which comes from curiosity and probably discontent to begin with. Science for the sake of knowledge leads to science for practical purposes, and the very act of striving for truth and beauty is where happiness resides. This is why men like Bernard, Helmholtz, and John are so unhappy in this world of comfortthey're not striving for truth and beauty.

    "Because, finally, I preferred this," the Controller answered. "I was given the choice: to be sent to an island, where I could have got on with my pure science, or to be taken on to the Controllers' Council with the prospect of succeeding in due course to an actual Controllership. I chose this and let the science go." After a little silence, "Sometimes," he added, "I rather regret the science. Happiness is a hard masterparticularly other people's happiness. A much harder master, if one isn't conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth." […] I'm interested in truth, I like science. But truth's a menace, science is a public danger. As dangerous as it's been beneficent. It has given us the stablest equilibrium in history. […] But we can't allow science to undo its own good work. That's why we so carefully limit the scope of its researches […]. We don't allow it to deal with any but the most immediate problems of the moment. All other enquiries are most sedulously discouraged." (16.65)

    What is it about Mustapha's character that allows him to make the sacrifices he's made? His choice seems irrationalfor a top-notch physicist to put a collar on science is baffling. Does Huxley adequately justify his behavior?

    Science? The Savage frowned. He knew the word. But what it exactly signified he could not say. Shakespeare and the old men of the pueblo had never mentioned science, and from Linda he had only gathered the vaguest hints: science was something you made helicopters with, some thing that caused you to laugh at the Corn Dances, something that prevented you from being wrinkled and losing your teeth. He made a desperate effort to take the Controller's meaning. (16.52)

    John's Shakespeare knowledge fails him hereit offers no explanation regarding "science."

    Helmholtz Watson

    "What?" said Helmholtz, in astonishment. "But we're always saying that science is everything."

    […]

    "Yes; but what sort of science?" asked Mustapha Mond sarcastically. "You've had no scientific training, so you can't judge. I was a pretty good physicist in my time. Too goodgood enough to realize that all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody's allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn't be added to except by special permission from the head cook." (16.54-7)

    Aha! Mustapha draws a very important distinction here between the two types of science we've seen in Brave New World. The first is the sort of technology that enables the World State to control and govern. The second, however, is the kind of pure, motiveless, science-for-the-sake-of-knowledge that has been outlawed for its dangers. It is this second kind of science that needs to be muzzled, in Mustapha's eyes.

    Chapter 17

    "Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences." (17.59)

    With all its capabilities, science still has to cater to basic human nature. The need for V.P.S. is proof that the World State has severely impaired the human experience. To make up for what the Controllers have taken away from man, simulations are needed. Essentially, the body is being tricked into thinking it is still human.

    Mustapha Mond

    "Call it the fault of civilization. God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That's why I have to keep these books locked up in the safe." (17.28)

    Mustapha says God is incompatible with sciencebut why? He himself is a scientist and says that he believes in God. It's likely that he means man's conception of God, not God himself. According to Mustapha, man can't believe in God and be happy, perhaps because the implications are too weighty. (Implications like divine justice, judgment, morality.)

    Chapter 18

    Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east.… (18.108)

    The ending of Brave New World brings us back to the beginning— we get a harsh picture of the horrifying precision of science.

  • Power

    Chapter 1
    The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

    "Just to give you a general idea," he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently—though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society. (1.5)

    Much of the power the World State has over its citizens has to do with intellectual control. The Director's inclination that people should know only a little about the "general idea" is similar to Mustapha's later claim that thinking about purpose is a danger to society. Big thoughts lead to ideas of God, to philosophy, to questioning, to curiosity—all incompatible with blissful ignorance.

    "My good boy!" The Director wheeled sharply round on him. "Can't you see? Can't you see?" He raised a hand; his expression was solemn. "Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!"

    […]

    "Community, Identity, Stability." Grand words. "If we could bokanovskify indefinitely the whole problem would be solved." (1.18-21)

    Science is used only insofar as it is a tool for control.

    "We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or […] future Directors of Hatcheries." (1.67)

    Power in Brave New World stems from eliminating choice but also from giving the illusion of choice—or at least erasing any conception of choice. In other words, it allows for people to miss the freedom they don't have. In this case, such control is exerted through pre-conditioning.

    Henry Foster

    "For of course," said Mr. Foster, "in the vast majority of cases, fertility is merely a nuisance. One fertile ovary in twelve hundred— that would really be quite sufficient for our purposes. But we want to have a good choice. And of course one must always have an enormous margin of safety. So we allow as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos to develop normally. The others get a dose of male sex-hormone every twenty-four metres for the rest of the course. Result: they're decanted as freemartins—structurally quite normal (except," he had to admit, "that they do have the slightest tendency to grow beards), but sterile. Guaranteed sterile. Which brings us at last," continued Mr. Foster, "out of the realm of mere slavish imitation of nature into the much more interesting world of human invention." (1.65)

    The World State controls its citizens by controlling their fertility— but this makes it clear that to have this kind of power over an individual is to strip that individual of her humanity. Having children, after all, is one of the most fundamentally natural processes of human life.

    Chapter 2

    He waved his hand again, and the Head Nurse pressed a second lever. The screaming of the babies suddenly changed its tone. There was something desperate, almost insane, about the sharp spasmodic yelps to which they now gave utterance. Their little bodies twitched and stiffened; their limbs moved jerkily as if to the tug of unseen wires.

    […]

    …at the approach of the roses, at the mere sight of those gaily-coloured images of pussy and cock-a-doodle-doo and baa-baa black sheep, the infants shrank away in horror, the volume of their howling suddenly increased. (2.19-23)

    This is where the real abuse of power becomes clear to us, and also where we begin to be absolutely horrified by it. But, if you think of all the adults as infantile (which we argue in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory," and which Bernard so succinctly points out), then they are as powerless as these poor adorable little munchkins here, which means the control that the State exerts over grown-ups is just as manipulative. 

    Going in a completely different direction altogether, this is the only time in the novel where the State allows—and is in fact inflicting—physical pain. If John is right in thinking that suffering and enduring are both part of the human condition, then these little babies are far closer to the human experience than are the adult citizens.

    "Silence, silence," whispered a loud speaker as they stepped out at the fourteenth floor, and "Silence, silence," the trumpet mouths indefatigably repeated at intervals down every corridor. The students and even the Director himself rose automatically to the tips of their toes. They were Alphas, of course, but even Alphas have been well conditioned. "Silence, silence." All the air of the fourteenth floor was sibilant with the categorical imperative. (2.67)

    While the different classes are given different abilities, note that the State exerts its control over all of them.

    The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

    "We condition the masses to hate the country," concluded the Director. "But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks." (2.33)

    All the control the State has over its citizens exists to serve consumerism.

    Chapter 3
    Mustapha Mond

    "Stability," said the Controller, "stability. No civilization without social stability. No social stability without individual stability." His voice was a trumpet. Listening they felt larger, warmer. (3.105)

    Mustapha's voice becomes an important part of his character, both here and later in Chapter 17 when he has his philosophical discussion with John. Check out his "Character Analysis" for more info and to read about our suggestion that words = control in Brave New World.

    "The Nine Years' War, the great Economic Collapse. There was a choice between World Control and destruction. Between stability and…"

    […]

    "Liberalism, of course, was dead of anthrax, but all the same you couldn't do things by force."

    […]

    "Government's an affair of sitting, not hitting. You rule with the brains and the buttocks, never with the fists." (3.164-170)

    Mustapha draws a line between violence and non-physical control, but is there really a difference? He argues that one is more effective, but is one more acceptable than the other?

    "Now—such is progressthe old men work, the old men copulate, the old men have no time, no leisure from pleasure, not a moment to sit down and thinkor if ever by some unlucky chance such a crevice of time should yawn in the solid substance of their distractions, there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon; returning whence they find themselves on the other side of the crevice, safe on the solid ground of daily labour and distraction, scampering from feely to feely, from girl to pneumatic girl, from Electromagnetic Golf course to…" (3.239)

    It seems as though soma is such an effective instrument of control because of its ability to distract. Any institution's power is threatened by the discontent of those it subjugates, so the World Controllers have eliminated discontent altogether.

    The D.H.C. looked at him nervously. There were those strange rumours of old forbidden books hidden in a safe in the Controller's study. Bibles, poetry—Ford knew what.

    Mustapha Mond intercepted his anxious glance and the corners of his red lips twitched ironically.

    "It's all right, Director," he said in a tone of faint derision, "I won't corrupt them." (3.44-7)

    Power is derived from a denial of knowledge. Forced ignorance keeps the citizens in line.

    Chapter 4: Part 2
    Bernard Marx

    To have dealings with members of the lower castes was always, for Bernard, a most distressing experience. For whatever the cause (and the current gossip about the alcohol in his blood-surrogate may very likelyfor accidents will happenhave been true) Bernard's physique was hardly better than that of the average Gamma. He stood eight centimetres short of the standard Alpha height and was slender in proportion. Contact with members of the lower castes always reminded him painfully of this physical inadequacy.

    […]

    "Hurry up!" said Bernard irritably. One of them glanced at him. Was that a kind of bestial derision that he detected in those blank grey eyes? "Hurry up!" he shouted more loudly, and there was an ugly rasp in his voice. (4.2.3-5)

    Bernard isn't satisfied with his intellectual superiority. For him, power is threatened by physical inadequacy. Of course, the only threat to his authority is his own doubt. Confidence—it's a tricky business.

    Chapter 5: Part 2

    The President reached out his hand; and suddenly a Voice, a deep strong Voice, more musical than any merely human voice, richer, warmer, more vibrant with love and yearning and compassion, a wonderful, mysterious, supernatural Voice spoke from above their heads. Very slowly, "Oh, Ford, Ford, Ford," it said diminishingly and on a descending scale. A sensation of warmth radiated thrillingly out from the solar plexus to every extremity of the bodies of those who listened; tears came into their eyes; their hearts, their bowels seemed to move within them, as though with an independent life. "Ford!" they were melting, "Ford!" dissolved, dissolved. […]

    "I hear him," she cried. "I hear him."

    "He's coming," shouted Sarojini Engels.

    "Yes, he's coming, I hear him." Fifi Bradlaugh and Tom Kawaguchi rose simultaneously to their feet. (5.2.20-3)

    The state's power lies also in the desire of the citizens to conform, to be part of a larger entity, to exist as a group and not as individuals. In this case, the orgy participants convince themselves of a higher power (or, in Bernard's case, simply pretend).

    Chapter 6: Part 2

    Alphas are so conditioned that they do not have to be infantile in their emotional behaviour. But that is all the more reason for their making a special effort to conform. It is their duty to be infantile, even against their inclination. (6.2.10)

    The idea of infantilism comes up a lot in Brave New World; it basically refers to the expectation of immediate gratification of one's physical needs and desires.

    Chapter 8
    Bernard Marx

    "I wonder if you'd like to come back to London with us?" he asked, making the first move in a campaign whose strategy he had been secretly elaborating ever since, in the little house, he had realized who the "father" of this young savage must be. (8.77)

    Bernard takes a role similar to the World State herehis power lies in his ability to manipulate.

    Chapter 10

    There was a gasp, a murmur of astonishment and horror; a young girl screamed; standing on a chair to get a better view some one upset two test-tubes full of spermatozoa. Bloated, sagging, and among those firm youthful bodies, those undistorted faces, a strange and terrifying monster of middle-agedness, Linda advanced into the room, coquettishly smiling her broken and discoloured smile, and rolling as she walked, with what was meant to be a voluptuous undulation, her enormous haunches. Bernard walked beside her. (10.17)

    John and Linda have power in the new world because of their individuality. In this case, Linda, in her natural, aged state, can effect change in the way these pre-conditioned citizens never could.

    Chapter 11

    Mustapha Mond's anger gave place almost at once to mirth. The idea of this creature solemnly lecturing himhimabout the social order was really too grotesque. The man must have gone mad. "I ought to give him a lesson," he said to himself; then threw back his head and laughed aloud. For the moment, at any rate, the lesson would not be given. (11.36)

    Mustapha is an incredibly interesting character because of the way he handles his own power. He knows he's above Bernard, but doesn't need to prove it. This is basically the opposite of Bernard himself, who, insecure with his power, has to exercise it constantly.

    Chapter 12

    "A New Theory of Biology" was the title of the paper which Mustapha Mond had just finished reading. He sat for some time, meditatively frowning, then picked up his pen and wrote across the title-page: "The author's mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published." He underlined the words. "The author will be kept under supervision. His transference to the Marine Biological Station of St. Helena may become necessary." A pity, he thought, as he signed his name. It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purposewell, you didn't know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castesmake them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere, that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true. But not, in the present circumstance, admissible. He picked up his pen again, and under the words "Not to be published" drew a second line, thicker and blacker than the first; then sighed, "What fun it would be," he thought, "if one didn't have to think about happiness!" (12.39)

    The Controllers may have gained their power by manipulating science, but they can only keep it by curbing the same sort of technological advances that got them to their current positions.

    Chapter 13

    But her perfume still hung about him, his jacket was white with the powder that had scented her velvety body. "Impudent strumpet, impudent strumpet, impudent strumpet." The inexorable rhythm beat itself out. "Impudent…" (13.100)

    Lenina's power over John comes solely from sexa power she would cease to have, Mustapha might argue, once they consummated their feelings.

    Chapter 15

    The policemen pushed him out of the way and got on with their work […] carrying water pistols charged with a powerful anæsthetic […], methodically laying out, squirt by squirt, the more ferocious of the fighters.

    […]

    Suddenly, from out of the Synthetic Music Box a Voice began to speak. The Voice of Reason, the Voice of Good Feeling. […] even the policemen's eyes were momentarily dimmed with tears […] "what is the meaning of this? Why aren't you all being happy and good together? Happy and good," the Voice repeated. "At peace, at peace." (15.45-7)

    Look at how verbal control is tied to power in Brave New World. Perhaps this is why Mustapha is so strongly defined by his deep, resonating voice…

    Chapter 16
    Mustapha Mond

    "But how useful! I see you don't like our Bokanovsky Groups; but, I assure you, they're the foundation on which everything else is built. They're the gyroscope that stabilizes the rocket plane of state on its unswerving course." The deep voice thrillingly vibrated; the gesticulating hand implied all space and the onrush of the irresistible machine. Mustapha Mond's oratory was almost up to synthetic standards. (16.39)

    At this moment, Mustapha's voice is likened to that of a machinebut that is because he is simply regurgitating the mechanical theories of the World State. Later, in his conversation alone with John, Mustapha becomes more human in his message.

    Mustapha Mond shook hands with all three of them; but it was to the Savage that he addressed himself. "So you don't much like civilization, Mr. Savage," he said.

    The Savage looked at him. He had been prepared to lie, to bluster, to remain sullenly unresponsive; but, reassured by the good-humoured intelligence of the Controller's face, he decided to tell the truth, straightforwardly. "No." He shook his head. (16.6-7)

    It is a testament to John's self-control that he doesn't lie to Mustapha, but it also speaks to Mustapha's use of his own power over others. Mustapha makes it clear, right from the start, that his only desire is to speak calmly.

    "It's lucky," he added, after a pause, "that there are such a lot of islands in the world. I don't know what we should do without them." (16.67)

    This is an important quote, because it reminds us of the fundamental failures of the attempt to subjugate and dehumanize. Mustapha freely admits that there are many people whom the Controllers cannot control. But he doesn't seem to recognize the next logical conclusionthat the system isn't working, and that individuality prevails.

  • Suffering

    Chapter 1
    Henry Foster

    Hot tunnels alternated with cool tunnels. Coolness was wedded to discomfort in the form of hard X-rays. By the time they were decanted the embryos had a horror of cold. They were predestined to emigrate to the tropics, to be miner and acetate silk spinners and steel workers. Later on their minds would be made to endorse the judgment of their bodies. "We condition them to thrive on heat," concluded Mr. Foster. "Our colleagues upstairs will teach them to love it."

    "And that," put in the Director sententiously, "that is the secret of happiness and virtueliking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny." (1.87-8)

    Right off the bat, we have to start questioning the way in which the Director and others define "happiness" in this world. Is being "content" the same as being "happy"? If you have no choice about it, if this emotion is the default, can we still think of it as true "happiness"?

    Chapter 3

    "And do remember that a gramme is better than a damn." They went out, laughing. (3.232)

    This platitude pretty much sums it up: soma is used to avoid anger.

    Mustapha Mond

    Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation. Shorten that interval, break down all those old unnecessary barriers.

    "Fortunate boys!" said the Controller. "No pains have been spared to make your lives emotionally easyto preserve you, so far as that is possible, from having emotions at all." (3.115-6)

    The Controller misses a key point herethat the consummation is made better by the waiting.

    "Has any of you been compelled to live through a long time-interval between the consciousness of a desire and its fulfillment?"

    […]

    "I once had to wait nearly four weeks before a girl I wanted would let me have her."

    "And you felt a strong emotion in consequence?"

    "Horrible!"

    "Horrible; precisely," said the Controller. (3.132-8)

    This passage raises the question, what happens to "happiness" when it is challenged, when it is earned?

    Chapter 4: Part 2

    "That horrible Benito Hoover!" And yet the man had meant well enough. Which only made it, in a way, much worse. Those who meant well behaved in the same way as those who meant badly. Even Lenina was making him suffer. He remembered those weeks of timid indecision, during which he had looked and longed and despaired of ever having the courage to ask her. Dared he face the risk of being humiliated by a contemptuous refusal? But if she were to say yes, what rapture! Well, now she had said it and he was still wretched. (4.2.1)

    Bernard's feelings for Lenina inevitably will end in suffering, because his passion is at odds with such a controlled environment. He suffers from feeling unfulfilled if he doesn't ask, he suffers humiliation if she says no, and he suffers from her casual treatment of his advances if she says yes.

    Chapter 5: Part 1

    Obediently, with all the others, Lenina and Henry left the building. 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. (5.1.21)

    This reminds us of the passage in Chapter 6 in which Bernard tries to make Lenina look at the ocean. Look at the use of "depressing" as an adjective to describe the stars; this is similar to the "haggard" moon and the "rushing emptiness" of the night we see later. Just as Henry and Lenina refuse to acknowledge the weather, so they generally refuse to acknowledge anything larger than themselves. No God, no morality, no justice, and no respect for humanity as a whole or the world at large.

    Then, in a resolutely cheerful voice, "Anyhow," he concluded, "there's one thing we can be certain of; whoever he may have been, he was happy when he was alive. Everybody's happy now."

    "Yes, everybody's happy now," echoed Lenina. They had heard the words repeated a hundred and fifty times every night for twelve years. (5.1.14-5)

    We would go on and on about genuine happiness as related to this sort of false, brainwashed happinessbut is there a real difference?

    Chapter 5: Part 2

    "Wasn't it wonderful?" said Fifi Bradlaugh. "Wasn't it simply wonderful?" She looked at Bernard with an expression of rapture, but of rapture in which there was no trace of agitation or excitement—for to be excited is still to be unsatisfied. Hers was the calm ecstasy of achieved consummation, the peace, not of mere vacant satiety and nothingness, but of balanced life, of energies at rest and in equilibrium. A rich and living peace. For the Solidarity Service had given as well as taken, drawn off only to replenish. She was full, she was made perfect, she was still more than merely herself. "Didn't you think it was wonderful?" she insisted, looking into Bernard's face with those supernaturally shining eyes. (5.2.33)

    Huxley's description of Fifi's emotion is certainly interesting. One might try to write off the "happiness" of the World State as "mere satiety," but this passage makes that impossible. Fifi is more than merely satiated, it tells usin fact, she's in ecstasy.

    Chapter 6: Part 2
    Mustapha Mond

    "Well," he resumed at last, "the next day there was a search. But we couldn't find her. She must have fallen into a gully somewhere; or been eaten by a mountain lion. Ford knows. Anyhow it was horrible. It upset me very much at the time. More than it ought to have done, I dare say. Because, after all, it's the sort of accident that might have happened to any one; and, of course, the social body persists although the component cells may change." But this sleep-taught consolation did not seem to be very effective. Shaking his head, "I actually dream about it sometimes," the Director went on in a low voice. "Dream of being woken up by that peal of thunder and finding her gone; dream of searching and searching for her under the trees." He lapsed into the silence of reminiscence. (6.2.8)

    Mustapha's prediction that emotional attachments inevitably cause suffering is very true here: the Director obviously had some sort of attachment to Linda (made evident by his defensive outburst in the next paragraph denying as much), and he suffered immensely at her disappearance.

    Chapter 6: Part 3

    Often in the past he had wondered what it would be like to be subjected (soma-less and with nothing but his own inward resources to rely on) to some great trial, some pain, some persecution; he had even longed for affliction. As recently as a week ago, in the Director's office, he had imagined himself courageously resisting, stoically accepting suffering without a word. The Director's threats had actually elated him, made him feel larger than life. But that, as he now realized, was because he had not taken the threats quite seriously, he had not believed that, when it came to the point, the D.H.C. would ever do anything. Now that it looked as though the threats were really to be fulfilled, Bernard was appalled. Of that imagined stoicism, that theoretical courage, not a trace was left. (6.3.36)

    Well, here Huxley answers our study questions for us.

    Lenina Crowne

    "Have a gramme," suggested Lenina.

    He refused, preferring his anger. (6.3.31-2)

    Bernard's reaction is admirablebut it doesn't last long. He very quickly resorts to soma to escape his anger rather than facing it. What is the turning point for him, and why?

    Chapter 7
    Lenina Crowne

    Astonishment made Lenina forget the deprivation of soma. She uncovered her face and, for the first time, looked at the stranger. "Do you mean to say that you wanted to be hit with that whip?"

    Still averted from her, the young man made a sign of affirmation. "For the sake of the puebloto make the rain come and the corn grow. And to please Pookong and Jesus. And then to show that I can bear pain without crying out. Yes," and his voice suddenly took on a new resonance, he turned with a proud squaring of the shoulders, a proud, defiant lifting of the chin "to show that I'm a man…" (7.45-6)

    John's constant desire to suffer is a product of his upbringing, just as Lenina's aversion to pain of any kind (mental, physical) is a product of hers. In this way, is John just as brainwashed as Lenina?

    Naked but for a white cotton breech-cloth, a boy of about eighteen stepped out of the crowd and stood before him, his hands crossed over his chest, his head bowed. The old man made the sign of the cross over him and turned away. Slowly, the boy began to walk round the writhing heap of snakes. He had completed the first circuit and was half-way through the second when, from among the dancers, a tall man wearing the mask of a coyote and holding in his hand a whip of plaited leather, advanced towards him. The boy moved on as though unaware of the other's existence. The coyote-man raised his whip, there was a long moment of expectancy, then a swift movement, the whistle of the lash and its loud flat-sounding impact on the flesh. The boy's body quivered; but he made no sound, he walked on at the same slow, steady pace. The coyote struck again, again; and at every blow at first a gasp, and then a deep groan went up from the crowd. The boy walked. Twice, thrice, four times round he went. The blood was streaming. Five times round, six times round. Suddenly Lenina covered her face shish her hands and began to sob. "Oh, stop them, stop them!" she implored. But the whip fell and fell inexorably. Seven times round. Then all at once the boy staggered and, still without a sound, pitched forward on to his face. (7.35)

    The Indians at Malpais take an approach to suffering that seems the polar opposite to that of the World State. For them, suffering is a noble and beneficial self-sacrifice, an opportunity to prove oneself, to cleanse oneself, and to evolve personally.

    Chapter 8

    "Yes, that's just it." The young man nodded. "If one's different, one's bound to be lonely. They're beastly to one. Do you know, they shut me out of absolutely everything? When the other boys were sent out to spend the night on the mountainsyou know, when you have to dream which your sacred animal isthey wouldn't let me go with the others; they wouldn't tell me any of the secrets. I did it by myself, though," he added. "Didn't eat anything for five days and then went out one night alone into those mountains there." He pointed.

    Patronizingly, Bernard smiled. "And did you dream of anything?" he asked. (8.67-8)

    Bernard clearly doesn't get it. (We can tell because he answers "patronizingly" and "with a smile.") In the same way that Helmholtz can't understand the emotions behind Romeo and Juliet, Bernard will never understand the value of suffering.

    John the Savage

    "Once," he went on, "I did something that none of the others did: I stood against a rock in the middle of the day, in summer, with my arms out, like Jesus on the Cross."

    "What on earth for?"

    "I wanted to know what it was like being crucified. Hanging there in the sun…"

    "But why?"

    "Why? Well…" He hesitated. "Because I felt I ought to. If Jesus could stand it. And then, if one has done something wrong… Besides, I was unhappy; that was another reason."

    "It seems a funny way of curing your unhappiness," said Bernard. But on second thoughts he decided that there was, after all, some sense in it. Better than taking soma… (8.69-74)

    John's explanation that "I felt I ought to" lends weight to the theory that his self-mutilation is a product of his upbringing and stands without logic or reason. On the other hand, his added claim that he was trying to cure himself of unhappiness suggests that there's something else going on here: John has thought more deeply about what it means to suffer.

    Chapter 11

    "Just returned," explained Dr. Gaffney, while Bernard, whispering, made an appointment with the Head Mistress for that very evening, "from the Slough Crematorium. Death conditioning begins at eighteen months. Every tot spends two mornings a week in a Hospital for the Dying. All the best toys are kept there, and they get chocolate cream on death days. They learn to take dying as a matter of course." (11.69)

    In eliminating suffering from daily life, the World State has dehumanized its citizeneven to death.

    In the taxicopter he hardly even looked at her. Bound by strong vows that had never been pronounced, obedient to laws that had long since ceased to run, he sat averted and in silence. Sometimes, as though a finger had plucked at some taut, almost breaking string, his whole body would shake with a sudden nervous start. (11.109)

    Perhaps John insists on maintaining his chastity because doing so is another opportunity to suffer.

    John the Savage

    A click; the room was darkened; and suddenly, on the screen above the Master's head, there were the Penitentes of Acoma prostrating themselves before Our Lady, and wailing as John had heard them wail, confessing their sins before Jesus on the Cross, before the eagle image of Pookong. The young Etonians fairly shouted with laughter. Still wailing, the Penitentes rose to their feet, stripped off their upper garments and, with knotted whips, began to beat themselves, blow after blow. Redoubled, the laughter drowned even the amplified record of their groans.

    "But why do they laugh?" asked the Savage in a pained bewilderment.

    "Why?" The Provost turned towards him a still broadly grinning face. "Why? But because it's so extraordinarily funny." (11.54-6)

    Because they have been desensitized to human suffering, the citizens of the World State find it funnyeven entertaining. This short passage prepares us for the end of the novel, where we delightfully ask, "Who's laughing NOW?"

    Chapter 12
    Lenina Crowne

    Lenina suddenly felt all the sensations normally experienced at the beginning of a Violent Passion Surrogate treatmenta sense of dreadful emptiness, a breathless apprehension, a nausea. Her heart seemed to stop beating.

    "Perhaps it's because he doesn't like me," she said to herself. And at once this possibility became an established certainty: John had refused to come because he didn't like her. He didn't like her… (12.23-4)

    It is unclear whether Lenina's suffers here because she can't have John, or because she actually has genuine feelings for him. Your thoughts?

    But in spite of this knowledge and these admissions, in spite of the fact that his friend's support and sympathy were now his only comfort, Bernard continued perversely to nourish, along with his quite genuine affection, a secret grievance against the Savage, to mediate a campaign of small revenges to be wreaked upon him. […] As a victim, the Savage possessed, for Bernard, this enormous superiority over the others: that he was accessible. One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies. (12.48)

    This is a particularly odd passage in the text. At first it sounds like foreshadowingwe start waiting for the moment Bernard will exact his revenge on John. But it soon becomes clear that, actually, that's not going to happen. Bernard ends up dropping off the face of the earth and John, who's way keen on inflicting suffering on himself, doesn't really need to suffer on behalf of anybody else.

    Chapter 13
    Lenina Crowne

    "Then why on earth didn't you say so?" she cried, and so intense was her exasperation that she drove her sharp nails into the skin of his wrist. "Instead of drivelling away about knots and vacuum cleaners and lions, and making me miserable for weeks and weeks." (13.66)

    This is a key moment in the sex-violence connection in Brave New World. Lenina, in her passion for John, hurts him physicallya lot like the scene at the end of the novel. Check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more.

    Chapter 14
    John the Savage

    Sitting beside her, the Savage tried hard to recapture his mood of a few minutes before. "A, B, C, vitamin D," he repeated to himself, as though the words were a spell that would restore the dead past to life. But the spell was ineffective. Obstinately the beautiful memories refused to rise; there was only a hateful resurrection of jealousies and uglinesses and miseries. Popé with the blood trickling down from his cut shoulder; and Linda hideously asleep, and the flies buzzing round the spilt mescal on the floor beside the bed; and the boys calling those names as she passed.… Ah, no, no! He shut his eyes, he shook his head in strenuous denial of these memories. "A, B, C, vitamin D…" He tried to think of those times when he sat on her knees and she put her arms about him and sang, over and over again, rocking him, rocking him to sleep. "A, B, C, vitamin D, vitamin D, vitamin D…" (14.33)

    By forcing himself to think about his fond memories of Linda, John is actually trying to make himself suffer. He wants to feel sad at her death because it's the only way he knows to give it meaning.

    Chapter 16
    Helmholtz Watson

    Helmholtz rose from his pneumatic chair. "I should like a thoroughly bad climate," he answered. "I believe one would write better if the climate were bad. If there were a lot of wind and storms, for example…" (16.68)

    This passage makes it clear that Helmholtz has learned the value of sacrifice, of intentional suffering—and he is willing to pursue his passion anyway. It is also the first step in his claim that he wants to write about some sort of passion that he can understand. Since he can't grapple with love or unfulfilled lust or jealousy, he plans to try to experience physical suffering (in this case, through a bad climate) instead. (FYI, this fits into our "weather is super important" argument in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory.")

    "Right up to the time of the Nine Years' War. That made them change their tune all right. What's the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you? That was when science first began to be controlledafter the Nine Years' War. People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We've gone on controlling ever since. It hasn't been very good for truth, of course. But it's been very good for happiness. One can't have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for. You're paying for it, Mr. Watsonpaying because you happen to be too much interested in beauty. I was too much interested in truth; I paid too." (16.65)

    Sacrifice is an important test of values in Brave New World. We can be certain, at the end of the day, that Helmholtz is serious about writing because of what he is willing to sacrifice for it. John validates his own principles in his willingness to die for them. Mustapha, on the other hand, defends a different value altogetherthat of happiness. Bernard, it would seem, is willing to sacrifice nothing, and so he remains unsatisfied in the civilized world.

    John the Savage

    "True," he added, "they might ask for shorter hours. And of course we could give them shorter hours. Technically, it would be perfectly simple to reduce all lower-caste working hours to three or four a day. But would they be any the happier for that? No, they wouldn't. The experiment was tried, more than a century and a half ago. The whole of Ireland was put on to the four-hour day. What was the result? Unrest and a large increase in the consumption of soma; that was all. Those three and a half hours of extra leisure were so far from being a source of happiness, that people felt constrained to take a holiday from them. The Inventions Office is stuffed with plans for labour-saving processes. Thousands of them." Mustapha Mond made a lavish gesture. "And why don't we put them into execution? For the sake of the labourers; it would be sheer cruelty to afflict them with excessive leisure." (16.51)

    Suffering in the "civilized" world means something very different from that of John's world (or ours). No wonder the citizens of the World State can see no benefit in forcing oneself to undergo pain.

    Chapter 17
    John the Savage

    "But the tears are necessary. Don't you remember what Othello said? 'If after every tempest came such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death.' There's a story one of the old Indians used to tell us, about the Girl of Mátaski. The young men who wanted to marry her had to do a morning's hoeing in her garden. It seemed easy; but there were flies and mosquitoes, magic ones. Most of the young men simply couldn't stand the biting and stinging. But the one that couldhe got the girl."

    "Charming! But in civilized countries," said the Controller, "you can have girls without hoeing for them, and there aren't any flies or mosquitoes to sting you. We got rid of them all centuries ago." (17.48-9)

    John makes another apt point with his quote from Othello: we suffer not only for the sake of suffering, but also for the rewards that come after. Mustapha misses the point in his reply; he says you can have the reward without suffering. But the idea behind John's philosophy is that sweet isn't as sweet without the bitter.

    "What about self-denial, then? If you had a God, you'd have a reason for self-denial."

    "But industrial civilization is only possible when there's no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning." (17.42-3)

    "Self-denial" is the process of forcing suffering on yourselfdenying yourself what you want and need. When John says that God is a reason for self-denial, we can go back to his explanation in Chapter 7, where he says he wants to get hit with the whip "to please Pookong and Jesus." Religion makes suffering necessary because it's built on the notion of an afterlife. Indulgence in this life means suffering later, whereas piety and self-denial means a happy time later. Christianity in particular encourages man to strive to be like Jesus. Since Jesus suffered, man has to as well. (John pretty much says this—see Chapter 8.)

    "What you need," the Savage went on, "is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here."

    ("Twelve and a half million dollars," Henry Foster had protested when the Savage told him that. "Twelve and a half millionthat's what the new Conditioning Centre cost. Not a cent less.") (17.52-3)

    Again there is the problem of failed communication. The closest Henry Foster can come to understanding John's notion of cost (sacrifice) is through a sterile, dehumanized commodity (money).

    The Savage nodded, frowning. "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them… But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy." (17.50)

    John recognizes that he's operating in a very different world than the one in which he was raised. This realization is what ultimately drives him to leave the World State and live in solitude. It is at this moment that he realizes a man like himself cannot function in a world like thisa world without slings or arrows.

    Chapter 18

    He had almost finished whittling the stave into shape, when he realized with a start that he was singing-singing! […] Guiltily he blushed. After all, it was not to sing and enjoy himself that he had come here. It was to escape further contamination by the filth of civilized life; it was to be purified and made good; it was actively to make amends. He realized to his dismay that, absorbed in the whittling of his bow, he had forgotten what he had sworn to himself he would constantly rememberpoor Linda, and his own murderous unkindness to her, and those loathsome twins, swarming like lice across the mystery of her death, insulting, with their presence, not merely his own grief and repentance, but the very gods themselves. He had sworn to remember, he had sworn unceasingly to make amends. And there was he, sitting happily over his bow-stave, singing, actually singing.…

    He went indoors, opened the box of mustard, and put some water to boil on the fire. (18.38-9)

    John punishes himself for both mental and physical transgressions. His goals for self-discipline are unbelievably loftywe have to wonder if he wants to fail so that he will be justified in hurting himself.

    "Splendid," he said to himself, as the Savage started his astonishing performance. "Splendid!" He kept his telescopic cameras carefully aimedglued to their moving objective; clapped on a higher power to get a close-up of the frantic and distorted face (admirable!); switched over, for half a minute, to slow motion (an exquisitely comical effect, he promised himself); listened in, meanwhile, to the blows, the groans, the wild and raving words that were being recorded on the sound-track at the edge of his film, tried the effect of a little amplification (yes, that was decidedly better); was delighted to hear, in a momentary lull, the shrill singing of a lark; wished the Savage would turn round so that he could get a good close-up of the blood on his backand almost instantly (what astonishing luck!) the accommodating fellow did turn round, and he was able to take a perfect close-up. (18.65)

    We know from earlier scenes that the citizens of the World State are desensitized to human suffering, but this takes it to a whole new level. It is fitting that in this chapterthe climax of many threads, themes, and emotions in the novel—the reader's horrified reaction to this mockery of humanity peaks as well.

    John the Savage

    His first night in the hermitage was, deliberately, a sleepless one. He spent the hours on his knees praying, now to that Heaven from which the guilty Claudius had begged forgiveness, now in Zuñi to Awonawilona, now to Jesus and Pookong, now to his own guardian animal, the eagle. From time to time he stretched out his arms as though he were on the Cross, and held them thus through long minutes of an ache that gradually increased till it became a tremulous and excruciating agony; held them, in voluntary crucifixion, while he repeated, through clenched teeth (the sweat, meanwhile, pouring down his face), "Oh, forgive me! Oh, make me pure! Oh, help me to be good!" again and again, till he was on the point of fainting from the pain. (18.31)

    Passages like this one make it clear that John's need to punish himself stems from both his religious sentiments and from his investment in the Shakespeare texts of his childhood. Both extol the virtue of suffering, which helps to explain why John confuses the two in his mind.

  • Sex

    Chapter 1
    The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

    "Charming, charming," murmured the Director and, giving [Lenina] two or three little pats, received in exchange a rather deferential smile for himself. (1.93)

    Huxley hints at the rampant promiscuity in this society even before we get to see the whole picture. As readers, we feel more and more uneasy as we go.

    Chapter 2

    "We had Elementary Sex for the first forty minutes," she answered. "But now it's switched over to Elementary Class Consciousness."

    The Director walked slowly down the long line of cots. Rosy and relaxed with sleep, eighty little boys and girls lay softly breathing. (2.71-2)

    Again, we get even more uncomfortable, this time with the notion of sexed-up little kids. And we haven't even gotten to "hunt-the-zipper" yet.

    Chapter 3
    Lenina Crowne

    "Dr. Wells says that a three months' Pregnancy Substitute now will make all the difference to my health for the next three or four years."

    "Well, I hope he's right," said Lenina. "But, Fanny, do you really mean to say that for the next three months you're not supposed to…"

    "Oh no, dear. Only for a week or two, that's all. I shall spend the evening at the Club playing Musical Bridge." (3.77-9)

    Lenina is talking about sex here. The thought of going three months without it is shocking to her.

    Lenina shook her head. "Somehow," she mused, "I hadn't been feeling very keen on promiscuity lately. There are times when one doesn't. Haven't you found that too, Fanny?"

    Fanny nodded her sympathy and understanding. "But one's got to make the effort," she said, sententiously, "one's got to play the game. After all, every one belongs to every one else." (3.12-13)

    Despite all their conditioning, Fanny and Lenina both admit to an innate inclination towards monogamy. In this way, all the sex conditioning in the world can't make up for the instinctive need to find a mate.

    Nodding, "He patted me on the behind this afternoon," said Lenina.

    "There, you see!" Fanny was triumphant. "That shows what he stands for. The strictest conventionality." (3.103-4)

    This is the kind of shocking humor that pervades the novel—Huxley has directly reversed our own "strictest conventionalities." In this case, what is essentially sexual harassment is smiled upon. Also, we've been waiting since Chapter 1 to know just where he patted her. And now we know.

    Henry Foster

    "Lenina Crowne?" said Henry Foster, echoing the Assistant Predestinator's question as he zipped up his trousers. "Oh, she's a splendid girl. Wonderfully pneumatic. I'm surprised you haven't had her."

    "I can't think how it is I haven't," said the Assistant Predestinator. "I certainly will. At the first opportunity."

    From his place on the opposite side of the changing-room aisle, Bernard Marx overheard what they were saying and turned pale. (3.118-20)

    This is where we start to like Bernard. He seems to be the only character who shares our reaction to this shockingly promiscuous world.

    "Going to the Feelies this evening, Henry?" enquired the Assistant Predestinator. "I hear the new one at the Alhambra is first-rate. There's a love scene on a bearskin rug; they say it's marvellous. Every hair of the bear reproduced. The most amazing tactual effects." (3.42)

    Simulated sex helps to dehumanize the whole act. The aim is to eliminate all emotion from the act so that, as Mustapha will later explain, loyalty to the state is never in competition with loyalty to an individual. The more that sex pervades every aspect of culture, the less important it becomes, and the less emotion attached to it.

    He let out the amazing truth. For a very long period before the time of Our Ford, and even for some generations afterwards, erotic play between children had been regarded as abnormal (there was a roar of laughter); and not only abnormal, actually immoral (no!): and had therefore been rigorously suppressed.

    […]

    "In most cases, till they were over twenty years old."

    […]

    "The results were terrible." (3.19-29)

    Of course, this is commentary on our own world, or at least on Huxley's in the 1930s.

    And round her waist she wore a silver-mounted green morocco-surrogate cartridge belt, bulging (for Lenina was not a freemartin) with the regulation supply of contraceptives. (3.185)

    Wow, it's like she's wearing sex on her sleeve. Oh, wait… (Actually, we meant to say something scholarly about how Orwell's "Anti-sex sash" in 1984 is probably a nod to Huxley's Malthusian belt.)

    Fanny Crowne

    "Oh, she jolly well doesn't see why there should have been," Fanny repeated, as though to an invisible listener behind Lenina's left shoulder. Then, with a sudden change of tone, "But seriously," she said, "I really do think you ought to be careful. It's such horribly bad form to go on and on like this with one man. At forty, or thirty-five, it wouldn't be so bad. But at your age, Lenina! No, it really won't do. And you know how strongly the D.H.C. objects to anything intense or long-drawn. Four months of Henry Foster, without having another man—why, he'd be furious if he knew…" (3.93)

    Fanny's aversion to monogamy is partly due to her desire to follow the rules, but also partly a reflection of her conditioning. She has been programmed, essentially, to have an innate, visceral aversion to monogamy.

    Mustapha Mond

    "Think of water under pressure in a pipe." They thought of it. "I pierce it once," said the Controller. "What a jet!"

    He pierced it twenty times. There were twenty piddling little fountains.

    […]

    Mother, monogamy, romance. High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet. The urge has but a single outlet. My love, my baby. No wonder these poor pre-moderns were mad and wicked and miserable. Their world didn't allow them to take things easily, didn't allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy. What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey, what with the temptations and the lonely remorses, what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty—they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable? (3.94-9)

    Here begins the connection between mother-child love and sexual love. In the eyes of Mustapha, both are condemnable because they lead to emotions, which lead to instability. But this Freudian stuff will have much larger implications in the novel, especially when it comes to John and Linda. Stay tuned. (And admire how sneakily Huxley got us thinking in that direction right off the bat.)

    Chapter 4: Part 1

    The lift was crowded with men from the Alpha Changing Rooms, and Lenina's entry was greeted by many friendly nods and smiles. She was a popular girl and, at one time or another, had spent a night with almost all of them. (4.1.1)

    Lenina's character is defined by her sexual appeal.

    Lenina Crowne

    Then aloud, and more warmly than ever, "I'd simply love to come with you for a week in July," she went on. (Anyhow, she was publicly proving her unfaithfulness to Henry. Fanny ought to be pleased, even though it was Bernard.) "That is," Lenina gave him her most deliciously significant smile, "if you still want to have me."

    Bernard's pale face flushed. "What on earth for?" she wondered, astonished, but at the same time touched by this strange tribute to her power. (4.1.4-5)

    Lenina and John are similar in the sexual power they hold over others.

    Chapter 5: Part 1

    They entered. The air seemed hot and somehow breathless with the scent of ambergris and sandalwood. On the domed ceiling of the hall, the colour organ had momentarily painted a tropical sunset. The Sixteen Sexophonists were playing an old favourite: "There ain't no Bottle in all the world like that dear little Bottle of mine." Four hundred couples were five-stepping round the polished floor. Lenina and Henry were soon the four hundred and first. The saxophones wailed like melodious cats under the moon, moaned in the alto and tenor registers as though the little death were upon them. Rich with a wealth of harmonics, their tremulous chorus mounted towards a climax, louder and ever louder—until at last, with a wave of his hand, the conductor let loose the final shattering note of ether-music and blew the sixteen merely human blowers clean out of existence. Thunder in A flat major. And then, in all but silence, in all but darkness, there followed a gradual deturgescence, a diminuendo sliding gradually, through quarter tones, down, down to a faintly whispered dominant chord that lingered on (while the five-four rhythms still pulsed below) charging the darkened seconds with an intense expectancy. And at last expectancy was fulfilled. There was a sudden explosive sunrise, and simultaneously, the Sixteen burst into song. (5.1.17)

    Brave New World establishes a connection between music and sex, which begins here and is continued later on the orgy-porgy scene with Bernard and that unibrow woman, Morgana.

    Five-stepping with the other four hundred round and round Westminster Abbey, Lenina and Henry were yet dancing in another worldthe warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was! "Bottle of mine, it's you I've always wanted…" But Lenina and Henry had what they wanted… They were inside, here and now-safely inside with the fine weather, the perennially blue sky. And when, exhausted, the Sixteen had laid by their saxophones and the Synthetic Music apparatus was producing the very latest in slow Malthusian Blues, they might have been twin embryos gently rocking together on the waves of a bottled ocean of blood-surrogate.

    […]

    Swallowing half an hour before closing time, that second dose of soma had raised a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds. Bottled, they crossed the street; bottled, they took the lift up to Henry's room on the twenty-eighth floor. (5.1.19-22)

    Part of the reason the Controllers make sure sex happens ALL THE TIME in the World State is that it prevents solitude. As we see here with Lenina and Foster, downtime is far less likely to lead to something dangerouslike independent thoughtif the focus is on soma and sex.

    Chapter 5: Part 2

    If only he had given himself time to look around instead of scuttling for the nearest chair! He could have sat between Fifi Bradlaugh and Joanna Diesel. Instead of which he had gone and blindly planted himself next to Morgana. Morgana! Ford! Those black eyebrows of hersthat eyebrow, ratherfor they met above the nose. Ford! And on his right was Clara Deterding. True, Clara's eyebrows didn't meet. But she was really too pneumatic. Whereas Fifi and Joanna were absolutely right. Plump, blonde, not too large… And it was that great lout, Tom Kawaguchi, who now took the seat between them. (5.2.8)

    This is more of Huxley's great delayed-disclosure narrative technique. We wonder why Bernard cares about who he's sitting next to, but we start to get suspicious by the time we get to his description of Fifi and Joanna. When we realize the men and women are alternating for a reason, our uneasy "wait a minute…" feeling is confirmed. This is an orgy. Porgy.

    "Orgy-porgy," the dancers caught up the liturgical refrain, "Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun, kiss the girls…" And as they sang, the lights began slowly to fadeto fade and at the same time to grow warmer, richer, redder, until at last they were dancing in the crimson twilight of an Embryo Store. "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…" Then the circle wavered, broke, fell in partial disintegration on the ring of couches which surroundedcircle enclosing circlethe table and its planetary chairs. "Orgy-porgy…" Tenderly the deep Voice crooned and cooed; in the red twilight it was as though some enormous negro dove were hovering benevolently over the now prone or supine dancers. (5.2.31)

    Here's that music/sex connection we were talking about. Red is an important color hereremember back to Chapter 1 when Foster declared that embryos, like photographic film, can only stand red light. It's no coincidence that these two scenes are related; the copulating adults are compared to little embryos inside their bottles. Why, you ask? Check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more.

    Chapter 6: Part 1
    Bernard Marx

    "Adults intellectually and during working hours," he went on. "Infants where feeling and desire are concerned."

    […]

    […] "It suddenly struck me the other day," continued Bernard, "that it might be possible to be an adult all the time."

    "I don't understand." Lenina's tone was firm.

    "I know you don't. And that's why we went to bed together yesterday—like infantsinstead of being adults and waiting." (6.1.65-9)

    Or, don't go to "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" and instead just let Bernard sum it up for you here.

    Chapter 7
    John the Savage

    "Oh!" He gave a gasp and was silent, gaping. He had seen, for the first time in his life, the face of a girl whose cheeks were not the colour of chocolate or dogskin, whose hair was auburn and permanently waved, and whose expression (amazing novelty!) was one of benevolent interest. Lenina was smiling at him; such a nice-looking boy, she was thinking, and a really beautiful body. The blood rushed up into the young man's face; he dropped his eyes, raised them again for a moment only to find her still smiling at him, and was so much overcome that he had to turn away and pretend to be looking very hard at something on the other side of the square. (7.46)

    So here's some insight into the otherwise difficult question of why someone with John's depth and principles would ever want someone as vapid (dull or flat) as Lenina. In a world where he has been forever different, she is someone who looks like him—that is, white and blue-eyed. John's immediate thought is companionship (check out his "Character Analysis" for more).

    Linda

    "For instance," she hoarsely whispered, "take the way they have one another here. Mad, I tell you, absolutely mad. Everybody belongs to every one else—don't they? don't they?" she insisted, tugging at Lenina's sleeve. Lenina nodded her averted head, let out the breath she had been holding and managed to draw another one, relatively untainted. "Well, here," the other went on, "nobody's supposed to belong to more than one person. And if you have people in the ordinary way, the others think you're wicked and anti-social. They hate and despise you. Once a lot of women came and made a scene because their men came to see me. Well, why not? And then they rushed at me… No, it was too awful. I can't tell you about it." (7.56)

    Like Lenina, Linda is defined by her sexuality—the women are essentially mirror-images of each other, but they reflect the differences between their two worlds.

    Chapter 8
    Linda

    In those other words he did not understand so well, she said to the man, "Not with John here." The man looked at him, then again at Linda, and said a few words in a soft voice. Linda said, "No." But the man bent over the bed towards him and his face was huge, terrible; the black ropes of hair touched the blanket. "No," Linda said again, and he felt her hand squeezing him more tightly. "No, no!" But the man took hold of one of his arms, and it hurt. He screamed. The man put up his other hand and lifted him up. Linda was still holding him, still saying, "No, no." The man said something short and angry, and suddenly her hands were gone. "Linda, Linda." He kicked and wriggled; but the man carried him across to the door, opened it, put him down on the floor in the middle of the other room, and went away, shutting the door behind him. He got up, he ran to the door. Standing on tiptoe he could just reach the big wooden latch. He lifted it and pushed; but the door wouldn't open. "Linda," he shouted. She didn't answer.

    […]

    […] He hated Popé. He hated them all—all the men who came to see Linda. (8.9-11)

    Here we get our first glimpses of John's rage at Linda's promiscuity, which is probably related to his later anger at Lenina for being just promiscuous. This is Freudian, big-time.

    One day, when he came in from playing, the door of the inner room was open, and he saw them lying together on the bed, asleep—white Linda and Popé almost black beside her, with one arm under her shoulders and the other dark hand on her breast, and one of the plaits of his long hair lying across her throat, like a black snake trying to strangle her. (8.42)

    John's feeling that sex is dirty and violent begins here, in his childhood. He ascribes malevolence to Popé's relationship with his mother, and this is a great example of the way imagery is used in literature to convey emotion. We're talking about the contrast of white and darkness and, of course, about the snake.

    The magic was on his side, the magic explained and gave orders. He stepped back in the outer room. "When he is drunk asleep…" The knife for the meat was lying on the floor near the fireplace. He picked it up and tiptoed to the door again. "When he is drunk asleep, drunk asleep…" He ran across the room and stabbed—oh, the blood! —stabbed again, as Popé heaved out of his sleep, lifted his hand to stab once more, but found his wrist caught, held and—oh, oh!— twisted. He couldn't move, he was trapped, and there were Popé's small black eyes, very close, staring into his own. He looked away. There were two cuts on Popé's left shoulder. "Oh, look at the blood!" Linda was crying. "Look at the blood!" (8.45)

    We discuss this in depth in John's character analysis, but this is where we were really convinced of his "Oedipus complex"—the male desire to kill his father and sleep with his mother. John really does try to kill Popé here, who is as close to a father-figure as he has.

    Chapter 9

    Then suddenly he found himself reflecting that he had only to take hold of the zipper at her neck and give one long, strong pull… He shut his eyes, he shook his head with the gesture of a dog shaking its ears as it emerges from the water. Detestable thought! He was ashamed of himself. Pure and vestal modesty… (9.33)

    John feels the way he does about sex because he escaped hypnopaedic sleep conditioning. Instead of thinking promiscuity is acceptable, he values chastity and monogamy. But… wait a minute… from where did he get his values? Well, Shakespeare, and the religion of Malpais. That's not pre-conditioning. OR IS IT? If you think about it, it's probably more natural for John to have sex with Lenina right at this very moment than it is for him to hold off. Thus we have to ask the question… isn't everything just conditioning, in one form or another? And what, at the end of the day, is natural?

    John the Savage

    A moment later he was inside the room. He opened the green suit-case; and all at once he was breathing Lenina's perfume, filling his lungs with her essential being. His heart beat wildly; for a moment he was almost faint. Then, bending over the precious box, he touched, he lifted into the light, he examined. The zippers on Lenina's spare pair of viscose velveteen shorts were at first a puzzle, then solved, a delight. Zip, and then zip; zip, and then zip; he was enchanted. Her green slippers were the most beautiful things he had ever seen. He unfolded a pair of zippicamiknicks, blushed, put them hastily away again; but kissed a perfumed acetate handkerchief and wound a scarf round his neck. Opening a box, he spilt a cloud of scented powder. His hands were floury with the stuff. He wiped them on his chest, on his shoulders, on his bare arms. Delicious perfume! He shut his eyes; he rubbed his cheek against his own powdered arm. Touch of smooth skin against his face, scent in his nostrils of musky dust—her real presence. "Lenina," he whispered. "Lenina!" (9.25)

    Compare this passage to the one in Chapter 13, when John refuses to have sex with Lenina and she ends up locking herself in the bathroom. These zippers come up again, and we get the same repetition of the words "Zip! Zip!" It's just that, by then, John is disgusted rather than fascinated—much the way his reaction to the new world changes.

    Chapter 11

    The concussion knocked all the negro's conditioning into a cocked hat. He developed for the Beta blonde an exclusive and maniacal passion. She protested. He persisted. There were struggles, pursuits, an assault on a rival, finally a sensational kidnapping. The Beta blond was ravished away into the sky and kept there, hovering, for three weeks in a wildly anti-social tête-à-tête with the black madman. Finally, after a whole series of adventures and much aerial acrobacy three handsome young Alphas succeeded in rescuing her. The negro was packed off to an Adult Re-conditioning Centre and the film ended happily and decorously, with the Beta blonde becoming the mistress of all her three rescuers. They interrupted themselves for a moment to sing a synthetic quartet, with full super-orchestral accompaniment and gardenias on the scent organ. Then the bearskin made a final appearance and, amid a blare of sexophones, the last stereoscopic kiss faded into darkness, the last electric titillation died on the lips like a dying moth that quivers, quivers, ever more feebly, ever more faintly, and at last is quiet, quite still. (11.102)

    If you were feeling adventurous, you could probably think of this as some sort of vague foreshadowing of the climactic orgy scene at the end of the novel.

    Those fiery letters, meanwhile, had disappeared; there were ten seconds of complete darkness; then suddenly, dazzling and incomparably more solid-looking than they would have seemed in actual flesh and blood, far more real than reality, there stood the stereoscopic images, locked in one another's arms, of a gigantic negro and a golden-haired young brachycephalic Beta-Plus female.

    The Savage started. That sensation on his lips! He lifted a hand to his mouth; the titillation ceased; let his hand fall back on the metal knob; it began again. The scent organ, meanwhile, breathed pure musk. Expiringly, a sound-track super-dove cooed "Oo-ooh"; and vibrating only thirty-two times a second, a deeper than African bass made answer: "Aa-aah." "Ooh-ah! Ooh-ah!" the stereoscopic lips came together again, and once more the facial erogenous zones of the six thousand spectators in the Alhambra tingled with almost intolerable galvanic pleasure. "Ooh…" (11.98-99)

    Huxley does an interesting thing here by making his reader (of the 1930s, that is) feel a similar sense of taboo that the fictional characters feel watching the feely. To them, the idea of three weeks of monogamous sex is, well, smut. To 1930s English readers, the thought of a black man and a white woman would be similarly frowned upon. We're not sure if Huxley deserves this much credit, but it would be nice if the text were asking whether or not our own present-day taboos were as unreasonable as the idea that monogamy is wrong.

    In the cinematographic twilight, Bernard risked a gesture which, in the past, even total darkness would hardly have emboldened him to make. Strong in his new importance, he put his arm around the Head Mistress's waist. It yielded, willowily. He was just about to snatch a kiss or two and perhaps a gentle pinch, when the shutters clicked open again. (11.56)

    Compare this to Bernard's earlier concerns that Lenina was being treated as nothing but meat. Fame seems to have gone to his head.

    From behind a door in the corridor leading to the Beta-Minus geography room, a ringing soprano voice called, "One, two, three, four," and then, with a weary impatience, "As you were."

    "Malthusian Drill," explained the Head Mistress. "Most of our girls are freemartins, of course. I'm a freemartin myself." She smiled at Bernard. "But we have about eight hundred unsterilized ones who need constant drilling." (11.52-3)

    We don't even want to know what they're doing in that room.

    John the Savage

    "It was base," he said indignantly, "it was ignoble." (11.105)

    John's opinion on the feely is so confusing and painful for Lenina to hear because, in fact, it is a reflection of his opinion of her—or at least of her sexual escapades.

    Lenina Crowne

    "It's wonderful, of course. And yet in a way," she had confessed to Fanny, "I feel as though I were getting something on false pretences. Because, of course, the first thing they all want to know is what it's like to make love to a Savage. And I have to say I don't know." She shook her head. "Most of the men don't believe me, of course. But it's true. I wish it weren't," she added sadly and sighed. "He's terribly good-looking; don't you think so?" (11.84)

    For the first time, Lenina experiences the gap between desire and consummation. But is this the only reason she likes John—the fact that she can't have him?

    Chapter 13
    Fanny Crowne

    "Well, if that's the case," said Fanny, with decision, "why don't you just go and take him. Whether he wants it or no." (13.28)

    Fanny just suggested rape, but we're thinking that, in a world where "everyone belongs to everyone else," they don't really have any notion of what this means.

    John the Savage

    "The murkiest den, the most opportune place" (the voice of conscience thundered poetically), "the strongest suggestion our worser genius can, shall never melt mine honour into lust. Never, never!" he resolved. (13.71)

    John repeats his Shakespearean phases the same way Lenina, Fanny, and Henry recite their hypnopaedic teachings. Is this just another form of indoctrinated thought?

    But her perfume still hung about him, his jacket was white with the powder that had scented her velvety body. "Impudent strumpet, impudent strumpet, impudent strumpet." The inexorable rhythm beat itself out. "Impudent…" (13.100)

    Again we see the notions of rhythm and music tied up with violence and sex. This prepares us for the final orgy-porgy scene in which John repeats his saying in a rhythmic way while the people beat each other "in six-eight time."

    "It's like that in Shakespeare too. 'If thou cost break her virgin knot before all sanctimonious ceremonies may with full and holy rite…'" (13.63)

    John gets his notions of chastity and honor both from the Native Americans on the Reservation and from Shakespeare.

    "But it's absurd to let yourself get into a state like this. Simply absurd," she repeated. "And what about? A man—one man."

    "But he's the one I want."

    "As though there weren't millions of other men in the world."

    "But I don't want them."

    "How can you know till you've tried?"

    "I have tried." (13.12-7)

    This makes it sound like Lenina's desire for John is a simple case of wanting what you can't have. If she really loved him, she probably wouldn't be sleeping with "dozens" of other men. (Although you could also argue that this is her conditioned way of dealing with emotion. Your pick.)

    Chapter 17
    Mustapha Mond

    "[…] chastity means passion, chastity means neurasthenia. And passion and neurasthenia mean instability. And instability means the end of civilization. You can't have a lasting civilization without plenty of pleasant vices." (17.45)

    Mustapha claims that promiscuity is necessary to avoid feelings of unfulfilled desire. John will later establish that such feelings are part of being a human. It follows, then, that in creating "lasting civilization," the World Controllers have destroyed humanity. If this is true, what they're running isn't exactly a "civilization" at all.

    Chapter 18
    John the Savage

    "Strumpet! Strumpet!" he shouted at every blow as though it were Lenina (and how frantically, without knowing it, he wished it were), white, warm, scented, infamous Lenina that he was dogging thus. "Strumpet!" And then, in a voice of despair, "Oh, Linda, forgive me. Forgive me, God. I'm bad. I'm wicked. I'm… No, no, you strumpet, you strumpet!" (18.64)

    Take a look at this: John wishes that it was Lenina he were striking. Because she's a "strumpet"? OK, yes, but also because striking her with a whip is the closest he'll let himself get to having sex with her. In a novel with a very, very fine line between sex and violence, there's little difference between them.

    It was after midnight when the last of the helicopters took its flight. Stupefied by soma, and exhausted by a long-drawn frenzy of sensuality, the Savage lay sleeping in the heather. The sun was already high when he awoke. He lay for a moment, blinking in owlish incomprehension at the light; then suddenly remembered— everything.

    "Oh, my God, my God!" He covered his eyes with his hand. (18.101-2)

    The little dash before "everything" leads us to believe that John did after all have sex with Lenina. It's possible he's just remembering the flogging, but as we said, in a book where sex and violence are so closely tied together, it's unlikely that the climax of violence could occur without the climax of sex. Also, it was an orgy—everyone else was doing it. And the line about him covering his eyes is important (think famous Greek tragedies). Read John's "Character Analysis" for more.

    "Strumpet!" The Savage had rushed at her like a madman. "Fitchew!" Like a madman, he was slashing at her with his whip of small cords. (18.92)

    Exactly.

    Drawn by the fascination of the horror of pain and, from within, impelled by that habit of cooperation, that desire for unanimity and atonement, which their conditioning had so ineradicably implanted in them, they began to mime the frenzy of his gestures, striking at one another as the Savage struck at his own rebellious flesh, or at that plump incarnation of turpitude writhing in the heather at his feet.

    "Kill it, kill it, kill it…" The Savage went on shouting.

    Then suddenly somebody started singing "Orgy-porgy" and, in a moment, they had all caught up the refrain and, singing, had begun to dance. Orgy-porgy, round and round and round, beating one another in six-eight time. Orgy-porgy… (18.98-100)

    Notice that John says to kill "it," not "her." Huxley himself calls Lenina "that plump incarnation of turpitude." While John is beating her up, he's really trying to beat up all the dirtiness and promiscuity of the new world.

    The weather was breathlessly hot, there was thunder in the air. He had dug all the morning and was resting, stretched out along the floor. And suddenly the thought of Lenina was a real presence, naked and tangible, saying "Sweet!" and "Put your arms round me!"—in shoes and socks, perfumed. Impudent strumpet! But oh, oh, her arms round his neck, the lifting of her breasts, her mouth! Eternity was in our lips and eyes. Lenina… No, no, no, no! He sprang to his feet and, half naked as he was, ran out of the house. At the edge of the heath stood a clump of hoary juniper bushes. He flung himself against them, he embraced, not the smooth body of his desires, but an armful of green spikes. Sharp, with a thousand points, they pricked him. He tried to think of poor Linda, breathless and dumb, with her clutching hands and the unutterable terror in her eyes. Poor Linda whom he had sworn to remember. But it was still the presence of Lenina that haunted him. (18.62)

    Here's some more of that Freudian business; to stop himself from thinking dirty thoughts about Lenina, John tries to think about something else instead. This would be great and not at all worth discussing if that something else didn't happen to be HIS MOM. Whether he wants to admit it or not, John's mind is definitely making the connection between the two women in his life.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    Chapter 3
    Mustapha Mond

    "Two thousand pharmacologists and bio-chemists were subsidized in A.F. 178."

    "He does look glum," said the Assistant Predestinator, pointing at Bernard Marx.

    "Six years later it was being produced commercially. The perfect drug."

    […]

    "Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant."

    "Glum, Marx, glum." The clap on the shoulder made him start, look up. It was that brute Henry Foster. "What you need is a gramme of soma."

    "All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects."

    "Ford, I should like to kill him!" But all he did was to say, "No, thank you," and fend off the proffered tube of tablets.

    "Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology."

    "Take it," insisted Henry Foster, "take it."

    "Stability was practically assured." (3.218-26)

    Look at the structuring hereHuxley interweaves Mustapha's description of soma with Bernard's refusal to take it. The ideology of the system is contrasted with the reality of its effects.

    "There was a thing called Heaven; but all the same they used to drink enormous quantities of alcohol."

    […]

    "There was a thing called the soul and a thing called immortality."

    […]

    "But they used to take morphia and cocaine." (3.210-4)

    Mustapha seems to suggest that some failing on the part of religion to comfort people led to the abuse of drugs and alcoholbut the same is true of conditioning and conformity in his own society.

    "And do remember that a gramme is better than a damn." They went out, laughing. (3.232)

    This hypnopaedic saying suggests what John will later confirm: soma replaces all real human emotion.

    Chapter 4: Part 1

    Benito stared after him. "What can be the matter with the fellow?" he wondered, and, shaking his head, decided that the story about the alcohol having been put into the poor chap's blood-surrogate must be true. "Touched his brain, I suppose."

    He put away the soma bottle, and taking out a packet of sex-hormone chewing-gum, stuffed a plug into his cheek and walked slowly away towards the hangars, ruminating. (4.1.27-8)

    Check out this contrast; Benito surmises that Bernard's deficiencies are the result of alcohol, but at the same time he freely indulges in his own drugs (soma and sex-hormone chewing-gum).

    Chapter 5: Part 1

    Five-stepping with the other four hundred round and round Westminster Abbey, Lenina and Henry were yet dancing in another worldthe warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was! "Bottle of mine, it's you I've always wanted…" But Lenina and Henry had what they wanted… They were inside, here and now-safely inside with the fine weather, the perennially blue sky. And when, exhausted, the Sixteen had laid by their saxophones and the Synthetic Music apparatus was producing the very latest in slow Malthusian Blues, they might have been twin embryos gently rocking together on the waves of a bottled ocean of blood-surrogate.

    […]

    Swallowing half an hour before closing time, that second dose of soma had raised a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds. Bottled, they crossed the street; bottled, they took the lift up to Henry's room on the twenty-eighth floor. (5.1.19-22)

    Soma is really just another form of restriction and imprisonment in Brave New World.

    Chapter 5: Part 2

    Again twelve stanzas. By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles. Even Bernard felt himself a little melted (5.2.17)

    Bernard feels himself "a little melted" from the soma, but he still remains remarkably lucid during his Solidarity Service. Why is this? Does it mean that soma's effects are at least partly imagined?

    Chapter 6: Part 1

    Half an hour later they were back in his rooms. Bernard swallowed four tablets of soma at a gulp, turned on the radio and television and began to undress. (6.1.43)

    We only see Bernard take soma when he wants to fit in with the rest of society. He needs to cloud his mind to pretend he's like everyone else. In a way, this is the beginning of the end for the admirable, rebellious Bernard we all know and love in the first half of the novel.

    Chapter 6: Part 3
    Lenina Crowne

    "You don't say so," said Lenina politely, not knowing in the least what the Warden had said, but taking her cue from his dramatic pause. When the Warden started booming, she had inconspicuously swallowed half a gramme of soma, with the result that she could now sit, serenely not listening, thinking of nothing at all, but with her large blue eyes fixed on the Warden's face in an expression of rapt attention. (6.3.19)

    Incessant and unquestioning soma use seems to be a quality common to the female characters in Brave New World. For this and other reasons, there are a fair number of scholars who label the work misogynistic.

    Lenina shook her head. "Was and will make me ill," she quoted, "I take a gramme and only am."

    In the end she persuaded him to swallow four tablets of soma. Five minutes later roots and fruits were abolished; the flower of the present rosily blossomed. A message from the porter announced that, at the Warden's orders, a Reservation Guard had come round with a plane and was waiting on the roof of the hotel. They went up at once. An octoroon in Gamma-green uniform saluted and proceeded to recite the morning's programme. (6.3.38-9)

    With the news of his deportation, Bernard is given the chance he always wantedto feel threatened, to feel angry, to feel something. It is one of the great tragedies of his character that he chooses to block this moment out with soma.

    Chapter 7

    What I had to sufferand not a gramme of soma to be had. Only a drink of mescal every now and then, when Popé used to bring it. Popé is a boy I used to know. But it makes you feel so bad afterwards, the mescal does, and you're sick with the peyotl; besides it always made that awful feeling of being ashamed much worse the next day. And I was so ashamed. (7.56)

    This is reminiscent of Mustapha's later claim that soma is "Christianity without the tears." It comforts, it eases, but it doesn't cost anything the way other substances do.

    Chapter 9

    Lenina felt herself entitled, after this day of queerness and horror, to a complete and absolute holiday. As soon as they got back to the rest-house, she swallowed six half-gramme tablets of soma, lay down on her bed, and within ten minutes had embarked for lunar eternity. It would be eighteen hours at the least before she was in time again. (9.1)

    If soma helps Lenina deal with her current problem, what does she expect to do when she comes back from "lunar eternity"?

    Chapter 11

    "The Savage," wrote Bernard, "refuses to take soma, and seems much distressed because of the woman Linda, his m–––, remains permanently on holiday. (11.43)

    John has replaced Bernard as the novel's protagonist; Huxley makes this clear through certain concrete examples, like this one. Bernard used to refuse soma, but now John does.

    Drying her eyes, Lenina walked across the roof to the lift. On her way down to the twenty-seventh floor she pulled out her soma bottle. One gramme, she decided, would not be enough; hers had been more than a one-gramme affliction. But if she took two grammes, she ran the risk of not waking up in time to-morrow morning. She compromised and, into her cupped left palm, shook out three half-gramme tablets. (11.116)

    On the issue of suffering, Lenina is the opposite of John. She takes soma to avoid suffering, while John purposefully seeks out suffering as a fundamental part of the human experience.

    And Linda, for her part, had no desire to see them. The return to civilization was for her the return to soma, was the possibility of lying in bed and taking holiday after holiday, without ever having to come back to a headache or a fit of vomiting, without ever being made to feel as you always felt after peyotl, as though you'd done something so shamefully anti-social that you could never hold up your head again. Soma played none of these unpleasant tricks. The holiday it gave was perfect and, if the morning after was disagreeable, it was so, not intrinsically, but only by comparison with the joys of the holiday. The remedy was to make the holiday continuous. Greedily she clamoured for ever larger, ever more frequent doses. Dr. Shaw at first demurred; then let her have what she wanted. She took as much as twenty grammes a day.

    "Which will finish her off in a month or two," the doctor confided to Bernard. "One day the respiratory centre will be paralyzed. No more breathing. Finished. And a good thing too. If we could rejuvenate, of course it would be different. But we can't." (11.1-2)

    Linda represents the worst abuse of soma as she has a constant and unending need to escape reality.

    "But aren't you shortening her life by giving her so much?"

    "In one sense, yes," Dr. Shaw admitted. "But in another we're actually lengthening it." The young man stared, uncomprehending. "Soma may make you lose a few years in time," the doctor went on. "But think of the enormous, immeasurable durations it can give you out of time. Every soma-holiday is a bit of what our ancestors used to call eternity." (11.4-5)

    Dr. Shaw's argument here is an interesting one, but it relies on the claim that time is relative. For Linda, her life feels lengthened, but for those who love her (like John), it is still shortened. Which is a more accurate measuretime as experienced on soma, or time as it passes in reality?

    In the end John was forced to give in. Linda got her soma. Thenceforward she remained in her little room on the thirty-seventh floor of Bernard's apartment house, in bed, with the radio and television always on, and the patchouli tap just dripping, and the soma tablets within reach of her hand—there she remained; and yet wasn't there at all, was all the time away, infinitely far away, on holiday; on holiday in some other world, where the music of the radio was a labyrinth of sonorous colours, a sliding, palpitating labyrinth, that led (by what beautifully inevitable windings) to a bright centre of absolute conviction; where the dancing images of the television box were the performers in some indescribably delicious all-singing feely; where the dripping patchouli was more than scentwas the sun, was a million saxophones, was Popé making love, only much more so, incomparably more, and without end. (11.12)

    How different is Linda's soma-world from the controlled society she's leaving? Is she better off being high all the time?

    John the Savage

    "What's in those" (remembering The Merchant of Venice) "those caskets?" the Savage enquired when Bernard had rejoined him.

    "The day's soma ration," Bernard answered rather indistinctly; for he was masticating a piece of Benito Hoover's chewing-gum. "They get it after their work's over. Four half-gramme tablets. Six on Saturdays." (11.75-6)

    We see the same thing here; the gum that Bernard is chewing made its first appearance in Chapter 3, when Benito was offering it to a disgruntled (and very different) Bernard.

    Chapter 12
    Lenina Crowne

    The golden T lay shining on Lenina's bosom. Sportively, the Arch-Community-Songster caught hold of it, sportively he pulled, pulled. "I think," said Lenina suddenly, breaking a long silence, "I'd better take a couple of grammes of soma."

    Bernard, by this time, was fast asleep and smiling at the private paradise of his dreams. Smiling, smiling. But inexorably, every thirty seconds, the minute hand of the electric clock above his bed jumped forward with an almost imperceptible click. Click, click, click, click… And it was morning. Bernard was back among the miseries of space and time. It was in the lowest spirits that he taxied across to his work at the Conditioning Centre. The intoxication of success had evaporated; he was soberly his old self; and by contrast with the temporary balloon of these last weeks, the old self seemed unprecedentedly heavier than the surrounding atmosphere. (12.42-3)

    Now we can compare Lenina's interaction with the Arch-Community-Songster to Bernard's interaction with Lenina back in Chapter 6; she had to take soma to bring herself to have sex with the Songster, just as Bernard earlier had to do the same to have sex with her. Seeing Bernard off in a soma dream in the next paragraph shows us how both characters have changed over the course of the novel.

    Punctured, utterly deflated, he dropped into a chair and, covering his face with his hands, began to weep. A few minutes later, however, he thought better of it and took four tablets of soma.

    Upstairs in his room the Savage was reading Romeo and Juliet. (12.36-7)

    Now Bernard explicitly joins the same camp, hiding from suffering by using drugs.

    Chapter 13
    Lenina Crowne

    "Sweet!" said Lenina and, laying her hands on his shoulders, pressed herself against him. "Put your arms round me," she commanded. "Hug me till you drug me, honey." She too had poetry at her command, knew words that sang and were spells and beat drums. "Kiss me"; she closed her eyes, she let her voice sink to a sleepy murmur, "Kiss me till I'm in a coma. Hug me, honey, snuggly…" (13.81)

    Lenina's song compares love to soma; of course, "love" refers primarily to sex, but stillwhat do these two have in common in this novel? It seems that both distract the citizens from reality and prevent them from ever contemplating too seriously the nature of their very controlled lives. But that's just one interpretation… what do you think?

    Chapter 14

    Linda looked on, vaguely and uncomprehendingly smiling. Her pale, bloated face wore an expression of imbecile happiness. Every now and then her eyelids closed, and for a few seconds she seemed to be dozing. Then with a little start she would wake up againwake up to the aquarium antics of the Tennis Champions, to the Super-Vox-Wurlitzeriana rendering of "Hug me till you drug me, honey," to the warm draught of verbena that came blowing through the ventilator above her headwould wake to these things, or rather to a dream of which these things, transformed and embellished by the soma in her blood, were the marvelous constituents, and smile once more her broken and discoloured smile of infantile contentment. (14.12)

    It's no coincidence that Huxley uses the word "infantile" here to describe Linda. We've seen before that giving in to sexual impulses renders adults little more than babies, but now we see that soma indulgences are effectively the same thing.

    Chapter 15
    John the Savage

    "Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side"Good old Helmholtz!"also punching"Men at last!"and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"

    Howling, the Deltas charged with a redoubled fury. (15.41-2)

    John is the only character to relate the notion of imprisonment to that of soma. Of course, as Mustapha will later point out, trying to explain this to any conditioned individual is impossible.

    The Deltas muttered, jostled one another a little, and then were still. The threat had been effective. Deprivation of somaappalling thought! (15.12)

    The lower classes seem to have more dependence on soma than the upper classes; use is more of a scheduled regimen than a social activity.

    Chapter 17

    "And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tearsthat's what soma is." (17.47)

    The need for soma in the new world is a testament to the Controllers' failure. People aren't really happy—they're medicated to be that way.

    Chapter 18

    "Benighted fool!" shouted the man from The Fordian Science Monitor, "why don't you take soma?"

    […]

    "Evil's an unreality if you take a couple of grammes."

    […]

    "Pain's a delusion." (18.54-8)

    This is exactly what John seeks to disprove by his self-mutilation. Not only is pain very, very real, but it's necessary for all men to be truly alive.

  • Literature and Writing

    Chapter 3

    "Accompanied by a campaign against the Past; by the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments (luckily most of them had already been destroyed during the Nine Years' War); by the suppression of all books published before A.F. 15O.''

    […]

    "There were some things called the pyramids, for example."

    […]

    "And a man called Shakespeare. You've never heard of them of course." (3.188-92)

    It would seem from this and other related passages that history is dangerous to this society because it offers people an alternative. If the citizens aren't even aware of such notions as "freedom" and "truth," they can't miss them. They can't be discontented.

    Mustapha Mond

    "You all remember," said the Controller, in his strong deep voice, "you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford's: History is bunk. History," he repeated slowly, "is bunk."

    He waved his hand; and it was as though, with an invisible feather wisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk—and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whiskand those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom – all were gone. Whiskthe place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk… (3.40-1)

    Notice that abstract ideas like "passion" are whisked away along with literature and history. In this novel, literature is a reflection of the range of human emotionswhich is exactly what makes it dangerous to a society where the only feeling permitted is a sort of passive contentedness.

    Chapter 4: Part 2
    Helmholtz Watson

    "Oh, as far as they go." Helmholtz shrugged his shoulders. "But they go such a little way. They aren't important enough, somehow. I feel I could do something much more important. Yes, and more intense, more violent. But what? What is there more important to say? And how can one be violent about the sort of things one's expected to write about? Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properlythey'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced. That's one of the things I try to teach my studentshow to write piercingly. But what on earth's the good of being pierced by an article about a Community Sing, or the latest improvement in scent organs? Besides, can you make words really piercingyou know, like the very hardest X-rayswhen you're writing about that sort of thing? Can you say something about nothing? That's what it finally boils down to. I try and I try…" (4.2.29)

    Helmholtz's outlet for his individuality and his sense of human passion is writing. For John, it is Shakespeare. Mustapha, we find out later, once felt the same way about science. Bernard, on the other hand, seems to have no outletthis may be why he ultimately ends up a weak character.

    Chapter 8

    He hated Popé more and more. A man can smile and smile and be a villain. Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain. What did the words exactly mean? He only half knew. But their magic was strong and went on rumbling in his head, and somehow it was as though he had never really hated Popé before; never really hated him because he had never been able to say how much he hated him. But now he had these words, these words like drums and singing and magic. These words and the strange, strange story out of which they were taken (he couldn't make head or tail of it, but it was wonderful, wonderful all the same)they gave him a reason for hating Popé; and they made his hatred more real; they even made Popé himself more real. (8.41)

    InterestingJohn claims that fictional characters make Popé seem more realhow is this possible?

    The boys still sang their horrible song about Linda. Sometimes, too, they laughed at him for being so ragged. When he tore his clothes, Linda did not know how to mend them. In the Other Place, she told him, people threw away clothes with holes in them and got new ones. "Rags, rags!" the boys used to shout at him. "But I can read," he said to himself, "and they can't. They don't even know what reading is." It was fairly easy, if he thought hard enough about the reading, to pretend that he didn't mind when they made fun of him. He asked Linda to give him the book again.

    The more the boys pointed and sang, the harder he read. (8.29-30)

    Here we get some insight as to why literature is important for John: it helped him have a positive sense of his own individuality. This is particularly interesting in light of the new world, where individuality is an antiquated, taboo concept.

    The strange words rolled through his mind; rumbled, like talking thunder; like the drums at the summer dances, if the drums could have spoken; like the men singing the Corn Song, beautiful, beautiful, so that you cried; like old Mitsima saying magic over his feathers and his carved sticks and his bits of bone and stonekiathla tsilu silokwe silokwe silokwe. Kiai silu silu, tsithlbut better than Mitsima's magic, because it meant more, because it talked to him, talked wonderfully and only half-understandably, a terrible beautiful magic, about Linda; about Linda lying there snoring, with the empty cup on the floor beside the bed; about Linda and Popé, Linda and Popé. (8.40)

    Shakespeare helps John to understand his feelings about Linda and her lover(s). The texts give words to what previously were unvoiced emotions.

    Chapter 11
    John the Savage

    "Do they read Shakespeare?" asked the Savage as they walked, on their way to the Bio-chemical Laboratories, past the School Library.

    "Certainly not," said the Head Mistress, blushing.

    "Our library," said Dr. Gaffney, "contains only books of reference. If our young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies. We don't encourage them to indulge in any solitary amusements." (11.65-7)

    Shakespeare is outlawed in this society for the same reasons that make John likes it so much (in this case, the fact that interacting with a text is a solitary activity).

    "Twelve hundred and fifty kilometres an hour," said the Station Master impressively. "What do you think of that, Mr. Savage?"

    John thought it very nice. "Still," he said, "Ariel could put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes." (11.30-1)

    Now we see the results of John mixing up notions of religion, fiction, and science: all are equally real (or equally unreal) in his mind. So why marvel at a technological advancement that pales in comparison to a fictional one?

    Chapter 12
    John the Savage

    The Savage shook his head. "Listen to this," was his answer; and unlocking the drawer in which he kept his mouse-eaten book, he opened and read:

    Let the bird of loudest lay
    On the sole Arabian tree,
    Herald sad and trumpet be…


    Helmholtz listened with a growing excitement. At "sole Arabian tree" he started; at "thou shrieking harbinger" he smiled with sudden pleasure; at "every fowl of tyrant wing" the blood rushed up into his cheeks; but at "defunctive music" he turned pale and trembled with an unprecedented emotion. The Savage read on (12.65-7)

    For Helmholtz, Shakespeare isn't just about the language—it's about the subject matter. As he said earlier, one can only write piercingly if one is writing about things that matter. He recognizes from this passage that the text is doing just thatit's writing about passion, danger, and emotion.

    Helmholtz Watson

    Yesterday's committee,
    Sticks, but a broken drum,
    Midnight in the City,
    Flutes in a vacuum,
    Shut lips, sleeping faces,
    Every stopped machine,
    The dumb and littered places
    Where crowds have been:…
    All silences rejoice,
    Weep (loudly or low),
    Speakbut with the voice
    Of whom, I do not know.
    Absence, say, of Susan's,
    Absence of Egeria's
    Arms and respective bosoms,
    Lips and, ah, posteriors,
    Slowly form a presence;
    Whose? and, I ask, of what
    So absurd an essence,
    That something, which is not,
    Nevertheless should populate
    Empty night more solidly
    Than that with which we copulate,
    Why should it seem so squalidly? (12.56)

    It is fitting that Helmholtz's first poem has to do with solitude. This is what John likes about Shakespeare, after allthat reading it is a process of self-examination and discovery.

    "And yet," said Helmholtz when, having recovered breath enough to apologize, he had mollified the Savage into listening to his explanations, "I know quite well that one needs ridiculous, mad situations like that; one can't write really well about anything else. Why was that old fellow such a marvellous propaganda technician? Because he had so many insane, excruciating things to get excited about. You've got to be hurt and upset; otherwise you can't think of the really good, penetrating, X-rayish phrases. But fathers and mothers!" He shook his head. "You can't expect me to keep a straight face about fathers and mothers. And who's going to get excited about a boy having a girl or not having her?" (The Savage winced; but Helmholtz, who was staring pensively at the floor, saw nothing.) "No." he concluded, with a sigh, "it won't do. We need some other kind of madness and violence. But what? What? Where can one find it?" He was silent; then, shaking his head, "I don't know," he said at last, "I don't know." (12.75)

    In this passage, it seems as though Helmholtz's position is an impossible one. He wants to write about something passionate, but all the big issues (sex, lust, jealousy, family, love) are inaccessible to him. He suspects there's something else to write aboutsome other passion that he could understandwhen in fact his society has engineered him to find all passions smutty or ridiculous.

    O sweet my mother, cast me not away:
    Delay this marriage for a month, a week;
    Or, if you do not, make the bridal bed
    In that dim monument where Tybalt lies…


    When Juliet said this, Helmholtz broke out in an explosion of uncontrollable guffawing.

    The mother and father (grotesque obscenity) forcing the daughter to have some one she didn't want! And the idiotic girl not saying that she was having some one else whom (for the moment, at any rate) she preferred! In its smutty absurdity the situation was irresistibly comical. He had managed, with a heroic effort, to hold down the mounting pressure of his hilarity; but "sweet mother" (in the Savage's tremulous tone of anguish) and the reference to Tybalt lying dead, but evidently uncremated and wasting his phosphorus on a dim monument, were too much for him. He laughed and laughed till the tears streamed down his facequenchlessly laughed. (12.72-4)

    As unique as Helmholtz is, Huxley doesn't let us forget that he, too, is a product of the World State's conditioning. One of the tensions we see as his character evolves is the question of whether or not he will be able to overcome this limitation.

    Chapter 15
    John the Savage

    "Listen, I beg of you," cried the Savage earnestly. "Lend me your ears…" He had never spoken in public before, and found it very difficult to express what he wanted to say. "Don't take that horrible stuff. It's poison, it's poison." (15.20)

    It's interesting that John finds himself at first ineloquent, given that he's had so much experience with the greatest works of literature. But this raises an important question: does John think for himself, or does he simply regurgitate Shakespeare's words? He certainly uses Shakespeare as a safety net here…

    The Savage stood looking on. "O brave new world, O brave new world…" In his mind the singing words seemed to change their tone. They had mocked him through his misery and remorse, mocked him with how hideous a note of cynical derision! Fiendishly laughing, they had insisted on the low squalor, the nauseous ugliness of the nightmare. Now, suddenly, they trumpeted a call to arms. "O brave new world!" Miranda was proclaiming the possibility of loveliness, the possibility of transforming even the nightmare into something fine and noble. "O brave new world!" It was a challenge, a command. (15.10)

    The phrase "brave new world" changes many times throughout the course of the novel; John says it first with awe, later with disgust, and finally with defianceof course, this reflects his changing perspective of the World State.

    Bernard Marx

    "He's mad," whispered Bernard, staring with wide open eyes. "They'll kill him. They'll…" A great shout suddenly went up from the mob; a wave of movement drove it menacingly towards the Savage. "Ford help him!" said Bernard, and averted his eyes.

    "Ford helps those who help themselves." And with a laugh, actually a laugh of exultation, Helmholtz Watson pushed his way through the crowd. (15.39-40)

    We're thinking that Helmholtz laughs here because, in all likelihood, he's probably the guy who wrote the phrase "Ford helps those who helps themselves." And if not, at least we see that he's laughing at the absurdity of his own professionthe writing of inane hypnopaedic phrases.

    Chapter 16

    The Savage meanwhile wandered restlessly round the room, peering with a vague superficial inquisitiveness at the books in the shelves, at the sound-track rolls and reading machine bobbins in their numbered pigeon-holes. On the table under the window lay a massive volume bound in limp black leather-surrogate, and stamped with large golden T's. He picked it up and opened it. MY LIFE AND WORK, BY OUR FORD. The book had been published at Detroit by the Society for the Propagation of Fordian Knowledge. Idly he turned the pages, read a sentence here, a paragraph there, and had just come to the conclusion that the book didn't interest him, when the door opened, and the Resident World Controller for Western Europe walked briskly into the room. (16.5)

    John isn't "interested" by this book because there is nothing of passion or poetry in it.

    Mustapha Mond

    "Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about my ears and sometimes voices."

    The Savage's face lit up with a sudden pleasure. "Have you read it too?" he asked. "I thought nobody knew about that book here, in England."

    "Almost nobody. I'm one of the very few. It's prohibited, you see." (16.10-2)

    This Shakespeare connection is a hint that these two men (Mustapha and John) have more in common than we might first suspect.

    Helmholtz Watson

    "But they're… they're told by an idiot."

    […]

    "…he's right," said Helmholtz gloomily. "Because it is idiotic. Writing when there's nothing to say…" (16.32-4)

    Helmholtz is still focused on the content of his writing. His maxims, the feelies—all his work is essentially "told by an idiot" because it doesn't address anything real. At the same time, Helmholtz still is not capable of understanding real passion. How, then, does he expect to write anything different?

    Helmholtz rose from his pneumatic chair. "I should like a thoroughly bad climate," he answered. "I believe one would write better if the climate were bad. If there were a lot of wind and storms, for example…" (16.68)

    Notice that Helmholtz rises from his "pneumatic chair." We've seen the word "pneumatic" used over and over in Brave New World (fifteen times, actually, and you can read our in-depth discussion of it in Lenina's "Character Analysis"), but regardless of your interpretation we can all agree that it has much to do with the World State. When Helmholtz rises from his pneumatic chair, he's also rising away from Mustapha's world. Nifty, isn't it?

    John the Savage

    The Savage was silent for a little. "All the same," he insisted obstinately, "Othello's good, Othello's better than those feelies."

    "Of course it is," the Controller agreed. "But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art." (16.28-9)

    Does Mustapha's argument about happiness make sense here? It seems as though he's basing everything on the claim that "happiness" is only possible in a state of ignorance…

    Chapter 17

    "He was a philosopher, if you know what that was."

    "A man who dreams of fewer things than there are in heaven and earth," said the Savage promptly. (17.18-9)

    This is an odd line for John, and a lot of scholars use it to establish the fact that John doesn't actually understand the Shakespeare he reads—he just quotes it.

  • Dissatisfaction

    Chapter 3
    Lenina Crowne

    "And to tell the truth," said Lenina, "I'm beginning to get just a tiny bit bored with nothing but Henry every day." She pulled on her left stocking. "Do you know Bernard Marx?" she asked in a tone whose excessive casualness was evidently forced. (3.121)

    For Lenina, monogamy leaves something to be desired. Is this the result of her conditioning or of a natural urge to have different sexual partners?

    Henry Foster

    "Lenina Crowne?" said Henry Foster, echoing the Assistant Predestinator's question as he zipped up his trousers. "Oh, she's a splendid girl. Wonderfully pneumatic. I'm surprised you haven't had her."

    "I can't think how it is I haven't," said the Assistant Predestinator. "I certainly will. At the first opportunity."

    From his place on the opposite side of the changing-room aisle, Bernard Marx overheard what they were saying and turned pale. (3.118-20)

    Bernard's dissatisfaction with the status quo stems first from emotions: he feels things that others simply don't.

    Chapter 4: Part 2
    Helmholtz Watson

    Helmholtz shook his head. "Not quite. I'm thinking of a queer feeling I sometimes get, a feeling that I've got something important to say and the power to say it—only I don't know what it is, and I can't make any use of the power. If there was some different way of writing… Or else something else to write about…" He was silent; then, "You see," he went on at last, "I'm pretty good at inventing phrases—you know, the sort of words that suddenly make you jump, almost as though you'd sat on a pin, they seem so new and exciting even though they're about something hypnopædically obvious. But that doesn't seem enough. It's not enough for the phrases to be good; what you make with them ought to be good too."

    "But your things are good, Helmholtz."

    "Oh, as far as they go." Helmholtz shrugged his shoulders. "But they go such a little way. They aren't important enough, somehow. I feel I could do something much more important. Yes, and more intense, more violent. But what? What is there more important to say? And how can one be violent about the sort of things one's expected to write about? Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly—they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced. That's one of the things I try to teach my students—how to write piercingly. But what on earth's the good of being pierced by an article about a Community Sing, or the latest improvement in scent organs? Besides, can you make words really piercing— you know, like the very hardest X-rays—when you're writing about that sort of thing? Can you say something about nothing? That's what it finally boils down to. I try and I try…" (4.2.27-9)

    Helmholtz actually has a pretty good handle on the problem. It's not that his abilities are lacking, just that his environment isn't providing the content he needs to produce the kind of art he knows he's capable of. In a way, his bottle is just too small (in terms of Mustapha's extended metaphor in Chapter 18).

    Yes, a little too able; they were right. A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect. Too little bone and brawn had isolated Bernard from his fellow men, and the sense of this apartness, being, by all the current standards, 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. 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. This Escalator-Squash champion, this indefatigable lover (it was said that he had had six hundred and forty different girls in under four years), this admirable committee man and best mixer had realized quite suddenly that sport, women, communal activities were only, so far as he was concerned, second bests. Really, and at the bottom, he was interested in something else. But in what? In what? That was the problem which Bernard had come to discuss with him. (4.2.15)

    Bernard and Helmholtz are similar in their isolation from others, but also in their yearning for more. Clearly, these two are related, although which is cause and which is effect is subject to debate.

    Speaking very slowly, "Did you ever feel," he asked, "as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren't using—you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?" He looked at Bernard questioningly. (4.2.25)

    For Helmholtz, dissatisfaction stems from cerebral boundaries, not emotional restrictions. This is a major difference between him and Bernard.

    Chapter 6: Part 1

    "I want to know what passion is," she heard him saying. "I want to feel something strongly." (6.1.60)

    Again, we see that Bernard's dissatisfaction is emotional whereas Helmholtz's is cerebral. Still, both men identify a lack of passion as being the central difficulty.

    Chapter 8

    To fashion, to give form, to feel his fingers gaining in skill and power—this gave him an extraordinary pleasure. "A, B, C, Vitamin D," he sang to himself as he worked. "The fat's in the liver, the cod's in the sea." And Mitsima also sang—a song about killing a bear. They worked all day, and all day he was filled with an intense, absorbing happiness. (8.52)

    Notice that John can only really find satisfaction in labor. The same is true in Chapter 18; it is not until he busies himself with fashioning tools that he becomes happy.

    Chapter 11

    Helmholtz listened to his boastings in a silence so gloomily disapproving that Bernard was offended.

    "You're envious," he said.

    Helmholtz shook his head. "I'm rather sad, that's all," he answered. (11.20-2)

    Why is Helmholtz sad here? Does he realize that Bernard has gone the way of the weak-willed? Or is he merely self-pitying?

    The days passed. Success went fizzily to Bernard's head, and in the process completely reconciled him (as any good intoxicant should do) to a world which, up till then, he had found very unsatisfactory. In so far as it recognized him as important, the order of things was good. But, reconciled by his success, he yet refused to forego the privilege of criticizing this order. For the act of criticizing heightened his sense of importance, made him feel larger. (11.24)

    It becomes clear that Bernard's dissatisfaction was actually a shallow worry; his desire, at the end of the day, was really just to be accepted. Helmholtz, on the other hand, nurses a grievance that runs much deeper.

    Chapter 12
    Helmholtz Watson

    "I know. But I thought I'd like to see what the effect would be."

    "Well, you've seen now."

    Helmholtz only laughed. "I feel," he said, after a silence, "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." In spite of all his troubles, he seemed, Bernard thought, profoundly happy. (12.59-61)

    Once he starts down this road of rebellion, Helmholtz never turns back—unlike Bernard. He is able to laugh off any threats of punishment or consequence (like island deportation) because he realizes the "sacrifice" of leaving the World State isn't actually a sacrifice.

    Helmholtz and the Savage took to one another at once. So cordially indeed that Bernard felt a sharp pang of jealousy. In all these weeks he had never come to so close an intimacy with the Savage as Helmholtz immediately achieved. Watching them, listening to their talk, he found himself sometimes resentfully wishing that he had never brought them together. He was ashamed of his jealousy and alternately made efforts of will and took soma to keep himself from feeling it. But the efforts were not very successful; and between the soma-holidays there were, of necessity, intervals. The odious sentiment kept on returning. (12.61)

    So, basically, Bernard is always dissatisfied with something. Something petty.

    John the Savage

    "You're more like what you were at Malpais," he said, when Bernard had told him his plaintive story. "Do you remember when we first talked together? Outside the little house. You're like what you were then."

    "Because I'm unhappy again; that's why."

    "Well, I'd rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness you were having here." (12.45-7)

    John is dissatisfied with the same aspects of the World State that bothered Bernard in earlier chapters. In this way, John effectively replaces Bernard as the novel's protagonist.

    Chapter 16

    "It's lucky," he added, after a pause, "that there are such a lot of islands in the world. I don't know what we should do without them." (16.67)

    This is a great line, because it proves that the World State is far from perfect, and that enough people have been dissatisfied with its system to warrant a significant number of deportations. In a way, this is perhaps the most optimistic line in Brave New World—it speaks to the strength of the human spirit.

    John the Savage

    Yes, that was true. He remembered how Helmholtz had laughed at Romeo and Juliet. "Well then," he said, after a pause, "something new that's like Othello, and that they could understand."

    "That's what we've all been wanting to write," said Helmholtz, breaking a long silence. (16.23-4)

    John and Helmholtz get along so well because they share the same dissatisfaction with the World State; they both want passion in their lives, the kind of passion they read about in Shakespeare.

    Mustapha Mond

    "Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand." (16.37)

    Mustapha gives words to what is likely the reader's outrage at the World State. How is it that a man as conscious and logical as Mustapha can resign himself to accept forced happiness over everything else? What is he dissatisfied with, and why does he accept this dissatisfaction?

  • Freedom and Confinement

    Chapter 3
    Mustapha Mond

    "Sleep teaching was actually prohibited in England. There was something called liberalism. Parliament, if you know what that was, passed a law against it. The records survive. Speeches about liberty of the subject. Liberty to be inefficient and miserable. Freedom to be a round peg in a square hole." (3.138)

    Mustapha describes this liberalist sentiment with ridiculewhy would anyone want to be inefficient and miserable? But this is exactly the freedom John will later claimthe freedom to be unhappy.

    Slowly, majestically, with a faint humming of machinery, the Conveyors moved forward, thirty-three centimeters an hour. In the red darkness glinted innumerable rubies. (3.242)

    The bottles are another great reminder of the confinement that pervades the novelembryos are literally bottled, but metaphorically the citizens are trapped inside boundaries set by the World Controllers.

    Henry Foster

    "But, my dear chap, you're welcome, I assure you. You're welcome." Henry Foster patted the Assistant Predestinator on the shoulder. "Every one belongs to every one else, after all."

    One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopædia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots! (3.149-50)

    The hypnopaedic platitude "Every one belongs to every one else" is a great example of the sort of confinement we see in Brave New World. No one can be free because everyone is subject to the desires and urges of every other person. How can you have freedom when you're considered property? The fact that everyone is both master and slave is one of the horrifying, cyclical traps of this system.

    Chapter 4: Part 1

    He flung open the gates. The warm glory of afternoon sunlight made him start and blink his eyes. "Oh, roof!" he repeated in a voice of rapture. He was as though suddenly and joyfully awakened from a dark annihilating stupor. "Roof!"

    He smiled up with a kind of doggily expectant adoration into the faces of his passengers.

    […]

    "Go down," it said, "go down. Floor Eighteen. Go down, go down. Floor Eighteen. Go down, go…"

    The liftman slammed the gates, touched a button and instantly dropped back into the droning twilight of the well, the twilight of his own habitual stupor. (4.1.14-19)

    The "Epsilon-Minus-Semi-Moron" working the elevator is a prisoner of his status and his occupation. He has been programmed to feel a sense of freedom when arriving at the roof of the building.

    Chapter 5: Part 1

    "Even an Epsilon…" Lenina suddenly remembered an occasion when, as a little girl at school, she had woken up in the middle of the night and become aware, for the first time, of the whispering that had haunted all her sleeps. She saw again the beam of moonlight, the row of small white beds; heard once more the soft, soft voice that said (the words were there, unforgotten, unforgettable after so many night-long repetitions): "Every one works for every one else. We can't do without any one. Even Epsilons are useful. We couldn't do without Epsilons. Every one works for every one else. We can't do without any one…" Lenina remembered her first shock of fear and surprise; her speculations through half a wakeful hour; and then, under the influence of those endless repetitions, the gradual soothing of her mind, the soothing, the smoothing, the stealthy creeping of sleep.… (5.1.8)

    Even consciousness is no weapon against conditioning.

    Five-stepping with the other four hundred round and round Westminster Abbey, Lenina and Henry were yet dancing in another worldthe warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was! "Bottle of mine, it's you I've always wanted…" But Lenina and Henry had what they wanted… They were inside, here and now-safely inside with the fine weather, the perennially blue sky. And when, exhausted, the Sixteen had laid by their saxophones and the Synthetic Music apparatus was producing the very latest in slow Malthusian Blues, they might have been twin embryos gently rocking together on the waves of a bottled ocean of blood-surrogate.

    […]

    Swallowing half an hour before closing time, that second dose of soma had raised a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds. 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, and in spite of that second gramme of soma (5.1.19-22)

    Again, the use of the bottle imagery is hardly accidental here. Lenina and Henry are being held prisoner by their conditioning, their impulses, and of course soma.

    Chapter 6: Part 1
    Bernard Marx

    "…what would it be like if I could, if I were freenot enslaved by my conditioning."

    "But, Bernard, you're saying the most awful things."

    "Don't you wish you were free, Lenina?"

    "I don't know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody's happy nowadays."

    He laughed, "Yes, 'Everybody's happy nowadays.' We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn't you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else's way."

    "I don't know what you mean," she repeated. (6.1.27-32)

    Lenina and Bernard can't understand each other here because they have different conceptions of the word "free." For Bernard, freedom is the freedom to be unhappy. Of course, Bernard isn't yet able to express this, so it is left to John to find the words in the second half of the novel. For Lenina, freedom is just another adjective she's been taught to apply to her life as it stands. She is free and happy because she's been told she is free and happy. The language has been corrupted and is as controlled by the State as citizens are.

    Chapter 6: Part 2

    Bernard felt extremely uncomfortable. A man so conventional, so scrupulously correct as the Directorand to commit so gross a solecism! lt made him want to hide his face, to run out of the room. Not that he himself saw anything intrinsically objectionable in people talking about the remote past; that was one of those hypnopædic prejudices he had (so he imagined) completely got rid of. (6.2.7)

    This parenthetical is incredibly important for Bernard's characterand it may go some distance in getting him off the hook for being a total jerk in the second half of the novel. Try as he might, Bernard is still a product of is environment. He can imagine that if he is conscious of the control exerted over him (he is a hypnopaedic expert, after all), he can escape its confines. But, as Lenina's waking-in-the-middle-of-the-night story demonstrates, self-consciousness is not a tool against oppression.

    Chapter 12
    Helmholtz Watson

    "This time I thought I'd give them one I'd just written myself. Pure madness, of course; but I couldn't resist it." He laughed. "I was curious to see what their reactions would be. Besides," he added more gravely, "I wanted to do a bit of propaganda; I was trying to engineer them into feeling as I'd felt when I wrote the rhymes. Ford!" He laughed again. "What an outcry there was! The Principal had me up and threatened to hand me the immediate sack. l'm a marked man." (12.51)

    Helmholtz seems rather unperturbed at his predicament. This contrasts with Bernard, who flipped out when he learned he was going to get deported. Helmholtz's freedom, then, is a state of mind.

    Chapter 15
    John the Savage

    "Don't you want to be free and men? Don't you even understand what manhood and freedom are?" Rage was making him fluent; the words came easily, in a rush. "Don't you?" he repeated, but got no answer to his question. "Very well then," he went on grimly. "I'll teach you; I'll make you be free whether you want to or not." And pushing open a window that looked on to the inner court of the Hospital, he began to throw the little pill-boxes of soma tablets in handfuls out into the area. (15.37)

    John moves rather quickly from the "ineloquence" of inexperience to the "fluency" of rage. Passion, the text seems to argue, is not only a part of the human experience, but in fact enables the human experiencewith passion, man can be an individual, can have an opinion, and can disagree, fight, and interact in a way that isn't otherwise possible.

    "Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side "Good old Helmholtz!"also punching"Men at last!"and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"

    Howling, the Deltas charged with a redoubled fury. (15.41-2)

    Check out the line, "Men at last!" What John is probably getting at here is the notion of infants as opposed to adults. Without soma, these Deltas can be adultscan be meninstead of bottled babies. This is exactly what Bernard was getting at with Lenina when he told her that they shouldn't have gone to bed "like infants."

    Linda had been a slave, Linda had died; others should live in freedom, and the world be made beautiful. A reparation, a duty. And suddenly it was luminously clear to the Savage what he must do; it was as though a shutter had been opened, a curtain drawn back. (15.14)

    It takes Linda's death for John to come to this radical conclusion about the state of imprisonment in Brave New World. His epiphany actually sounds a lot like the lines from Maine de Biran that Mustapha later reads: "…as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light." The connection works thematically as well as on the level of the individual word or image (think about "luminously" and "light," or "a curtain drawn back" and "emerges as from behind a cloud").

    Chapter 16

    Only an Epsilon can be expected to make Epsilon sacrifices, for the good reason that for him they aren't sacrifices; they're the line of least resistance. His conditioning has laid down rails along which he's got to run. He can't help himself; he's foredoomed. Even after decanting, he's still inside a bottlean invisible bottle of infantile and embryonic fixations. Each one of us, of course," the Controller meditatively continued, "goes through life inside a bottle. But if we happen to be Alphas, our bottles are, relatively speaking, enormous. We should suffer acutely if we were confined in a narrower space." (16.43)

    OK, we get the whole bottled thing. In fact, we were getting there before Huxley decided to turn his novel into a philosophical treatise between the start of Chapter 16 and the end of Chapter 17. But who's judging (beside the hundreds of scholars who condemn the novel for this reason)? Anyway, Mustapha makes the point that all existence is confined—from Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons to Alpha-Double-Plus Intellectuals. It follows, then, that Mustapha is in a bottle, too—a big one with a nice view, perhaps, but a bottle nonetheless.

    John the Savage

    "But why is it prohibited?" asked the Savage. In the excitement of meeting a man who had read Shakespeare he had momentarily forgotten everything else.

    The Controller shrugged his shoulders. "Because it's old; that's the chief reason. […] Particularly when they're beautiful. Beauty's attractive, and we don't want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones." (16.14-7)

    Mustapha essentially imprisons the citizens of the World State by removing their ability to choose. If they can't see any alternative to the present (think of the hypnopaedic saying "was and will make me ill"it's all about living in the moment), they can't wish for anything different. This is why the past is dangerous; it offers alternatives.

    Mustapha Mond

    "Almost nobody. I'm one of the very few. It's prohibited, you see. But as I make the laws here, I can also break them. With impunity, Mr. Marx," he added, turning to Bernard. "Which I'm afraid you can't do." (16.12)

    In his view, Mustapha has ultimate freedom in this Worldhe can break whatever rules he wants. But is Mustapha really free? How can he be when, according to him, he "serves happiness," a "difficult master"?

    Chapter 17
    John the Savage

    "But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

    "In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

    "All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

    "Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind." There was a long silence.

    "I claim them all," said the Savage at last. (17.62-6)

    John finally puts the proper name on the freedom that he, Helmholtz, and (at one point) Bernard all claimed: the freedom to suffer.

    Chapter 18
    John the Savage

    The Savage shook his head. "He wouldn't let me […]. He said he wanted to go on with the experiment. But I'm damned," the Savage added, with sudden fury, "I'm damned if I'll go on being experimented with. Not for all the Controllers in the world. l shall go away to-morrow too." (18.25-7)

    John is free from Mustapha's control because he chooses to be. He reminds us that, in fact, any citizen in the World State could leave at any time. (Although, if they've been conditioned not to want to leave, we have to ask if freedom is preemptively made impossible.)

  • Isolation

    Chapter 3
    Fanny Crowne

    "And then he spends most of his time by himselfalone." There was horror in Fanny's voice. (3.128)

    What begins as Bernard's defining feature is both a virtue (it makes him an individual) and his downfall (it makes him insecure, which makes him manipulate John, which makes him famous, which makes him petty…).

    Chapter 4: Part 2
    Helmholtz Watson

    "Are you?" said Helmholtz, with a total absence of interest. Then after a little pause, "This last week or two," he went on, "I've been cutting all my committees and all my girls. You can't imagine what a hullabaloo they've been making about it at the College. Still, it's been worth it, I think. The effects…" He hesitated. "Well, they're odd, they're very odd."

    A physical shortcoming could produce a kind of mental excess. The process, it seemed, was reversible. Mental excess could produce, for its own purposes, the voluntary blindness and deafness of deliberate solitude, the artificial impotence of asceticism. (4.2.22-3)

    Helmholtz is just like Bernard, except more attractive and less insecure. The second paragraph makes that pretty clear. The first one is interesting, though—it provides some insight into just how tight a leash the World State has on its citizens.

    Yes, a little too able; they were right. A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect. Too little bone and brawn had isolated Bernard from his fellow men, and the sense of this apartness, being, by all the current standards, a mental excess, became in its turn a cause of wider separation. (4.2.15)

    We would really like to comment on this… except Huxley doesn't leave much room for interpretation. This is "Direct Characterization," a.k.a. "Blatant Telling (Not Showing)" at its best.

    With eyes for the most part downcast and, if ever they lighted on a fellow creature, at once and furtively averted, Bernard hastened across the roof. He was like a man pursued, but pursued by enemies he does not wish to see, lest they should seem more hostile even than he had supposed, and he himself be made to feel guiltier and even more helplessly alone. (4.2.1)

    Most of Bernard's isolation is self-imposed. He worries that others don't respect him, which means he carries himself with insecurity, which leads to others disrespecting him.

    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. How bitterly he envied men like Henry Foster and Benito Hoover! Men who never had to shout at an Epsilon to get an order obeyed; men who took their position for granted; men who moved through the caste system as a fish through waterso utterly at home as to be unaware either of themselves or of the beneficent and comfortable element in which they had their being. (4.2.3)

    Given this information (so subtly and artistically), we can almost predict what's going to happen to Bernard when fame and glory hit later in the novel.

    Chapter 5: Part 1

    And when, exhausted, the Sixteen had laid by their saxophones and the Synthetic Music apparatus was producing the very latest in slow Malthusian Blues, they might have been twin embryos gently rocking together on the waves of a bottled ocean of blood-surrogate. (5.1.19)

    Solitude really is an anachronism in this world. From Henry and Lenina's date we get a sense of routine—they basically do this every night, just with different partners. So between the workplace and their socializing, individuals can never be alone. They can never think or look inward or examine; they just exist.

    Chapter 5: Part 2
    Bernard Marx

    "I drink to the imminence of His Coming," he repeated, with a sincere attempt to feel that the coming was imminent; but the eyebrow continued to haunt him, and the Coming, so far as he was concerned, was horribly remote. He drank and handed the cup to Clara Deterding. "It'll be a failure again," he said to himself. "I know it will." But he went on doing his best to beam. (5.2.17)

    What is it, exactly, that prevents Bernard from losing himself in Solidarity Service like everyone else? He focuses on detailsMorgana's unibrow, for exampleinstead of letting his mind go. Focused on the tangible, he can't address the abstract, the "remote." Oddly enough, this seems to be the opposite of what differentiates him from the rest of society at other timeshe's concerned with larger, abstract ideas while people like Lenina can only think about clothing and soma.

    "Yes, I thought it was wonderful," he lied and looked away; the sight of her transfigured face was at once an accusation and an ironical reminder of his own separateness. He was as miserably isolated now as he had been when the service began—more isolated by reason of his unreplenished emptiness, his dead satiety. Separate and unatoned, while the others were being fused into the Greater Being; alone even in Morgana's embracemuch more alone, indeed, more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before. He had emerged from that crimson twilight into the common electric glare with a self-consciousness intensified to the pitch of agony. He was utterly miserable, and perhaps (her shining eyes accused him), perhaps it was his own fault. "Quite wonderful," he repeated; but the only thing he could think of was Morgana's eyebrow. (5.2.34)

    Bernard seems to oscillate back and forth between pleasure at his own individuality (and indeed a desire to differentiate himself further) and misery over his unique identity.

    Chapter 6: Part 1
    Bernard Marx

    "I thought we'd be more… more together here—with nothing but the sea and moon. More together than in that crowd, or even in my rooms. Don't you understand that?" (6.1.35)

    Bernard hits on an interesting note herebeing alone together brings two people closer than being together in a crowd. Make sense? Well, not to Lenina; she's under the same impression as Foster, namely that there's nothing to do while one is alone.

    Pretty harmless, perhaps; but also pretty disquieting. That mania, to start with, for doing things in private. Which meant, in practice, not doing anything at all. For what was there that one could do in private. (Apart, of course, from going to bed: but one couldn't do that all the time.) Yes, what was there? Precious little. (6.1.4)

    Henry Foster may be the male character most thoroughly indoctrinated by hypnopaedic platitudes in Brave New World.

    He liked Bernard; he was grateful to him for being the only man of his acquaintance with whom he could talk about the subjects he felt to be important. Nevertheless, there were things in Bernard which he hated. This boasting, for example. And the outbursts of an abject self-pity with which it alternated. And his deplorable habit of being bold after the event, and full, in absence, of the most extraordinary presence of mind. He hated these thingsjust because he liked Bernard. The seconds passed. Helmholtz continued to stare at the floor. And suddenly Bernard blushed and turned away. (6.1.13)

    Even Bernard and Helmholtzunited by their individualityare isolated from each other by their differences. In this sense, Bernard really is utterly alone.

    Chapter 8
    Bernard Marx

    The words awoke a plaintive echo in Bernard's mind. Alone, alone… "So am I," he said, on a gush of confidingness. "Terribly alone."

    "Are you?" John looked surprised. "I thought that in the Other Place… I mean, Linda always said that nobody was ever alone there."

    Bernard blushed uncomfortably. "You see," he said, mumbling and with averted eyes, "I'm rather different from most people, I suppose. If one happens to be decanted different…"

    "Yes, that's just it." The young man nodded. "If one's different, one's bound to be lonely." (8.62-7)

    It's fascinating that these menin completely different worlds, with completely different upbringings, environments, and realitieshave discovered the same universal truth.

    He held out his right hand in the moonlight. From the cut on his wrist the blood was still oozing. Every few seconds a drop fell, dark, almost colourless in the dead light. Drop, drop, drop. To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow…

    He had discovered Time and Death and God.

    "Alone, always alone," the young man was saying. (8.61-3)

    While Bernard suffers from his isolation, John has learned to use it to his advantage. It is only in times of solitude that he can embrace his individuality and explore his spirituality.

    At the full moon, in the Antelope Kiva, secrets would be told, secrets would be done and borne. They would go down, boys, into the kiva and come out again, men. The boys were all afraid and at the same time impatient. And at last it was the day. The sun went down, the moon rose. He went with the others. Men were standing, dark, at the entrance to the kiva; the ladder went down into the red lighted depths. Already the leading boys had begun to climb down. Suddenly, one of the men stepped forward, caught him by the arm, and pulled him out of the ranks. He broke free and dodged back into his place among the others. This time the man struck him, pulled his hair. "Not for you, white-hair!" "Not for the son of the she-dog," said one of the other men. The boys laughed. "Go!" And as he still hovered on the fringes of the group, "Go!" the men shouted again. One of them bent down, took a stone, threw it. "Go, go, go!" There was a shower of stones. Bleeding, he ran away into the darkness. From the red-lit kiva came the noise of singing. The last of the boys had climbed down the ladder. He was all alone. (8.60)

    John, too, suffers from Bernard's affliction: isolation. This is what first attracts the men to each other.

    Chapter 11

    "Our library," said Dr. Gaffney, "contains only books of reference. If our young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies. We don't encourage them to indulge in any solitary amusements." (11.67)

    The ban on solitude is Gaffney's reasoning for why children aren't allowed to read Shakespeare. Indeed, John too has come to associate his solitude with literature: he turned to Shakespeare to comfort himself in times of seclusion, but literature in turn set him apart from the other boys (he was the only one who knew how to read).

    Looking down through the window in the floor, the Savage could see Lenina's upturned face, pale in the bluish light of the lamps. The mouth was open, she was calling. Her foreshortened figure rushed away from him; the diminishing square of the roof seemed to be falling through the darkness. (11.114)

    The new world is such a painful experience for John because it furthers his isolation. Now he is isolated from the one person he had in the Reservation: his mother.

    Chapter 12
    Bernard Marx

    "But what were your rhymes?" Bernard asked.

    "They were about being alone."

    […]

    "Well, I gave them that as an example, and they reported me to the Principal."

    "I'm not surprised," said Bernard. "It's flatly against all their sleep-teaching. Remember, they've had at least a quarter of a million warnings against solitude." (12.52-8)

    In case you forgot that solitude was outlawed…

    Helmholtz Watson

    "Yesterday's committee,
    Sticks, but a broken drum,
    Midnight in the City,
    Flutes in a vacuum,
    Shut lips, sleeping faces,
    Every stopped machine,
    The dumb and littered places
    Where crowds have been:…
    All silences rejoice,
    Weep (loudly or low),
    Speakbut with the voice
    Of whom, I do not know.
    Absence, say, of Susan's,
    Absence of Egeria's
    Arms and respective bosoms,
    Lips and, ah, posteriors,
    Slowly form a presence;
    Whose? and, I ask, of what
    So absurd an essence,
    That something, which is not,
    Nevertheless should populate
    Empty night more solidly
    Than that with which we copulate,
    Why should it seem so squalidly?" (12.56)

    It is entirely fitting that Helmholtz's first lines of poetry are about solitudeand that they hint at a divine being ("an essence"). Just as John did on the Reservation, Helmholtz explores his spirituality while he's alone.

    Chapter 17
    John the Savage

    "But all the same," insisted the Savage, "it is natural to believe in God when you're alonequite alone, in the night, thinking about death…"

    "But people never are alone now," said Mustapha Mond. "We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it's almost impossible for them ever to have it."

    The Savage nodded gloomily. At Malpais he had suffered because they had shut him out from the communal activities of the pueblo, in civilized London he was suffering because he could never escape from those communal activities, never be quietly alone. (17.31-3)

    Which does John find worsethe state of constant isolation, or that of forced social interaction?

    Chapter 18

    But it was not alone the distance that had attracted the Savage to his lighthouse; the near was as seductive as the far. The woods, the open stretches of heather and yellow gorse, the clumps of Scotch firs, the shining ponds with their overhanging birch trees, their water lilies, their beds of rushesthese were beautiful and, to an eye accustomed to the aridities of the American desert, astonishing. And then the solitude! Whole days passed during which he never saw a human being. […] Flowers and a landscape were the only attractions here. And so, as there was no good reason for coming, nobody came. During the first days the Savage lived alone and undisturbed. (18.34)

    The text makes a big deal out of establishing that John's self-imposed suffering must take place in solitude. This is because his suffering has to do with his spirituality, a desire to be closer to God, to cleanse himself of his human sins. And as we've seen many times earlier in the novel, spirituality can only be nurtured in solitude.

  • Spirituality

    Chapter 3

    "There was a thing, as I've said before, called Christianity." 

    […]

    "The ethics and philosophy of under-consumption…"

    […]

    "So essential when there was under-production; but in an age of machines and the fixation of nitrogen—positively a crime against society." (3.200-4)

    This statement is basically a less explicit form of Mustapha's later claim that "God isn't compatible with machinery."

    "All crosses had their tops cut and became T's. There was also a thing called God."

    […]

    "We have the World State now. And Ford's Day celebrations, and Community Sings, and Solidarity Services." (3.206-8)

    Mustapha and the other World Controllers have tried to isolate what they consider the purpose of religion (comfort, community, rites) from the process of religion (suffering, questioning, striving, betterment).

    Chapter 5: Part 2

    The President stood up, made the sign of the T and, switching on the synthetic music, let loose the soft indefatigable beating of drums and a choir of instruments—near-wind and super-string—that plangently repeated and repeated the brief and unescapably haunting melody of the first Solidarity Hymn. Again, again—and it was not the ear that heard the pulsing rhythm, it was the midriff; the wail and clang of those recurring harmonies haunted, not the mind, but the yearning bowels of compassion.

    The President made another sign of the T and sat down. The service had begun. The dedicated soma tablets were placed in the centre of the table. The loving cup of strawberry ice-cream soma was passed from hand to hand and, with the formula, "I drink to my annihilation," twelve times quaffed. Then to the accompaniment of the synthetic orchestra the First Solidarity Hymn was sung. (5.2.12-3)

    Is it possible that Brave New World is a critique of Christianity? In other words, does Huxley's parody highlight the possible mindlessness of certain religious practices?

    "Orgy-porgy," the dancers caught up the liturgical refrain, "Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun, kiss the girls…" And as they sang, the lights began slowly to fade—to fade and at the same time to grow warmer, richer, redder, until at last they were dancing in the crimson twilight of an Embryo Store. "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…" Then the circle wavered, broke, fell in partial disintegration on the ring of couches which surrounded—circle enclosing circle—the table and its planetary chairs. "Orgy-porgy…" Tenderly the deep Voice crooned and cooed; in the red twilight it was as though some enormous negro dove were hovering benevolently over the now prone or supine dancers. (5.2.31)

    The red light is significant here—it reminds us of the red light in the embryo room, which means these "Solidarity Services" render participants infantile.

    Alternate Thursdays were Bernard's Solidarity Service days. After an early dinner at the Aphroditzeum (to which Helrnholtz had recently been elected under Rule Two) he took leave of his friend and, hailing a taxi on the roof told the man to fly to the Fordson Community Singery. The machine rose a couple of hundred metres, then headed eastwards, and as it turned, there before Bernard's eyes, gigantically beautiful, was the Singery. Flood-lighted, its three hundred and twenty metres of white Carrara-surrogate gleamed with a snowy incandescence over Ludgate Hill; at each of the four corners of its helicopter platform an immense T shone crimson against the night, and from the mouths of twenty-four vast golden trumpets rumbled a solemn synthetic music. (5.2.1)

    The religious implications here are clear; this is the World State's replacement for religious service. The fact that it ends up being a narcotic-filled orgy is clear evidence that spirituality has been utterly perverted in this new world.

    Chapter 7

    Lenina liked the drums. Shutting her eyes she abandoned herself to their soft repeated thunder, allowed it to invade her consciousness more and more completely, till at last there was nothing left in the world but that one deep pulse of sound. It reminded her reassuringly of the synthetic noises made at Solidarity Services and Ford's Day celebrations. "Orgy-porgy," she whispered to herself. These drums beat out just the same rhythms. (7.31)

    Lenina is trying to comfort herself here by recalling what's familiar to her, but she actually makes a rather important connection between the spiritual activities of the Savages and her own Solidarity Service back home.

    Chapter 8

    He opened the book at random.

    Nay, but to live
    In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
    Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
    Over the nasty sty…

    The strange words rolled through his mind; rumbled, like talking thunder; like the drums at the summer dances, if the drums could have spoken; like the men singing the Corn Song, beautiful, beautiful, so that you cried; like old Mitsima saying magic over his feathers and his carved sticks and his bits of bone and stone—kiathla tsilu silokwe silokwe silokwe. Kiai silu silu, tsithl—but better than Mitsima's magic, because it meant more, because it talked to him, talked wonderfully and only half-understandably, a terrible beautiful magic, about Linda; about Linda lying there snoring, with the empty cup on the floor beside the bed; about Linda and Popé, Linda and Popé. (8.40)

    And now we add Shakespeare into that mix—nothing like a little bit of impassioned fiction to complicate reality further.

    And sometimes, when he and the other children were tired with too much playing, one of the old men of the pueblo would talk to them, in those other words, of the great Transformer of the World, and of the long fight between Right Hand and Left Hand, between Wet and Dry; of Awonawilona, who made a great fog by thinking in the night, and then made the whole world out of the fog; of Earth Mother and Sky Father; of Ahaiyuta and Marsailema, the twins of War and Chance; of Jesus and Pookong; of Mary and Etsanatlehi, the woman who makes herself young again; of the Black Stone at Laguna and the Great Eagle and Our Lady of Acoma. Strange stories, all the more wonderful to him for being told in the other words and so not fully understood. Lying in bed, he would think of Heaven and London and Our Lady of Acoma and the rows and rows of babies in clean bottles and Jesus flying up and Linda flying up and the great Director of World Hatcheries and Awonawilona. (8.26)

    This is an essential paragraph in Brave New World because it really lets us into John's psyche. In his mind, there are vague or nonexistent barriers between the stories Linda tells about the civilized world, Christian dogma, and the native religion of the Indians at Malpais.

    John the Savage

    "Once," he went on, "I did something that none of the others did: I stood against a rock in the middle of the day, in summer, with my arms out, like Jesus on the Cross."

    "What on earth for?"

    "I wanted to know what it was like being crucified. Hanging there in the sun…"

    "But why?"

    "Why? Well…" He hesitated. "Because I felt I ought to. If Jesus could stand it." (8.69-73)

    Much of John's self-inflicted suffering is the product of his spiritual upbringing.

    Chapter 11

    "Partly on his interest being focused on what he calls 'the soul,' which he persists in regarding as an entity independent of the physical environment, whereas, as I tried to point out to him…" (11.34)

    While John's various spiritual sources differ in dogma or finer points, they can all agree on this: the existence of some immortal aspect of man. This is why John never wavers in his belief that self-denial is necessary; his concern is for the soul instead of the body.

    John the Savage

    A click; the room was darkened; and suddenly, on the screen above the Master's head, there were the Penitentes of Acoma prostrating themselves before Our Lady, and wailing as John had heard them wail, confessing their sins before Jesus on the Cross, before the eagle image of Pookong. The young Etonians fairly shouted with laughter. Still wailing, the Penitentes rose to their feet, stripped off their upper garments and, with knotted whips, began to beat themselves, blow after blow. Redoubled, the laughter drowned even the amplified record of their groans.

    "But why do they laugh?" asked the Savage in a pained bewilderment.

    "Why?" The Provost turned towards him a still broadly grinning face. "Why? But because it's so extraordinarily funny." (11.54-6)

    We argue in John's "Character Analysis" that he's basically like a spiritual sponge. This is a great example; he sees the Penitentes abusing themselves in the name of God, so he does the same thing to himself at the end of the novel.

    Chapter 12

    "My young friend," said the Arch-Community-Songster in a tone of loud and solemn severity; there was a general silence. "Let me give you a word of advice." He wagged his finger at Bernard. "Before it's too late. A word of good advice." (His voice became sepulchral.) "Mend your ways, my young friend, mend your ways." He made the sign of the T over him and turned away. "Lenina, my dear," he called in another tone. "Come with me." (12.34)

    We were excited to point out that the Arch-Community-Songster is like a religious figurehead—like a Cardinal, perhaps… until Huxley pointed it out himself in Chapter 17. Still, now you know.

    Chapter 13
    Lenina Crowne

    "Then why on earth didn't you say so?" she cried, and so intense was her exasperation that she drove her sharp nails into the skin of his wrist. "Instead of drivelling away about knots and vacuum cleaners and lions, and making me miserable for weeks and weeks." (13.66)

    Not only is this quote a reflection of the increasing tie between sex and violence in the novel, but it's a clear hint that John is a big-time Christ-figure. The quote also suggests that Lenina drives this aspect of his character.

    Chapter 14
    John the Savage

    "Oh, God, God, God…" the Savage kept repeating to himself. In the chaos of grief and remorse that filled his mind it was the one articulate word. "God!" he whispered it aloud. "God…" (14.55)

    John turns to God not only because of Linda's death, but also because of the reaction to her death by others around him. It is this reaction that makes him realize how inhumane this community is, how "such people" live in this "brave new world."

    Chapter 15

    "Don't take that horrible stuff. It's poison, it's poison."

    […]

    "Poison to soul as well as body." (15.20-2)

    Soma poisons the body by dulling the senses, but how does it damage the soul? One possible explanation is to look at the way the drug alters a person's identity by stripping him of choice. Most importantly, at least to John, it removes all possibility of suffering. Suffering, he believes, is the key to spiritual advancement and to being a human. In this way, soma is "poison to [the] soul."

    Chapter 17
    Mustapha Mond

    "The gods are just. No doubt. But their code of law is dictated, in the last resort, by the people who organize society; Providence takes its cue from men." (17.35)

    Again, Mustapha represents religion as a purely invented social construction used to keep people in line. Since the Controllers have hypnopaedia and soma to maintain order, religion just isn't needed.

    "One of the numerous things in heaven and earth that these philosophers didn't dream about was this" (he waved his hand), "us, the modern world. 'You can only be independent of God while you've got youth and prosperity; independence won't take you safely to the end.' Well, we've now got youth and prosperity right up to the end. What follows? Evidently, that we can be independent of God. 'The religious sentiment will compensate us for all our losses.' But there aren't any losses for us to compensate; religious sentiment is superfluous. And why should we go hunting for a substitute for youthful desires, when youthful desires never fail? A substitute for distractions, when we go on enjoying all the old fooleries to the very last? What need have we of repose when our minds and bodies continue to delight in activity? of consolation, when we have soma? of something immovable, when there is the social order?" (17.20)

    Mustapha's argument is incredibly relativistic—if God isn't needed by society, then God isn't there. He doesn't really address the terrifying possibility that God is there—and really, really angry.

    "No, I think there quite probably is [a God] […] "But he manifests himself in different ways to different men. In premodern times he manifested himself as the being that's described in these books. Now…" […] "Well, he manifests himself as an absence; as though he weren't there at all." (17.22-6)

    Ditto. (See thought above.)

    "…you know all about God, I suppose."

    "Well…" The Savage hesitated. He would have liked to say something about solitude, about night, about the mesa lying pale under the moon, about the precipice, the plunge into shadowy darkness, about death. He would have liked to speak; but there were no words. Not even in Shakespeare. (17.2-3)

    This is really the first time John is unable to wield Shakespeare as a weapon. Why? Could it be that God is the one thing he doesn't have a handle on? Maybe, but consider this: John very much ties his spirituality to his solitude. An outcast since he was young, John found God in the times he was alone. For him, spirituality is intensely personal and solitary. If he can't talk about it, it may be because it is simply not something that can be shared in words.

    "Christianity without tears—that's what soma is." (17.47)

    This is a pretty explicit summation of what was previously subtle and nuanced. Mustapha said essentially the same thing—but with less obvious didacticism—in Chapter 3.

    "We are not our own any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves, we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We are not our own masters. We are God's property. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter?" (17.20)

    Mustapha holds this passage up as an interesting view into pre-Ford religious thought. In the context of the World State, however, it's rather clear that the World Controllers have taken this sort of authoritative role upon themselves.

    John the Savage

    The Savage interrupted him. "But isn't it natural to feel there's a God?"

    "You might as well ask if it's natural to do up one's trousers with zippers," said the Controller sarcastically. […] One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons—that's philosophy. People believe in God because they've been conditioned to." (17.29-30)

    This is a great point—and it's passages like these that make some scholars believe Brave New World is a critique of any sort of religion. As readers, we rebel against the notion of hypnopaedia because it seems to us like brainwashing; but from this point of view, religious doctrine isn't too different.

    "Do you remember that bit in King Lear?" said the Savage at last. "'The gods are just and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us; the dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes,' and Edmund answers—you remember, he's wounded, he's dying—'Thou hast spoken right; 'tis true. The wheel has come full circle; I am here.' What about that now? Doesn't there seem to be a God managing things, punishing, rewarding?"

    "Well, does there?" questioned the Controller in his turn. "You can indulge in any number of pleasant vices […] and run no risks of having your eyes put out." (17.34-5)

    Mustapha refuses to take into account any conception of divine justice or the afterlife. If there are no punishments during life, in Mustapha's mind there must be no punishments at all.

    "They say that it is the fear of death and of what comes after death that makes men turn to religion as they advance in years. But my own experience has given me the conviction that, quite apart from any such terrors or imaginings, the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; […] Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses." (17.20)

    This would seem to be the way that John experiences religion; there are certain, key moments in the text where he obtains sudden resolve, where he claims sudden clarity or instantaneous revelation.

    Chapter 18

    When morning came, he felt he had earned the right to inhabit the lighthouse; yet, even though there still was glass in most of the windows, even though the view from the platform was so fine. For the very reason why he had chosen the lighthouse had become almost instantly a reason for going somewhere else. He had decided to live there because the view was so beautiful, because, from his vantage point, he seemed to be looking out on to the incarnation of a divine being. But who was he to be pampered with the daily and hourly sight of loveliness? Who was he to be living in the visible presence of God? All he deserved to live in was some filthy sty, some blind hole in the ground. Stiff and still aching after his long night of pain, but for that very reason inwardly reassured, he climbed up to the platform of his tower, he looked out over the bright sunrise world which he had regained the right to inhabit. (18.32)

    John sees God in nature more than in any other place. His religion is a very personal and solitary internalization of the institutional beliefs to which he's been exposed.

  • Society and Class

    "Reducing the number of revolutions per minute," Mr. Foster explained. "The surrogate goes round slower; therefore passes through the lung at longer intervals; therefore gives the embryo less oxygen. Nothing like oxygen-shortage for keeping an embryo below par." Again he rubbed his hands.

    […]

    "The lower the caste," said Mr. Foster, "the shorter the oxygen." The first organ affected was the brain. After that the skeleton. At seventy per cent of normal oxygen you got dwarfs. At less than seventy eyeless monsters." (1.70-4)

    Mr. Foster's calculating enthusiasm (rubbing his hands in excitement) is concentrated here with the horror of the caste system—horrible not only for its restrictive, predetermining qualities, but also for the destructive, malevolent, harmful way in which its ends are achieved.

    They hurried out of the room and returned in a minute or two, each pushing a kind of tall dumb-waiter laden, on all its four wire-netted shelves, with eight-month-old babies, all exactly alike (a Bokanovsky Group, it was evident) and all (since their caste was Delta) dressed in khaki. (2.8)

    That castes are distinguished by their clothing further dehumanizes them. To any member of a higher caste, ALL Deltas will look exactly the same.

    "… all wear green," said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, "and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."

    […]

    "Alpha children wear grey They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able…" (2.75-7)

    It's likely that the castes are kept separate for the sake of stability; this way there is no envy and no complications from intermingling. Each individual can view members of a different caste as a faceless, nameless "other."

    "Why not? Bernard's an Alpha Plus. Besides, he asked me to go to one of the Savage Reservations with him. I've always wanted to see a Savage Reservation."

    "But his reputation?"

    "What do I care about his reputation?" (3.123-5)

    Clearly the social interactions of the upper castes are a little more nuanced than a simple matter of predetermined caste status.

    The liftman was a small simian creature, dressed in the black tunic of an Epsilon-Minus Semi-Moron. (4.1.12)

    Notice how this Epsilon is compared to an animal (simian = ape-like); as the novel progresses, all the citizens of the World State—regardless of caste—are rendered similarly bestial. It takes more than intelligence, Brave New World seems to argue, to make a human a human.

    Bernard's physique was hardly better than that of the average Gamma. He stood eight centimetres short of the standard Alpha height and was slender in proportion. Contact with members of the lower castes always reminded him painfully of this physical inadequacy. "I am I, and wish I wasn't"; his self-consciousness was acute and stressing. Each time he found himself looking on the level, instead of downward, into a Delta's face, he felt humiliated. Would the creature treat him with the respect due to his caste? The question haunted him. Not without reason. For Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons had been to some extent conditioned to associate corporeal mass with social superiority. Indeed, a faint hypnopædic prejudice in favour of size was universal. (4.2.3)

    Bernard has been so indoctrinated by the rules of the caste system that he cannot get over his physical inadequacies. Of course, his height means absolutely nothing intrinsically—it is intelligence that functionally distinguishes an Alpha.

    Lenina, meanwhile, had turned her eyes away and was looking perpendicularly downwards at the monorail station. "Fine," she agreed. "But queer that Alphas and Betas won't make any more plants grow than those nasty little Gammas and Deltas and Epsilons down there."

    "All men are physio-chemically equal," said Henry sententiously. "Besides, even Epsilons perform indispensable services." (5.1.6-7)

    In a world where the individual is defined only by his contribution to society, caste has replaced all other defining characteristics.

    And I was so ashamed. Just think of it: me, a Beta—having a baby: put yourself in my place." (The mere suggestion made Lenina shudder. (7.56)

    Linda finds her experience that much more degrading because of her caste.

    It was John, then, they were all after. And as it was only through Bernard, his accredited guardian, that John could be seen, Bernard now found himself, for the first time in his life, treated not merely normally, but as a person of outstanding importance. There was no more talk of the alcohol in his blood-surrogate, no gibes at his personal appearance. Henry Foster went out of his way to be friendly; Benito Hoover made him a present of six packets of sex-hormone chewing-gum; the Assistant Predestinator came out and cadged almost abjectly for an invitation to one of Bernard's evening parties. As for the women, Bernard had only to hint at the possibility of an invitation, and he could have whichever of them he liked. (11.14)

    Notice that nothing about Bernard has changed—he is still an Alpha, he is still intelligent, he is still short, he is still physically deficient. But value, at least among Alphas and Betas, goes beyond caste divisions and factors in reputation. Bernard can't act as an Alpha until he's convinced everyone thinks of him that way.

    In the end Bernard had to slink back, diminished, to his rooms and inform the impatient assembly that the Savage would not be appearing that evening. The news was received with indignation. The men were furious at having been tricked into behaving politely to this insignificant fellow with the unsavoury reputation and the heretical opinions. The higher their position in the hierarchy, the deeper their resentment.

    "To play such a joke on me," the Arch-Songster kept repeating, "on me!" (12.16-7)

    Certain positions in the World State command more respect than others, but respect is nonetheless tied to functionally. The Arch-Songster is only "special" because he performs a special function for the World State.

    The menial staff of the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying consisted of one hundred and sixty-two Deltas divided into two Bokanovsky Groups of eighty-four red headed female and seventy-eight dark dolychocephalic male twins, respectively. At six, when their working day was over, the two Groups assembled in the vestibule of the Hospital and were served by the Deputy Sub-Bursar with their soma ration. (15.1)

    How does the soma use of the lower castes compare to that of the upper castes?

    "I was wondering," said the Savage, "why you had them at all—seeing that you can get whatever you want out of those bottles. Why don't you make everybody an Alpha Double Plus while you're about it?"

    Mustapha Mond laughed. "Because we have no wish to have our throats cut," he answered. "We believe in happiness and stability. A society of Alphas couldn't fail to be unstable and miserable. Imagine a factory staffed by Alphas—that is to say by separate and unrelated individuals of good heredity and conditioned so as to be capable (within limits) of making a free choice and assuming responsibilities. Imagine it!" he repeated. (16.40-1)

    The World Controllers have rendered the lower castes little more than machines. This is why Alphas could never do Epsilon work—it's not considered human.

    "It's an absurdity. An Alpha-decanted, Alpha-conditioned man would go mad if he had to do Epsilon Semi-Moron work—go mad, or start smashing things up. Alphas can be completely socialized—but only on condition that you make them do Alpha work. Only an Epsilon can be expected to make Epsilon sacrifices, for the good reason that for him they aren't sacrifices; they're the line of least resistance. His conditioning has laid down rails along which he's got to run. He can't help himself; he's foredoomed." (16.43)

    This sounds like the worst kind of imprisonment—Epsilons aren't even allowed (intellectually) to comprehend the fact that they are imprisoned.

    "The optimum population," said Mustapha Mond, "is modelled on the iceberg—eight-ninths below the water line, one-ninth above." (16.47)

    Mond claims that those under the water line are actually happier than those above it (or at least better off than those whose intelligence leads them to question the system). Is this true?