Study Guide

Brave New World Chapter 13

By Aldous Huxley

Chapter 13

  • At work, Henry Foster invites Lenina to a feely.
  • When she refuses the invitation, he's eager to know who she's having sex with instead of him (he puts it a little more delicately than that). Not because he's jealous, but because it's fun to know who is sleeping with whom.
  • Lenina responds that she's not going out with anyone else that night. Foster hopes she's not ill and suggests that perhaps she needs a Violent Passion Surrogate.
  • Lenina tells him to shut up. She gets so flustered that she blunders her lab work. She isn't sure whether or not she's given one particular bottle its vaccination for sleeping sickness. She decides not to risk dosing it a second time and moves to the next.
  • "Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days" later, a young Alpha-Minus in Tanzania will die of sleeping sickness—the first case in fifty years.
  • Later, in the Changing Room, Fanny can't believe that Lenina would be so worked up over one man (that would be John).
  • Lenina responds that she's tried "dozens" of other men to get over him, but it's not working. The girl needs some John-love now.
  • Fanny suggests that she just go over there and rape John.
  • We're not kidding. She says to "take him" "whether he wants it or no."
  • They finally conclude that Lenina should throw herself brazenly at the man, although she has to take half a gram of soma to give herself the courage.
  • So John is sitting around, the picture of innocent virginity, waiting for Helmholtz to come over so they can talk about his burning (and also very virginal) love for Lenina, when the woman in question shows up.
  • Lenina marches right in. John mumbles around about how he's trying to do something worthy of her. On the Reservation, he explains, they used to kill mountain lions with their bare hands, and other stuff in that vein, but since there aren't any mountain lions around London, he thought that maybe he could do something else, like clean her carpet.
  • Lenina explains that there are vacuum cleaners for such purposes. Besides, she wants sex with him now, worthy or not.
  • Finally he just tells her that he loves her and then starts talking about marriage, which totally freaks out Lenina. Even worse, he quotes some Shakespeare (The Tempest) about how you shouldn't go breaking any virgin knots before marriage. The idea of "knots" further confuses Lenina, who isn't one for metaphors.
  • She grabs John's wrist and asks if he loves her. When he says yes, Lenina, in a frenzy of S&M and religious symbolism, "[drives] her sharp nails into the skin of his wrist." She says if she didn't like John so much, she'd be furious with him (presumably for getting her all hot and bothered like this).
  • Then she throws herself at him. While they are making out, John can't help but remember the feely Three Weeks in a Helicopter.
  • John protests, and Lenina un-plasters herself from his body. He thinks she got the message, that is, until she starts stripping.
  • John awkwardly stands around and quotes some more Shakespeare while Lenina takes off her panties.
  • Anyway, they're not called panties in the civilized world; they're "zippicamiknicks." All of her clothing, we note, has zippers (all the easier for taking off).
  • John is just about paralyzed by the time Lenina gets her (naked) arms around him while singing a sexy, hypnotizing ditty.
  • He resorts to the only action left to him: grabbing her by the wrist, forcibly tearing her off him, and calling her an "impudent strumpet" (a Shakespearean term for "whore," although he also calls her that directly, lest there be any ambiguity).
  • Lenina runs to the bathroom, but not before taking a slap from John. She quickly locks herself in behind the closed door.
  • Outside the bathroom door, John spews some more Shakespeare —this time, lines from King Lear about how birds and insects have sex shamelessly in front of man's eyes.
  • But then he just goes back to calling her a whore, via Othello.
  • Lenina calls out that it would be kind of nice if maybe he could hand over her clothes. John tries to open the door to do so, but she refuses. Instead, she tells him to push them through the ventilator.
  • While Lenina dresses in the bathroom and wonders how long this ridiculous scene is going to continue, John paces up and down the room, still calling her a whore, until the phone rings.
  • We only hear one side of the conversation, but it becomes clear that "she" is ill (we're thinking John's mother), so he rushes out.
  • Lenina realizes that it's now safe to leave the bathroom, but she's still flustered.