In the futuristic dystopia of Brave New World, "history is bunk," literature is outlawed, and the only serious writing is the sleep-teachings used to condition children to function as ideal members of society. Two characters in particular try to reject this: John and Hemholtz. John introduces Hemholtz to Shakespeare, where he finds the means to express his own passions. Literature becomes a means of finding the self, of rebelling against conformity, and of seeking both truth and beauty, even at the cost of ignorant bliss. So next time your English teacher tries to make you read more often, just remember—without books, the world would be a very scary place.
Questions About Literature and Writing
What is the difference between the way John looks at Shakespeare and the way Helmholtz does? Can Helmholtz ever overcome the limitations of his conditioning to appreciate the works as John does?
Helmholtz claims that beautiful, passionate prose can only be written if it focuses on beautiful and passionate subject matter. Is this true?
Helmholtz wants to write about something passionate, but he laughs at the intense emotions in Romeo and Juliet. He seeks some big, important subject matter that he hasn't been conditioned to undervalue. Does anything like this exist, or is he doomed?
Chew on This
Both John and Helmholtz are so marred by their upbringing that neither can understand the full scope of Shakespeare.