Brave New World

by: Aldous Huxley

Protagonist

Brave New World has two protagonists. From the beginning of the novel until Bernard’s visit to the Reservation, Bernard Marx is the protagonist. Bernard is an outsider in the World State. He is physically small, “eight centimeters short of the standard Alpha height,” which means that people make fun of him. Because he is an outsider, he feels unique. This sets him at odds with the society of the World State, where everyone is supposed to feel the same as everyone else. Bernard values his individuality, and he wants to feel even more individual: “as though I were more me.” Bernard’s quest for autonomy and self-agency puts the plot in motion, as he decides to visit the Savage Reservation. Everything that happens in the book following his visit to the Reservation is a result of his decision. The most significant result of this decision is that Bernard brings John to the World State. From this point onward, Bernard’s story becomes secondary to John’s. Bernard continues to feel like an individual, but he stops pursuing greater individuality. Bernard’s association with John “the Savage” makes him famous and popular. He starts to see himself as less of an outsider.

From Chapter 8 until the end of the novel, John is the story’s protagonist. John is the ultimate outsider in the World State, because he grew up on the Savage Reservation, where none of the World State’s technologies or forms of social control have been introduced. John believes the purpose of life is not to be happy but to seek truth. He is disgusted by the World State, where everything is set up to make people happy and no one is allowed to seek truth and meaning. He has a series of conflicts with the World State and its values. He is upset when Helmholtz laughs at Shakespeare. He refuses to come to Bernard’s parties and he is horrified when Lenina tries to seduce him. When he finds that his mother has taken so much soma that she doesn’t know she is dying, John finally snaps. He throws away the hospital workers’ soma supply because, he says, it makes the citizens of the World State “slaves.” At the end of the novel the Controller, Mustapha Mond, allows John to live however he chooses. John chooses to seek truth through ritual self-punishment, but he fails in his search and gives into the temptations of pleasure. After taking part in an orgy, he kills himself.