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Brave New World is written in a detailed, unemotional style, making the technologies seem plausible and the characters pitiful. Though the majority of the plot centers on a handful of characters, the book opens with an extended explanation of the hatching and fertilizing processes of the World State, with little description of the characters themselves. The director, who describes the world we are about to enter, remains a vague figure himself: “Old? Young?...It was hard to say…it didn’t occur to you to ask it.” Huxley rarely includes physical descriptions of characters, reinforcing their interchangeability and lack of personal identity. When he does detail what a character looks like, their appearance is usually unappealing: Bernard is short, slight, and unattractive; Lenina has purple eyes and gums, and Linda is “monstrous.” This detached, slightly repulsed style of description makes the characters seem pathetic, and undermines the sense of World State as a pleasant place to live.

Huxley jumps between scenes and repeats phrases to highlight the contrast between what characters might think if they had free will, and what they are conditioned to think by the World State. In the early chapters he juxtaposes scenes of Lenina and Fanny discussing their sex lives with short phrases describing the history of New World and its scientific advancements. This reminds the reader that World State, despite appearing a monolith of progress, is made of up of individuals who still bear some relationship to real people. Huxley also includes many of the programmatic phrases the citizens of New World heard in their sleep, a process called hypnopædia. Sayings like “a gramme is better than a damn,” “ending is better than mending,” and the song lyrics “hug me till you drug me, honey” are repeated throughout the book, mimicking the way these slogans work their way into characters’ brains. The phrases have a sing-song quality to them reminiscent of the childhood rhymes that readers already know. The softening of otherwise sinister concepts like brainwashing and genetic engineering is perhaps best seen in the phrase “orgy-porgy,” which Huxley invents to describe a literal orgy that combines religious worship with sexual promiscuity.

The novel also contains many references to Shakespeare, including quotes from several plays, likening the futuristic concerns of the book’s characters and the timeless human struggles depicted by Shakespeare centuries ago. The novel takes its title from the line in The Tempest where Miranda, who has been sheltered from other humans, says, “O brave new world, that has such people in it!” Huxley modeled Brave New World on The Tempest, and quotes the play throughout the book, as well as Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello. At one point John reads Shakespeare’s poem “The Phoenix and the Turtle” to Helmholtz, who despairs of writing poetry with actual meaning and emotion. The many references to Shakespeare serve to underscore the meaninglessness of language to convey actual emotion in World State. The words and phrases of World State are propaganda, in that they contain no actual truth, and are tools of repression rather than enlightenment. Shakespeare, on other hand, represents the highest potential of communicating the human experience. Bernard cannot tell the difference between Shakespeare and New World jargon – “It’s just a solidarity service hymn,” he says, after John recites the poem – marking him as less sensitive to his own humanity than either John or Helmholtz.

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Brave New World

Brave New World (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)