Summary: Chapter 4
When Lenina tells Bernard in front of a big group of coworkers that she accepts his invitation to see the Savage Reservation, Bernard reacts with embarrassment. His suggestion that they discuss it privately confuses Lenina. She saunters off to meet Henry. Bernard feels terrible because Lenina behaved like a “healthy and virtuous English girl”—that is, someone unafraid of discussing her sexual life in public. When the genial Benito Hoover strikes up a conversation, Bernard rushes away. Lenina and Henry fly off on their date in Henry’s helicopter and look down upon their world in perfect contentment.
Ordering a pair of Delta-Minus attendants to get his helicopter ready for flight, Bernard betrays his insecurity about his size. The lower castes associate larger size with higher status, so he has trouble getting them to follow his orders. Bernard contemplates his feelings of alienation and becomes irritable. He visits his friend, Helmholtz Watson, a lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering. Helmholtz is an extremely intelligent, attractive, and properly sized Alpha Plus who works in propaganda. Some of Helmholtz’s superiors think he is a little too smart for his own good. The narrator agrees with them, noting that “a mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect.” The friendship between Bernard and Helmholtz springs from their mutual dissatisfaction with the status quo and their shared inclination to view themselves as individuals. Once together, Bernard boasts that Lenina has accepted his invitation, but Helmholtz shows little interest. Helmholtz is preoccupied with the thought that his writing talent could be better used than simply for writing hypnopaedic phrases. His work leaves him feeling empty and unfulfilled. Bernard becomes nervous, jumping up at one point because he thinks, wrongly, that someone is listening at the door.
Summary: Chapter 5
After a game of Obstacle Golf, Henry and Lenina fly in a helicopter over a crematorium where phosphorous is collected from burning bodies for fertilizer. They drink coffee with soma before heading off to the Westminster Abbey Cabaret. They take another soma dose before they return to Henry’s apartment. Although the repeated doses of soma have made them almost completely oblivious to the world around them, Lenina remembers to use her contraceptives.
Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One.
Boys at one with girls at peace;
Orgy-porgy gives release.
Every other Thursday, Bernard has to take part in Solidarity Service at the Fordson Community Singery. The participants sit twelve to a table, alternating men and women. While a rousing hymn plays, the participants pass a cup of strawberry ice cream soma and take a soma tablet with it. They work themselves into a frenzy of exultation and the ceremony ends in a sex orgy that leaves Bernard feeling more isolated than ever.
Summary: Chapter 6
Lenina convinces Bernard to attend a wrestling match. He behaves gloomily the entire afternoon and, despite Lenina’s urging, refuses to take soma. During the return trip, he stops his helicopter and hovers over the Channel. She begs him to take her away from the rushing emptiness of the water after he tells her that the silence makes him feel like an individual. Eventually, he takes a large dose of soma and has sex with her.
The next day, Bernard tells Lenina that he did not really want to have sex with her the first night; he would have preferred to act like an adult instead. Then he goes to get the Director’s permission to visit the Reservation. He braces himself for the Director’s disapproval of his unusual behavior. When the Director presents the permit, he mentions that he took a trip there with a woman twenty years before. She was lost during a storm and has not been seen since. When Bernard says that he must have suffered a terrible shock, the Director immediately realizes that he has been revealing too much of his personal life. He criticizes Bernard for his antisocial behavior and threatens to exile him to Iceland if his impropriety persists. Bernard leaves the office feeling proud of being considered a rebel.
A gramme in time saves nine . . . One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments . . . Everybody’s happy nowadays . . .
Lenina and Bernard travel to the Reservation. When they present themselves to the Warden to get his signature on the permit, he launches into a long series of facts about the place. Bernard suddenly remembers that he left the scent tap on at his apartment, an oversight that could end up being extremely expensive. He endures the Warden’s seemingly endless speech and then hurries to phone Helmholtz to ask him to turn off the tap for him. Helmholtz has bad news: he tells Bernard that the Director is planning to carry out his threat of exiling him to Iceland. Bernard is no longer proud and rebellious now that the Director’s threat has become a reality. Instead, the news crushes and frightens him. Lenina persuades him to take soma.
Analysis: Chapters 4–6
Bernard’s role as the protagonist—a role that John will later take over—continues in this section. Increasingly, he appears less like a political rebel and more like a social misfit who believes that changing society is the only way for him to fit in. His conversations with Helmholtz reveal that he is boastful of his liaison with Lenina, afraid of being caught criticizing the World State, and subservient to Helmholtz when it comes to matters of real rebellion. Bernard is a paradoxical character, at one moment lusting after Lenina and at the next hoping that he will have the strength to resist her advances.
Helmholtz, whom we meet for the first time in this section, has the exact opposite of Bernard’s problem. Whereas Bernard is too small and strange for his caste, Helmholtz is, if anything, too perfect. His success with women, in his career, and in every other aspect of his life has led him to believe that there must be something more to life than high-tech sports, easy sex, and repetitive slogans. He talks to Bernard because Bernard shares his dislike for the system, but he is aware that Bernard’s dislike has a different basis than his own.
The setting of these chapters changes rapidly: from the workplace to Helmholtz’s apartment; from Henry’s helicopter to Westminster Abbey Cabaret to a crematorium; from Bernard’s apartment to the Community Singery; and so on. Some of the scene-shifting is simply used to flesh out a day in the life of a World State member. Lenina and Henry’s visit to the Westminster Abbey Cabaret is a blunt joke about the uses to which the World State puts ancient religious sites.
Every one works for every one else. We can’t do without any one. Even Epsilons are useful. We couldn’t do without Epsilons.
As Henry and Lenina contemplate the crematorium, they come close to acknowledging that the caste system may be less than perfect. But then Lenina, troubled and disliking, retreats to one of her stock hypnopaedic phrases, regains her happiness, and the crisis is over. Once again, she is happy to be in her caste and disdainful of those in other castes. This episode, made possible by the setting of a helicopter trip past a crematorium, shows how conditioning can keep the population from questioning the assumptions of the state in which they live. The biggest change in setting is from the World State to the Reservation, though a detailed description of the Reservation is held until the next section.
Although the World State most obviously controls its members by conditioning them and gratifying their desires, there are hints that stability is maintained through methods that are still more sinister. Bernard’s sudden fear that someone is listening to his heretical conversation with Helmholtz suggests a totalitarian aspect of the World State. Outside work hours, World State citizens attend strictly regulated, scheduled social activities and never spend any time alone. The lack of time for reflection keeps them occupied and docile. Bernard’s fear shows that he is aware of the unwritten but potentially serious consequences of his heretical beliefs.