Summary: Chapter 7

At the Reservation, Lenina watches a community celebration. The pounding of the drums reminds her of Solidarity Services and Ford’s Day celebrations. The images of an eagle and a man on a cross are raised, and a youth walks into the center of a pile of writhing snakes. A man whips him, drawing blood until the youth collapses. Lenina is horrified.

John, a handsome blond youth in Indian dress, surprises Lenina and Bernard by speaking perfect English. He says that he wanted to be the sacrifice, but the town would not let him. He explains that his mother, Linda, came from the Other Place outside the Reservation. During a visit to the Reservation, she fell and suffered an injury, but was rescued by some Indians who found her and brought her to the village, where she has lived ever since. His father, also from the Other Place, was named Tomakin. Bernard realizes that “Tomakin” is actually Thomas, the Director, but says nothing for the moment.

John introduces Lenina and Bernard to his mother, Linda. Wrinkled, overweight, and missing teeth, she disgusts Lenina. Linda explains that John was born because something went wrong with her contraceptives. She could not get an abortion on the Reservation and felt too ashamed to go back to the World State with a baby. Linda explains that, after starting her new life in the Indian village, she followed all her conditioning and slept with any man she pleased, but some women beat her for taking their men to bed.

Summary: Chapter 8

John tells Bernard that he grew up listening to Linda’s fabulous stories about the Other Place. But he also felt isolated and rejected, partly because his mother slept with so many men and partly because the people of the village never accepted him. Linda took a lover, Popé, who brought her an alcoholic drink called mescal. She began drinking heavily. Meanwhile, despite being forbidden from taking part in the Indian’s rituals, John absorbed the culture around him. Linda taught him to read, at first by drawing on the wall and later using a guide for Beta Embryo-Store Workers that she had happened to bring with her. He asked her questions about the World State, but she could tell him very little about how it worked. One day, Popé brought The Complete Works of Shakespeare to Linda’s house. John read it avidly until he could quote passages by heart. The plays gave voice to all of his repressed emotions.

Bernard asks John if he would like to go to London with him. He has an ulterior motive that he keeps to himself: he wants to embarrass the Director by exposing him as John’s father. John accepts the proposal, but he insists that Linda be allowed to go with him. Bernard promises to seek permission to take both of them. John quotes a line from The Tempest to express his feelings of joy at finally getting to see the Other World that he had heard about as a child: “O brave new world that has such people in it.” Blushing, he asks if Bernard is married to Lenina. Bernard laughs and tells him that he certainly is not. He also cautions John to wait until he sees the World State before he becomes enraptured with it.

Analysis: Chapters 7 & 8

These chapters contain a crucial plot development: the meeting of Bernard and John. John is an outcast who has always dreamed of living in the World State; Bernard is a World State misfit who is looking for some way to fit in. Their meeting sets in motion a chain of events that produces shattering consequences for both of them.

Read more about the development of the plot.

Huxley uses a literary device called a flashback to bring Bernard, and the reader, up to date on John’s background. This device allows Huxley to present a collage of images from John’s childhood that would otherwise fit awkwardly into the overall structure of the narrative. If the narrative had been presented in strict chronological order, John and Linda’s story would have been told first. Coming in the middle of the novel, it has a greater impact because the reader already knows about the vast differences between World State and Reservation culture. Linda’s failure to fit in on the Reservation, and John’s confused upbringing, only make sense within the context that has already been provided.

Linda’s experiences on the Reservation, as described by herself and by John, demonstrate the extent to which the World State citizens are dependent upon “civilization”—that is, on a life that is completely structured by the state. On the Reservation, she is practically helpless: she does not know how to mend clothing, cook, or clean, and the very idea of taking care of a child horrifies her. She turns to mescal as a poor substitute for soma, which until then had been her only method for dealing with unpleasant situations.

John is a cultural hybrid, absorbing both his mother’s culture and that of the Indians on the Reservation. But he is also culturally adrift. The Reservation’s community does not accept him, and Linda’s Other Place is a distant world he only hears about in stories. So he turns to Shakespeare in his isolation and absorbs a third cultural value system.

Read more about Shakespeare as a motif.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest provides an important parallel to Brave New World, and the two texts relate to one another on many levels. In the play, Prospero and his daughter Miranda are exiled to an island because Prospero’s brother betrayed him in order to gain political power. The only inhabitant on the Island is a native, Caliban, to whose deceased mother the island had belonged. Prospero usurps control of the island and decides to raise Caliban as a slave because he pities him and intends to civilize him. Shakespeare deftly portrays Caliban as an angry, violent figure, who could easily be interpreted as less than human, ruled by bestial appetites rather than higher instincts. When a ship arrives on the island, two of the stewards introduce Caliban to liquor, and liquor becomes Caliban’s “God.” Yet Shakespeare also manages to imbue Caliban with all the complexities of the colonized individual. Caliban may be angry and violent, but he has been oppressed by Prospero. Caliban becomes enthralled by liquor and sees it as a god, but he has never seen alcohol before, and the effects of becoming drunk must be staggering to him. Prospero purports to help Caliban by “civilizing” him, but Caliban resents Prospero for the theft of his home. Prospero views Caliban’s resentment as unfounded and as evidence of his bestial nature, and this prompts him to treat Caliban even more harshly. Caliban responds with violent action that only increases Prospero’s belief that Caliban is an animal. In The Tempest, Caliban is both “savage” and a “Noble Savage,” he is utterly displaced in every community, just as John is on the Reservation, and will come to be in the World State.

Read a plot summary of The Tempest.

Both The Tempest and Brave New World can be interpreted as allegories of colonization. Prospero decides to raise Caliban and “civilize” him in the same way that European colonials attempted to “civilize” the African, Asian, and Native American cultures with which they came into contact. For British and other European colonizers, civilizing the savages was a process of replacing native cultures and languages with the culture and language of the colonizer. The colonizers effectively separated colonized peoples from their own history and culture, making it more difficult for the latter to rebel against the newly implanted culture that had become their own. The entire World State is built on just such a premise, effacing the past and all its cultural legacies. The World State, in a sense, has colonized everyone.

Read more about Brave New World as a dystopian novel.