Summary: Chapter 11

The Director resigns in disgrace, and Bernard is able to keep his job. John, known as “the Savage,” becomes an instant society hit. Linda takes soma continually and falls into a half-awake, half-asleep state of intoxication. Bernard experiences unprecedented popularity as John’s appointed guardian. He boasts about his thriving sex life to Helmholtz, but Helmholtz responds only with a gloomy silence that offends Bernard. Bernard decides to stop speaking to him. He shamelessly parades his unorthodox behavior, thinking that his popularity as the Savage’s discoverer and guardian will protect him. He writes Mond to tell him that John finds “civilized infantility” too easy. Bernard says he agrees with John’s verdict. Mond, reading the heretical letter, thinks he might have to teach Bernard a lesson.

The sight of dozens of identical twins in a factory sickens John. With bitter irony, he echoes Shakespeare’s line, “O brave new world that has such people in it.” He refuses to take soma and visits his mother often. He visits Eton where Alpha children laugh at a film of “savages” beating themselves with whips on a Reservation.

Lenina likes John but cannot tell if he likes her. She takes him to a feely, entitled Three Weeks in a Helicopter, that tells the story of a black man who kidnaps a blond Beta-Plus woman for his own enjoyment. John hates the movie, but it reinvigorates his passion for Lenina. His shame at his physical desire overwhelms him. To Lenina’s bewilderment, John refuses to have sex with her. He locks himself in his room and reads Shakespeare’s Othello. Lenina returns to her room and takes soma.

Summary: Chapter 12

Bernard arranges a large party of important people, promising them a chance to meet the Savage. But when they arrive, John refuses to leave his room. Bernard is humiliated and embarrassed as all of his guests, including the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury, leave in contempt. Lenina is disappointed that she cannot see John again to find out why he behaved so strangely after the feely. The Arch-Community-Songster warns Bernard that he should be more careful in his criticisms of the World State.

Bernard sinks back into his former melancholia now that his newfound success has evaporated. He makes John his scapegoat. Bernard is simultaneously grateful and resentful that Helmholtz gives him the friendship he needs without criticizing him for his earlier unfriendliness. Helmholtz has gotten himself into trouble for reading some unorthodox rhymes to his students at the college. But he is excited to have finally found a voice of his own.

John and Helmholtz meet, and they take to one another right away. Bernard is jealous of their affection for one another and wishes he had never brought them together. He takes soma to escape his feelings. John reads passages from Shakespeare to Helmholtz. The poetry enraptures Helmholtz, but when John reads a passage from Romeo and Juliet about Juliet’s parents trying to persuade her to marry Paris, Helmholtz bursts into laughter. The absurdity of having a mother and father is not the only thing that he finds funny; the fact that anyone would make a fuss over which man a girl should have is even funnier. John locks his book away because Helmholtz’s laughter insults and wounds him.

Analysis: Chapters 11 & 12

In this section, John gets a thorough introduction to World State society, which, for the most part, disgusts him. He perceives the culture of the World State to be superficial, inhumane, and immoral.

The relationship between John and Bernard dramatizes the major themes of The Tempest. John, who originally believed he would play the part of Miranda, learning to love the new world revealed to him, becomes known as “the Savage” and takes on a role similar to Caliban’s; Bernard, by exposing John to civilization and expecting that to win John’s everlasting gratitude, plays Prospero to John’s Caliban.

The fate of John’s mother, Linda, demonstrates what Mustapha Mond meant in suggesting that truth and happiness are incompatible. Everyone but John is content to allow Linda to abuse soma, even though they know it will kill her within a month or two. The doctor’s explanation to John demonstrates the World State’s callous attitude that human beings are things that should be “used up until they wear out.” Just as with manufactured goods, when people get old and worn out, they become disposable. Linda goes on permanent soma-holiday, living out the short remainder of her life in a blissful haze of hallucinations and fantasies.

Read important quotes about soma.

Bernard’s personal reasons for allowing Linda to succumb to soma are even more unpleasant. Everyone in London clamors to see John, but they are equally determined not to see Linda. With Linda safely out of the way, Bernard is free to use John for his own purposes. Through his exploitation of John, Bernard demonstrates that his previous dissatisfaction with the World State had merely stemmed from his desire to enjoy more of its privileges, rather than from any true desire to live as an “adult” (which is how he had presented the matter to Lenina on their first date). When he becomes successful and begins to enjoy the benefits of his Alpha status, he even drops his friendship with Helmholtz, a nonconformist with an increasingly bad reputation. Helmholtz threatens Bernard’s newfound success.

Read an in-depth analysis of Bernard.

The feely that John attends with Lenina involves some old racist stereotypes, but it is quite complicated in its irony. It begins with a scene in which a “gigantic negro” copulates with a blonde woman. This scene in itself would be highly shocking and taboo to Huxley’s white, middle-class, early-twentieth-century audience, but so far the feely-goers find it perfectly conventional. They even marvel at the realistic special effects. What the audience within the book finds shocking is when the black man, following a blow to the head that erases his conditioning, kidnaps the blonde for a monogamous three-week sexscapade in a helicopter. It’s shocking to them because of the monogamy. Finally, three Alpha males rescue her, and order is restored.

This scene reminds the reader of a feature of movies that is even older than Huxley’s novel. Theatergoers love to watch characters in movies transgress against the rules that the viewers themselves have to abide by. This vicarious enjoyment is given a thin veneer of respectability through a decorous ending that restores the status quo. But the fact remains that the audience enjoys fantasizing about the transgression. In part, this whole scene is Huxley’s joke, but it is also possible that monogamy is not as unusual a fantasy in the World State as we have been led to believe.

Read more about sex as a motif.

The scene in which John reads Romeo and Juliet demonstrates the power of conditioning. Even though Helmholtz is fairly unorthodox, he is still a product of World State conditioning. He appreciates the artistic value of Shakespeare’s language, but he does not appreciate the drama of Juliet’s parents trying to convince her to marry Paris. Because John identifies his desire for Lenina with the love between Romeo and Juliet, Helmholtz’s laughter insults both his cultural values and his own innermost feelings. But Helmholtz cannot help it; the situations and emotions expressed in the play mean something very different to him than they do to John.