Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Chapters 11–12

Summary Chapters 11–12

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 Mustaph 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.

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.

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.