Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Chapters 13–15

Summary Chapters 13–15

The uncomprehending faces of the Delta workers infuriate John. He throws the soma rations out a window. The Deltas rush at him in fury. Helmholtz, who has just arrived, jumps into the fray to help defend John. Bernard hesitates. He knows John and Helmholtz might be killed if he doesn’t help, but he is afraid of being killed while trying to help them. He feels shame at his indecision. The police arrive, spraying soma vapor and a powerful anesthetic. Meanwhile, a recorded voice asks why the rioters are not happy together. Before long, the Deltas are crying, kissing one another, and apologizing. Their soma rations are quickly restored. The police ask Helmholtz and John to come quietly. Bernard tries to slip out the door unobserved, but is caught before he can escape.

Analysis: Chapters 13–15

The dramatic riot incited by John is the climax of the novel. John’s growing revulsion against everything in the World State finally propels him into a direct confrontation with it, and the authorities are forced to intervene. The events that immediately precede the riot reveal the conflicting forces that culminate in John’s outburst.

John’s struggle with his physical desires, first introduced on the Reservation, continues when Lenina tries to seduce him. He insists on seeing Lenina as a pure, virginal woman, possessed of complete sexual modesty. To John, Lenina is only an abstract rendering of all the virtuous women he has read about in Shakespeare’s works. He struggles with the physical side of sexuality to the point that he wants to repress it entirely. When Lenina makes a pass at him, he calls her a whore for breaking the rules of a moral code she is not even aware of. “Whore” is the only other category that he has to understand Lenina. It is significant that when he locks himself away from Lenina, he chooses to read Othello, a play about the doomed relationship between a black African man and a white Venetian woman. Like John, Othello veers between the extremes of perceiving his beloved as a chaste statue and as a whore. It is this misperception that leads Othello to slaughter his wife, not an incompatibility between their two cultures.

John’s experience in the Hospital for the Dying demonstrates the dehumanizing logic that the World State applies to death experience. Any tolerance he might once have felt for the practices and people of the World State disappears. He thinks of the Bokanovsky twins as maggots who defile his grieving process. Unfortunately for John, his mother is no help. Drugged on soma, she mistakes him for Popé. John’s fury and agony reflects the growing anguish he experiences when he is not recognized in the World State, even by his own mother. The society of the World State names him “the Savage,” associating him with a set of stereotypical characteristics. When John visits Eton, he watches a group of children laughing at “savages” on a Reservation performing ceremonial self-flagellation purification rituals. He sees himself reflected in their laughter as a curious, comedic spectacle, not as a human being. Bernard uses John as a curious specimen of “savagery” to attract important people into his own social circle. Helmholtz’s laughter at Romeo and Juliet makes John recognize that his struggle with his physical attraction for Lenina is a comedic, offensive spectacle even for one of the World State’s few nonconformists. Worse yet is the fact that he considers Helmholtz a friend with whom he can discuss his feelings for Lenina. The end result of all these separate episodes is that John acknowledges that he, as an individual, cannot exist within World State society. He is forced either to be a stereotyped representative of “the savage” or to succumb to the warped morals of the World State.

John’s attempt to stir the Delta workers into rebellion by throwing away their soma symbolizes his struggle against happiness as the ultimate goal. John would rather see truth and real human relationships—even painful ones—than the near-slavery of soma. His own mother’s death by soma is also a contributing factor. Linda and the Deltas use soma to escape all pain and responsibility. This makes them become infantile, something that John points out when he asks the Deltas why they want to be “babies . . . mewling and puking.” John’s outcry describes the essential logic that produces the “stability” that the World State loves so much. The vast majority of World State citizens remain childlike their whole lives through the use of conditioning, social reinforcement, and soma.

Helmholtz throws himself into the fray when he and Bernard arrive at the hospital, but Bernard hesitates. His hesitation is caused by the conflict between his desire to fit into the World State social machine and his desire to change the way it works. He fears associating himself with the nonconforming blasphemy of John’s revolutionary cry and Helmholtz’s support of John’s actions. Bernard knows that his participation will forever mark him as a dangerous subversive.