“Brave New World” is a 1932 novel written by Aldous Huxley. The novel is one of the first and most well known Sci-Fi/Dystopian tales in history and often compared to George Orwell’s “1984” which was released seventeen years later. Upon ‘Brave New Worlds’ release, critical reviews were mixed, with some critics lauding it as being remarkable and accomplished while in other circles it was banned for supposedly being anti-family and anti-religion.
The book is the story of a possible future set in London in the year AF 632 (AD 2540 by our standards of time measurement). In the book the world as we know it has transformed and become something known as The World State. The World State is a dictatorship, mostly humanitarian and kind, the State worships the historical figure Henry Ford (creator of the Model T car) and is run by ten different World Controllers. Through various means of artificial reproduction, the State has controlled the world’s population and encouraged all citizens to embrace their station in one of five different castes. Each caste is ranked from one to five with a letter from the Greek alphabet, ranging from the highest, Alpha which consists of children who are to become world leaders and great thinkers of the State down to Epsilon who are created to perform menial jobs and hard labor. The castes are each grown in a place called the Hatchery and conditioned with subconscious messages and brainwashing as children.
The main plot of the novel revolves around Lenina Crowne, a hatchery worker and Bernard Marx a psychologist working the top level of the factory.
Bernard is a non-conformist, a man who disagrees with what the factory is doing and, against his better interests is very vocal about his opinions. Lenina is more socially accepted and respectful of her work. The two decide to go on a holiday together to a Savage reservation in New Mexico, where the State sends the outlying members of its castes. There they meet a young man named John who was born from a woman and raised outside of a hatchery. John tells the pair that he is eager to see the world and asks that they take him back to The World State. When they get back, John is treated as a pseudo-celebrity because of his natural birth and Bernard becomes something of a de facto handler.
Soon though, the relationship between the two men begins to suffer and John is revealed to be a bit of a loose cannon and underdeveloped emotionally. When the men are brought before the leader of their society to answer for their actions, they must beg for forgiveness or be exiled forever.
The novel begins in the fictional future year A.F. 632 in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The Director of Hatcheries is giving a group of young students a tour of the factory. Through his lesson to them, we learn that in this world human beings are no longer born but created from artificial fertilization of surgically removed ovaries. Hatcheries not only produce one hundred percent of the world’s offspring, but also raise and condition them for placement in one of five castes the World State, the worldwide government of the time. The five castes are named after five letters in the Greek Alphabet and run like so: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon with Alpha embryos destined to become world leaders and so on until Epsilon embryos are put through a process that divides them into 96 cloned human beings per egg who are destined to carry out hard labor and menial work.
The Director explains a process he calls Podsnap’s technique which super speeds the maturation of eggs within an ovary. By using this method, he says hundreds of children can be created from the ova and sperm of the same man and woman within the short period of just two years. The students are told by another employee of the plant, man named Henry Foster, that the record number of siblings created from two parents for this plant is 16,000. After fertilization, the embryos are placed into specially made bottles and put on a conveyor belt for 267 days, the average gestation period. On the last day they are “decanted” and considered alive. While in their bottles, the fetuses undergo different treatment depending on the level of caste they are to be assigned to. For fetuses in the lowest three castes, oxygen deprivation and alcohol treatment are employed to lower their intelligence once they are born. For fetuses destined to work in hotter climates, a heat treatment is provided. Seventy percent of female fetuses are sterilized and known as “freemartins”.
After showing the students the conveyor belt, The Director introduces them to a woman named Lenina Crowne whose job is to provide immunizations to all of the fetuses set to work in the tropics. Henry Foster chooses that moment to remind Lenina of their date that afternoon which the Director finds amusing.
Next, the students visit the nurseries or as their called in the Hatchery: “Infant Nurseries and Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms”. This is where the Hatchery trains and conditions babies in their likes and dislikes according to their castes. As the students watch a group of babies in the khaki-colored wardrobe of the Delta caste eagerly crawl toward nurses who are holding out books and flowers only to be rebuffed by the sound of a loud alarm and a mild electric shock. The Director explains that after about 200 repetitions of this the babies will come to hate the sight of books and pretty things and as they grow, they will know not to waste societies time with fanciful notions of wanting to read books and engage in anything creative.
The Director tells a story of a boy named Reuben who has Polish parents. As he begins the story, the students blush at the mere mention of the word “parents”. In the World State, words like “parents” and “mother and father” are no longer used and have taken on a pornographic meaning. Shushing them, the Director continues telling his story. He says that Reuben’s parents once left the radio on in his room while he slept and when the child woke up, he was reciting a speech by George Bernard Shaw verbatim. When the parents took the child to a doctor he informed the press and this incident led to the discovery of something called Hypnopaedia, which is a form of teaching a child something while they are asleep. The Director relates this event to the creation of the first Model T car, saying it came only 23 years later. As he says this he makes the sign of a “T” on his stomach and the students repeat the gesture reverently. Keen on showing the students what Hypnopaedic learning really is, the Director then takes them to an elementary level class where the students are all asleep while a recorded voice whispers to them about the disparity between the castes.
After this the Director leads the students to a garden full of several hundred naked children. He explains that the children are encouraged to play together in games involving complicated machines and even erotic play. The Director says that the erotic games are played to lesson the stigma around sex for the children and lesson the effects of the once heavy role of sexual repression in their society.
When he is busy explaining this a man interrupts him. The Director is pleased to see the man and introduces him as “his Fordship” Mustapha Mond.
Mond is said to be the Resident Controller for all of western Europe and one of ten World Controllers that govern the Word State in it’s entirety.
Mond is very open and jovial with the students and tells them about how the controlling of emotions has helped the World State become what it is today. Initially, he says, there was resistance to the State’s usage of the caste system among other things, but then came the Nine Years’ War which involved chemical and biological attacks and subversive propaganda on part of the State that eventually weakened the resistance. As a result of the war, things like religion, the idea of families, and classic books were banned. The date of the first sale of the Model T car by Henry Ford was chosen as the start of their new era which is why all dates now begin with the initial ‘A.F.’- After Ford.
The withering effects of old age were also conquered and people are now allowed to go through their whole life with a youthful body. As Mond is speaking a whistle sounds in the factory to announce that it is 4 o’clock and the end of the workday.
Inside, Lenina and Henry begin to get ready for their date. As Henry leaves he snubs a man called Bernard Marx who is known to have a bad reputation. Bernard overhears Henry and another factory worker talking in a vulgar way about Lenina in the changing room and is disgusted. Henry decides to bait Bernard by offering him some “soma”, a drug. Bernard is angered and the other two men laugh at him.
Over in the women’s changing room, Lenina is talking with a girl called Fanny about her date with Henry. Fanny expresses surprise that Lenina is still regularly dating Henry after four months. She encourages her to be more promiscuous as is considered virtuous in the World State. Lenina says that Bernard Marx invited her to go with him to a Savage Reservation. Fanny warns her that Bernard has a reputation for being too outspoken and also being smaller and weaker than other Alphas. Nonetheless, Lenina decides to accept his invitation because she finds him sweet. Before leaving for her date, Lenina informs Henry that she accepts his offer to go to the reservation. Bernard is embarrassed by her broaching this subject in front of their coworkers. After she leaves he feels odd because she behaved perfectly normally in being unconcerned with discussing her sexual life in front of others while he was the one who was ashamed.
Bernard thinks about his insecurity about his size, noting that most Alphas are larger and broader and that the lower castes associate bigger size with higher status. He tells us that he is aware that there is a rumor in the factory that his embryo was accidentally suffused with alcohol that was meant for a lower caste child. Bernard then visits his friend, Helmholtz Watson a professor at the College of Emotional Engineering. Helmholtz is said to be the exact opposite of Bernard, being a large, attractive Alpha who is also very intelligent. Bernard tells Helmholtz that Lenina accepted his invitation but the latter is distracted by his own work in writing hypnopaedic phrases. He tells Bernard that he no longer enjoys his work and wishes to be placed elsewhere. This discussion makes Bernard nervous and jumpy.
The next day, Bernard and Lenina go out on a date to a wrestling match. Bernard is in a bad mood for the entire date until the end when Lenina convinces him to take a dose of “soma” and the two have sex. The next day Bernard obtains the Director’s permission to visit the Savage Reservation.
The Director notices the name of the reservation and notes that he, himself took a trip with a woman there twenty years earlier. The woman was lost during a storm and never seen again. As if coming out from under a spell, the Director realizes that he has reveled too much of himself to Bernard and begins to scold him for his anti-social behavior, threatening to exile him to a Hatchery in Iceland.
Bernard and Lenina travel to the Reservation and are given a long story about the history of the place from the Warden. Bernard gets away only to call Helmholtz who informs him that the Director is serious about exiling him to Iceland and is planning on doing it when he gets back. Bernard is upset by this and Lenina convinces him to take a “soma”.
Later, the two watch a community ceremony in which a young boy is surrounded by writhing snakes and whipped until he collapses. Lenina and Bernard are understandably horrified. The two are approached by a young man named John who surprises them by speaking perfect English. He tells them that his mother, Linda came from outside the Reservation. During a visit there she was injured and found by some of the Indians who brought her to the village. He tells them that his father’s name was Tomakin and that he is also from outside the Reservation. Bernard quickly realizes that since “Linda” was the name of the woman that the Director said he lost twenty years before and the Director’s real name is Thomas, this must be their son. He is shocked by this but keeps the knowledge to himself for the moment.
Bernard and Lenina are introduced to John’s mother, Linda who is old and wrinkled. The sight of her advanced age is disgusting to them as they have never seen an old person before in the World State. Linda tells them that she could not go back to the World State after having John because she was too ashamed and that she is an outcast on the reservation for following her childhood conditioning and being very open to sex with many of the men.
John tells Bernard that he has always wanted to visit the “Other Place”, as he calls it, from Linda’s stories and has never felt accepted in the village because of his mother. Bernard proposes that John come back to London with him, thinking that he will be able to embarrass the Director into letting him stay by bringing his long lost son into the picture. John accepts the idea but insists that his mother be allowed to come with them. Bernard promises to ask.
Meanwhile, Lenina finds herself horrified and disgusted by the Reservation and takes a large amount of “soma” so that she will be incapacitated for a while. Bernard calls Mustapha Mond and tells him the story of John and Linda. Mond agrees that the mother and son are of scientific interest to the State and agrees to send orders to release them into his care. While he is away, John, who is afraid that Bernard has left without him, breaks into Lenina’s cabin and finds her in a “soma” induced sleep. He thinks about touching her but is afraid that it will defile her. When he hears Bernard approaching, John flees from the cabin through a back door.
The group soon travel back to London where Bernard interrupts the Directors haranguing of his work ethic to introduce John and Linda. Recognizing the Director immediately, Linda accuses him of fathering her son. John hears this and falls at the Director’s feet asking if it’s true. The Director runs from the room in embarrassment as the factory workers around him break out into laughter at his expense.
In the second half of the book, Bernard is able to keep his job after the Director resigns in a fit of disgrace and John becomes an instant hit in high society as “the Savage”, a man who was born from a living woman. Bernard becomes John’s de facto guardian and keeper and begins to experience an elevation in his social status as a result. He still acts the same and considers himself free from judgment and punishment as John’s discoverer. At first John enjoys being the center of attention but is soon overwhelmed by the differences in the Reservation and the World State. He is bewildered by his attraction to Lenina and ashamed at the depth of physical attraction that he feels for her. Lenina is merely confused by John’s refusal to have sex with her.
The next time that Bernard throws a party of important people John refuses to leave his room to meet them. Bernard is humiliated in front of his guests and begins to get worried about his status as John’s guardian. Lenina continues to pine over John and complains to Fanny that she can no longer be distracted by other men. Intending to seduce John, Lenina takes a dose of “soma” and visits him. When he sees her he declares his love for her and talks about marriage and growing old together, which horrifies Lenina. She presses her body against his in an effort to distract him and he becomes furious, calling her a whore and slapping her across the face. Lenina locks herself in John’s bathroom while he sulks in another room.
While she is locked away, John gets a call that his mother, who has been taking “soma” to cope with her return to the State, is dying. He rushes to the hospital but when Linda sees him she does not recognize him, mistaking him for an ex-lover of her’s a man called Pope. Soon, she begins to choke and dies before John can return with a nurse. John is enraged and upset. On his way out of the hospital he stops two Delta workers and instructs them not to take the “soma” rations they are receiving because he feels that the drug is meant to enslave the population. He begins to fight with the workers and the police are called as well as Bernard and Helmholtz.
The police bring Bernard, John and Helmholz to Mustapha Mond’s office. Mond asks John about his dislike of “soma” and “civilization” and John admits that he is having trouble adjusting to the World State. He complains about the castes and asks why all children can’t be made Alphas at birth. Mond tells him that if everyone was an Alpha they would have no one to do the menial work and society would collapse. Mond and John talk a bit more about the structure of their society with Mond trying to explain in rational terms why things are the way they are and that John’s search for “truth” would only result in unhappiness. Mond finally tells Bernard and Helmholtz that they are to be exiled. Bernard beings to sob and plead for him to change his mind until two men are forced to sedate him and drag him from the room. Mond tells the others that he is actually jealous of Bernard since the islands that he’s being sent to are filled with some of the most interesting people in the world. People who could not live under World State rule. Helmholtz notes that he would prefer to be exiled to an island with a bad climate so that he will have more time to write and Mond agrees.
After Helmholtz leaves the room John and Mond discuss society further with John finally informing him that he would rather live in a world of freedom with religion and poetry and goodness. Mond tells him that he is wishing himself into unhappiness and John agrees but does not give up the wish. John asks Mond if he can go with Bernard and Helmholtz to the island but Mond refuses as he wants to study John further.
The next day, Bernard and Helmholtz bid John goodbye. Some time later John chooses to move into a secluded lighthouse. He begins to perform rituals of self-punishment regularly in which he whips himself. Eventually he is observed by some workers doing this and is discovered by reporters.
Angered, John reacts to the reporters with violence. One reporter manages to catch a video of him whipping himself and releases it to the media.
Hearing of John’s whereabouts, Lenina visits him. However when he sees her he calls her a strumpet and whips her in anger. The crowd watching is fascinated by the spectacle. John is so horrified by his actions that he hangs himself in his lighthouse the next day.
John – the abnormally born son of the Director of the Hatchery and a woman named Linda. John is one of very few children born in the World State via a live woman. John is raised on an Indian Reservation where the natives still practice natural childbirth but is still considered an outsider due to his mother’s promiscuity. John was raised by his mother and learned to read from two books that she happened to have with her when she was accidentally left behind during her illness by the Director. Having heard the stories of the World State and the world at large from his mother as he grew, John is excited by the prospect of seeing the world outside the Reservation and agrees immediately when Bernard proposes that they take him back to London. However, on going to London he quickly finds that the condition of the World State overwhelms and saddens him and that he wishes to live free from their constraints again.
John is moral to a fault, chiding himself (and later actually whipping himself) for any sinful thoughts that he has. He considers his sexual attraction to Lenina to be immoral and spurns her as a result of that.
John loves his mother despite being told his whole life that she is a fallen woman and despite her drug addiction later in the book. He is very upset when she dies and cloisters himself in a lighthouse in an attempt to avoid society. Of course, this does work out and John later hangs himself after discovering that he cannot escape the immorality that he feels is inside of him and the weight of the modern technological world.
Bernard Marx – an Alpha caste male who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his coworkers at the Hatchery because of his small stature. Bernard is discontent with the World State and expresses this often and loudly. Obviously suffering from an inferiority complex, he is ultimately more unhappy with himself than anything else.
Initially, Bernard is the main protagonist of the novel but he takes a backseat to John once the other man is introduced. Bernard suffers from a lot of violent emotions in the book and is always portrayed as either unhappy, sad, embarrassed or angry. However he is portrayed as being perhaps more human than any other character.
After John is brought back to London, Bernard takes it upon himself to be his guardian for the increase it will give him in his social status. He clearly enjoys the new friends and parties until John fails to perform once and all of it disappears just as quickly as it came.
Bernard is unstable in general and at the end of the book when he is exiled to a tropical island he immediately bursts into tears and has to be sedated. Because he becomes more of a side character throughout the novel we never hear of what happens to him after he gets to the island.
Lenina Crowne – a young nurse at the Hatchery. Lenina is popular and promiscuous. She is considered a perfectly normal woman by the standards of her time if a little more monogamous than most. Though generally happy, she is often portrayed using the “soma” drug to reduce the appearance of her more unpleasant emotions.
Lenina is convinced to go on a date with Bernard, to whom she feels somewhat attracted, by a friend and on the date she meets John. Lenina finds herself uncharacteristically interested in John and tries many times to seduce him only to fail due to his disgust with her forwardness and the idea of pre marital sex. At the end of the book, Lenina seeks out John only to be attacked by him. After that her character is dropped from the narrative and never heard from again.
Mustapha Mond – resident World Controller of Western Europe. Boss-like figure to the Director. In the novel Mond becomes somewhat of a instructive figure for readers as it is through his dialogue that we learn most about the history and current ways of the World State. In addition, it is through his argument with John at the end of the book that we most clearly glean the World State’s point of view. Mond is a bit of a divided character, both being said to enjoy Shakespeare but also summarily banning it from the citizens. His job is to censor original ideas but he used to be a scientist who developed quite a few ideas himself. He is shown to be both sympathetic and ruthless.
Helmholtz Watson – for a main character, Helmholtz is probably the least developed character in the entire book. An alpha caste man who is attractive and popular. He is friends with Bernard because of their shared dislike of the World State and dissatisfaction with their current position in life. Helmholtz is a lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering. Apart from that his job is to write phrases for the hypnopaedic lessons given to the children in the Hatchery. Helmholtz is unhappy with this job and wishes to write something more meaningful.