Summary of the Novel
Brave New World begins in the year A.F. (After Ford) 632, which is approximately the twenty-sixth century, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The Director is taking a group of students through the Hatchery. As the Director is explaining the process of creating humans, the Resident Controller appears to finish the lesson.
Bernard Marx works in the Hatchery. He very much wants to have sex with Lenina Crowne, another worker in the Hatchery. Birth control has virtually been perfected, allowing everyone to be sexually free and totally available for anyone.
Lenina decides to accept Bernard’s invitation to spend a week at the Savage Reservation in New Mexico. Her friend Fanny is not in favor of the idea because Bernard is so different from the other Alpha group members. Bernard himself feels alienated because his physical appearance is different from that of the other Alphas, and he often talks with Helmholtz Watson, another slightly alienated Alpha.
Bernard receives permission from the Director to visit the Reservation with Lenina. The Director remembers once visiting the place with his companion, from whom he became separated. Consequently, he returned from the Reservation alone.
At the Reservation, Bernard and Lenina are shocked by the primitive conditions. Bernard tries to remain scientific, while Lenina desires escape through soma, a drug that produces a dream-intoxicated state with no after- or side-effects. While watching Indian/Savage rituals, a semi-Indian creature approaches them, speaking in strange, ancient words. This is John the Savage.
John’s mother, Linda, is from the Other Place, or the New World of Lenina and Bernard. She has grown old, fat, and quite ugly. She has used alcohol to replace the soma she once had. Bernard realizes that this must be the lost companion of the Director, then pregnant with his child, John. Bernard resolves to return John and Linda, which will both disgrace the Director and bring fame to Bernard.
Bernard’s plan works. The Director is humiliated and resigns. In this New World, children are generated in bottles and conditioned scientifically. Words like “mother,” “father,” and “family” are considered pornographic. Bernard exposes the New World to the Savage and becomes an instant celebrity with John, the freak everyone must meet. John finally refuses to meet any more people, and Bernard’s pseudo-celebrity dissipates quickly. Helmholtz and Lenina attempt to understand this Savage John and his unorthodox ideals. John does move them somewhat, but all their years of conditioning cannot truly be overcome. Finally, everyone becomes embarrassed by John’s grief when his mother dies, after falling into a soma-induced coma and failing to recognize him.
In order to preserve the stability of the community, Mustapha Mond must remove the irritants. Bernard is exiled to Iceland, and Helmholtz to the Falkland Islands. The Savage also wants to be exiled, but Mond refuses, choosing instead to continue social experiments with him. John takes over a lighthouse on the southern coast of England near Portsmouth. He desires solitude, preferring to be alone with his thoughts and memories. He resorts to various methods of self-flagellation to cleanse his soul. His hideaway is discovered and he again becomes the object of public curiosity, his privacy destroyed.
John takes what he sees as his only escape. He commits suicide.
British life in 1932 was very different from American life. Almost an entire generation of men had been lost in World War I. Oxford University enrollment was only 491 in 1917, down from 3,181 in 1914. Among many of the upper-class poets and writers of the time—sometimes called the Auden Generation, after the poet W. H. Auden—there was a sense of disillusionment and futility. Britain’s foreign investments had been depleted by war debts and loans. Higher living standards, prices, wages, and taxes became the order of the day in post-war Britain. By 1922 overpopulation had caused passage of the Empire Settlement Act to encourage and finance settlement in the dominions.
The 1920s were also years of mass unemployment, and the Communist Soviet Union was making inroads into the labor movement. After many wars, those on the homefront who had sacrificed for the war effort felt they deserved their just rewards.
In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model-T, in “any color you choose so long as it’s black.” In 1914, he opened his Highland Park, Michigan factory, equipped with the first electric conveyor belt assembly line. A Model-T could now be assembled in 93 minutes. Consequently, Ford had 45 percent of the new automobile market. He paid his workers the highest wages in the industry—a whopping five dollars a day. In return, he demanded that his workers live by his standards: wives were not to work or take in boarders, employees were not to drink in local bars, and families were to attend church each Sunday. He sent men out into the workers’ neighborhoods to make sure his rules were being followed. Ford was considered a bigot and was also paranoid; he feared for his family’s lives. By creating Greenfield Village near Detroit, he tried to recapture and reproduce what he viewed as a simple, happy past—the good old days.
Thus, science not only gave man a better knowledge of his world, and the technology to make living “easier,” but it also gave him new means of destroying himself. The same gasoline engine used to propel automobiles and trains was reinvented for use in airplanes that could drop bombs—as early as World War I. Science and technology together began recreating industry, which for more people than Henry Ford meant bigger profits and anxieties.
Additionally, the advent of electrical lighting in both home and factory created shift work, which of course, interferes with established biological rhythms. Electricity also created a brighter night-life with more possibilities, and it gave the middle and upper classes new appliances to make living easier and more comfortable.
The assembly lines, with their shift work, forced workers to meet the demands of both man and machine. Workers could spend an entire shift in one place along the assembly line, repeating the same action again and again. Thus, a worker answered to two bosses—one human, one mechanical. Only one understood pain and fatigue, however, and only one could stop the other. Consequently, most workers were more likely to be driven by machines than to actually drive them.
This was the newly mechanized, scientific, controlled world which became the model for Huxley’s Brave New World, which one critic regarded as “an exercise in pessimistic prognostication, a terrifying Utopia.”
In 1958, Huxley wrote Brave New World Revisited, in which he discussed what he perceived as the threats to humanity that had developed since the publication of his novel in 1932. These threats were overpopulation, propaganda, scientific advancement, and his belief that man must not give up his freedom for the unthinking ease of a life organized by the power of a few over the masses. This was something that had happened in Germany, Soviet Russia, and Communist China since 1932.
Huxley saw scientific progress as a vain deceit which would produce a world with no joy—one in which endeavors are frustrated and sexual satisfaction becomes ashes. Brave New World is the utopian nightmare of scientific deceit, unlike the futuristic novels of H. G. Wells whose optimism held that man falls to rise again.
List of Characters
The Director—In charge of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. He has a secret to reveal.
Henry Foster—A Supervisor in the London Hatchery. He loves facts, figures, and statistics.
Mustapha Mond—The Resident Controller for Western Europe. He is one of ten Controllers in the World. He possesses some of the now forbidden books, like the Bible and the works of Shakespeare.
Lenina Crowne—A Beta Nurse in the Hatchery. She is well-conditioned to this New World—until she meets the Savage.
Bernard Marx—An Alpha-Plus expert in hypnopaedia who does not meet the physical standards of his group. He thus yearns for acceptance, which he hopes the Savage will grant him.
Fanny Crowne—A friend of Lenina, but not related. She works in the Bottling Room of the Hatchery and is well-conditioned.
Benito Hoover—An Alpha Worker at the Hatchery. He is an acceptor of conditioning and life as it exists and spends time with Lenina, which irritates Bernard.
George Edzel—Another Alpha Worker who is friendly with Lenina.
Helmholtz Watson—An Alpha-Plus lecturer and writer for the College of Emotional Engineering. His overly superior intelligence has alienated him from society in the same respect as Bernard’s physical inferiority.
The Warden—An Alpha-Minus. He is in charge of the Savage Reservation.
The Indian Guide—He takes Lenina and Bernard into the Reservation.
John the Savage—Considered an outsider in his world of the Reservation. His mother Linda was from the Old World, thus rendering them both unacceptable.
Linda—John’s mother. Left at the Reservation by the Director. She has aged as a normal human being and shocks the New World when she returns. She was a Beta Worker in the Hatchery.
Popé—He appears only in Linda and John’s memories. He had been Linda’s Indian lover and abuser. He supplied her with the alcohol she craved.
Mitsima—An Indian who tries to teach Indian skills to John.
Dr. Shaw—He supervises Linda’s care when she returns from the Reservation, authorizing unlimited soma until her death.
Human Element Manager—He shows John the Electrical Equipment Corporation.
Dr. Gaffney—The Provost of the Upper School at Eton. He shows the Savage the school system.
Miss Keate—Head Mistress at Eton. She supervises the girls’ training.
Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury—Leads the Ford’s Day Celebration. A special guest of Bernard’s at the reception for the Savage.
Nurse—Attending nurse in Ward 81. She does not understand John’s concern about Linda.
Deputy Sub-Bursar—He is called to distribute soma to the workers. He also calls Bernard about the Savage.
Reporter—A representative of The Hourly Radio who violates the Savage’s seclusion. The Savage literally gives him the boot.
Darwin Bonaparte—Photographer for the feelies. Uses footage of the Savage at the lighthouse to create The Savage of Surrey feely.
The following are members of Bernard’s Solidarity Service group. They meet every Thursday to reinforce moral and cultural training:
Estimated Reading Time and Reading Guide
The average reader should be able to complete Brave New World in approximately four to five hours. Once one becomes accustomed to a scientific vernacular and British spellings of some words, reading should progress smoothly.
The chapters of the novel can be grouped to aid the reader in understanding the progression of the plot. Chapters I through III introduce the themes of scientific advancement and technology through the Director’s lecture to his students and the appearance of the Resident Controller Mustapha Mond. The rigidly controlled organization of the society is evident. Chapter III may cause some difficulty; the back-and-forth aspect of the scenes here is a complex, yet effective, literary device.
Chapters IV through VI advance the plot and begin to hint at some of the underlying tensions that exist in what the Director has portrayed as a perfect utopian world.
Chapters VII through X introduce John the Savage as the antagonist who will hold a mirror to this seeming utopian society and reveal its flaws. John’s mother, Linda, has given him his preconceived ideas about her world.
Chapters XI through XV follow John’s progression through and gradual rejection of the society his mother has told him is perfect. The imperfections of individuals in this world are also revealed.
Chapters XVI through XVIII carry the plot into the denouement of the last chapter with the philosophic debate between Mond and the Savage about the personal sacrifices that must be made to maintain a utopian society. The fates of the main characters are also decided.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Brave New World continues the presentation of human psychological and other imbalances of Point Counter Point, but in a more creative and unified way. It is set in a future society in which control over individuals is nearly absolute and in which there is virtually no possibility of maintaining a sane, balanced, and fully human existence. Through the future setting of a scientifically created and controlled technological society, operating in artificial harmony by virtue of nearly deadened human emotional and intellectual attributes, Huxley focuses on the danger of what twentieth century society could become if the values of order, profit, and power continue to prevail over spontaneous creativity, mutual respect...
(The entire section is 593 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
One day in the year 632 After Ford (a.f.), as time is reckoned in the brave new world, the director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre takes a group of new students on a tour of the plant where human beings are turned out by mass production. The entire process, from the fertilization of the egg to the birth of the baby, is carried out by trained workers and machines. Each fertilized egg is placed in solution in a large bottle for scientific development into whatever class in society the human is intended. The students are told that scientists of the period developed the Bokanovsky Process, by means of which a fertilized egg is arrested in its growth. The egg responds by budding, and...
(The entire section is 888 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
The Director: head of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre
Henry Foster: a worker at the Centre
Lenina Crowne: a nurse at the Hatchery
The Director is escorting a group of new students through the Hatchery. He always wanted to give the initial educational tour himself. The students begin at the incubators, where human spermatozoa and ova are contained for the fertilization process. Each pair of sperm and egg will become either an Alpha- or a Beta-typed individual. Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon types undergo the Bokanovsky Process. This causes the fertilized egg to bud and create up to 96 identical individuals who will...
(The entire section is 803 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
The Director continues leading the group of students through the Central London Hatchery. They have now moved from the Decanting Room into the Infant Conditioning Rooms. Uniformed nurses are setting out bowls of beautiful roses and stacks of books on the floor of one Conditioning Room. A group of khaki-clad, eight-month-old Delta infants is rolled in, stacked in compartments on industrial shelving. The babies are placed on the floor so they can see the roses and books. They happily begin crawling to the two fascinating objects, touching and playing with them. At a signal from the Director, the Head Nurse switches on loudspeakers that emit horrible shrieking sounds and alarm bells. The babies are...
(The entire section is 1043 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Mustapha Mond: the Resident Controller for Western Europe who joins the Director’s group of students
Fanny Crowne: a co-worker of Lenina
Bernard Marx: an Alpha-Plus at the Conditioning Centre; he is attracted to Lenina. He is different from other Alphas and regarded as strange.
Note: This chapter employs the device of quick scene cuts between the student group listening to Mond and the Changing Room of the Hatchery.
After taking the students through the Hatchery and early conditioning areas, the Director takes them outside to the supervised play areas. The children are all naked and playing in the sunshine....
(The entire section is 1197 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Benito Hoover: an Alpha man who is friendly with Lenina
George Edzel: another Alpha man who is friendly with Lenina
Helmholtz Watson: an Alpha-Plus man who is almost too intelligent because he feels apart from and at odds with society; a friend and confidant of Bernard
The upper-class Alphas and Betas are coming from the locker rooms and heading for the elevators to the roof, where helicopters shuttle workers to home, games, or other entertainment. Lenina finds Bernard in the crowd. She tells him she wants to go to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico with him. Others around the two are surprised and...
(The entire section is 792 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
The members of Bernard’s Solidarity Service group: Morgana Rothschild, Fifi Bradlaugh, Joanna Diesel, Clara Deterding, Tom Kawaguchi, Sarojini Engels, Jim Brokanovsky, and Herbert Bakunin
The President of the Solidarity Service group
Henry and Lenina have finished their rounds of Obstacle Golf and fly to their next entertainment. Below them is the artificial brilliance of the city, especially the Crematorium. Lenina wonders whether higher-caste bodies produce the same amount of by-products as lower-caste ones. Suddenly, she remembers waking up during a childhood hypnopaedic session and being frightened by the...
(The entire section is 1110 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
The Warden: an Alpha-Minus who is in charge of the Savage Reservation in New Mexico
Lenina begins to wonder if she has made the right decision in accepting Bernard’s invitation to go with him to the Savage Reservation. She remembers the first time she met him, when all he wanted to do was be alone with her in the Lake District of England to walk and talk. When she does persuade him to fly to Amsterdam instead, he is surly with her friends and refuses to eat any soma ice cream. “I’d rather be myself,” he said, “myself and nasty.”
On the return trip over the English Channel, Bernard turns off the...
(The entire section is 1559 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
John: the strange blonde-haired, blue-eyed Indian who speaks to Bernard and Lenina
Linda: John’s mother and an outcast of the pueblo; she too is white
The Indians of the pueblo
Bernard and Lenina stand below the mesa looking at the pueblo of Malpais. She feels uneasy in this place with the Indian guide. Drums begin a heartbeat-like rhythm as they walk and then climb to the top of the mesa. The Indians’ dark brown bodies are painted and decorated with feathers, silver, bone, and turquoise and their smell becomes stronger. Some carry snakes. Lenina is repulsed by the smell of humanity and the dirt. She sees an old Indian and...
(The entire section is 1064 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Popé: Linda’s Indian lover
Mitsima: John’s Indian mentor
While Linda cries and raves inside the isolated house, Bernard and John walk and talk outside. John says he can remember no other life but here on the Reservation. He remembers a time when he was a boy and he and Linda were lying on the same bed for their siesta. He was awakened by the sound of a man and his mother’s laugh. He doesn’t understand the man’s words, but hears his mother’s, “No.” The man grabbed his arm, yanked him from the bed, put him in the other room, and closed the door. The young John screamed and cried, but no answer came from the other room.
(The entire section is 1149 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Lenina immediately retreats into an 18-hour soma holiday when she returns to the guest house, while Bernard lies awake and makes plans. In the morning, he goes to Santa Fe to call Mustapha Mond. Mond agrees that John and Linda should be brought to London and arranges all the necessary paperwork. When Bernard returns to the Reservation, he treats the Warden with his typical officious disdain while orders from Mond are put into action.
John comes to the rest house seeking Bernard during the time he is gone. When there is no answer, he sits and cries, thinking he has been deserted. Then he goes to look in the window and sees Lenina’s green suitcase. He picks up a rock and breaks...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
It is 2:27 p.m. at the Central Hatchery and all is proceeding as it should in embryo development and conditioning. However, a grave and worried Director enters the Fertilizing Room with Henry Foster. They are discussing someone who wants to meet with the Director. The meeting has been set in the room that has the largest number of high-caste workers to make an example of the person who is coming. Foster comments that one person is no real loss because another can always be made. Society is what is important.
When Bernard enters the Fertilizing Room he is a bit too bold, then backs off. The Director asks that all the workers stop what they are doing and listen. He then launches into a...
(The entire section is 658 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis
Dr. Shaw: the physician assigned to Linda
Human Element Manager: shows John the Electrical Equipment Corporation
Dr. Gaffney: Provost of Eton who shows John the school
Miss Keate: Head Mistress of Eton who attracts Bernard’s attention
Everyone in London knows about the Director’s humiliation and wants to meet John. Linda is ignored in a hospital on a 24-hour soma holiday. Dr. Shaw admits to John that this will probably cause her death in a month. Since any rejuvenation is impossible, John accepts this.
Bernard’s ego is fed by all those courting his favor to gain access to John. Women invite...
(The entire section is 988 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis
Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury: the most important guest at Bernard’s reception for the Savage
It is the night of Bernard’s most important reception to show off the Savage, but John will not come out of his room. Bernard shouts at him, even calls him John, but to no avail. He finally has to announce to the guests that the Savage will not appear. Everyone leaves, indignant and feeling they have been tricked. All the old rumors about Bernard become more vocal. The Arch-Community-Songster chastises Bernard for tricking everyone and then leaves with Lenina. Soon the room is empty. In despair, Bernard takes a large dose of soma. The...
(The entire section is 1168 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
Henry Foster invites Lenina to a feely and she turns him down. She does not look well, and Henry begins suggesting all the standard chemical solutions. She becomes angry and forgets to give an embryo the proper sleeping sickness injection. Later, in the Changing Room, Fanny is incredulous that Lenina has let herself get into such a state over one man with whom she hasn’t even gone to bed. Soma doesn’t even work anymore. Fanny advises Lenina to seduce the Savage.
Lenina dresses herself carefully and pays a surprise visit to John. He is so overwhelmed he falls to his knees in front of her and says he feels unworthy. He tries to explain the customs from Malpais in which a man...
(The entire section is 511 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis
John has arrived at the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying. Linda is in Ward 81 with 19 others and all the scent, sight, and sound conveniences. The nurse cannot understand the Savage’s concern and anxiety. When he says Linda is his mother, the nurse blushes in embarrassment, but takes him to her. For everyone else there, galloping senility does not allow time for any signs of aging, unlike Linda. The nurse briskly walks away down the row of beds. Linda is propped up in a bed at the end of the ward next to the wall. She dozes in and out of a soma haze to gaze vaguely at the small television on the foot of her bed while music plays softly and aromas drift through the air. She has an infantile...
(The entire section is 1050 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis
The Deputy Sub-Bursar: he is called to distribute soma to the workers; he also calls Bernard about the Savage.
The Savage steps out of the lift (elevator) into a group of Bokanovsky Group menial workers who are finishing their shift. They are receiving their daily soma rations. He pushes through them, not realizing where he is. The mirror-image workers begin to squeak at him and elbow him for disturbing them. He is reminded of maggots as he looks at them. He keeps repeating his mantra-like quote from The Tempest, but there is no comfort. The soma box is carried in and the Savage is...
(The entire section is 780 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
Bernard, Helmholtz, and the Savage are ushered into Mustapha Mond’s office. Bernard takes the most uncomfortable chair as far back in the room as possible. Helmholtz seats himself in the most comfortable chair, and the Savage paces the room. He pages through a Bible-like book for the New World, My Life and Work by Our Ford, but finds it uninteresting.
As he enters, Mond’s first sentence is to the Savage, stating truthfully the Savage’s dislike for this society. Quoting Shakespeare, Mond says that he is one of the few who has read the plays. He reminds Bernard that since he makes the rules, he can also break them. When Helmholtz admits he would like to write something like
(The entire section is 708 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis
The Savage and Mond continue their discussion alone, with the topic turning to religion. Using a Bible and several books of religious commentaries, Mond comments that even though God doesn’t change, man does. He points out that since this New Utopian World has youth and scientific prosperity, it doesn’t need God. He isn’t compatible with machinery, science, and happiness. The Savage then raises the question of unending happiness as a way of degrading man. Mond answers that degradation depends on the standards society sets, and that self-indulgence is needed for successful industrial consumerism. Conditioning makes everyone do what ought to be done with no room for heroism or nobility....
(The entire section is 602 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis
Darwin Bonaparte: secretly photographs the Savage like a wild animal photographer would
Reporters from the various news services who try to interview the Savage
Helmholtz and Bernard find Bernard’s apartment door open and the sound of vomiting coming from the bathroom. Helmholtz calls the Savage by name, John. John comes from the bathroom. He has purged himself with an emetic of mustard water. The two men have come to say good-bye because they begin their exile the next morning. The three are sad but somehow realize they are also happy. Even though he asked, John will not be allowed to join one of them in exile because Mond has said he...
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