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.
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.