Study Guide

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World Summary

Overview

Brave New World

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.

Brave New World Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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 and pleasure, and cooperative idealism.

The citizens in this “brave new world” are controlled and conditioned from birth, in fact before birth, by means of genetic engineering, or mechanical childbirth processes. Humans are then subjected to a variety of operant conditioning techniques, including hypnopaedia, or sleep-teaching, which fit them for their carefully planned roles in the society. This role preparation is involved even in the genetic engineering, too, as the embryonic rocket engineers’ birth tubes are kept in constant motion to prepare the engineers to work in weightless environments in which right-side-up and upside-down positions alternate constantly. In the words of the director of the genetics institute, “They learn to associate topsy-turvydom with well-being; in fact, they’re only truly happy when they’re standing on their heads.” The conditioning continues throughout life, the sleep teaching reinforced by the entertainment drug soma, which encourages narcissistic self-indulgence and thus lack of concern for larger decisions of societal direction made by the few in power.

The system of scientific and technological control, directed by Mustapha Mond, is not yet perfect. Some humans continue to be dissatisfied and want more than what is prescribed for them. Mond, who fears real human experience and thus uses control and artificial creation to avoid such balance, has trouble particularly with the emotional and intellectual longings of several characters, with their often subconscious desire to be whole. Specifically, Bernard keeps longing for real love, not just entertainment sex, and the same is true to some extent of Lenina (thus the important Freudian psychology element again in Huxley’s work). Also, Helmholtz keeps feeling unfulfilled because of some deeply suppressed need that has not been totally eliminated.

The Savage, though, is particularly problematic for Mond. The Savage realizes the total imbalance, the total inhumanness, of the society in its elimination of both deep feeling and intellectual attainment. He believes in feeling, in living, and in experiencing real human pain and thus real human joy—even the pain of death, which defines and creates human joy. When Mond questions him, the Savage admits that he is “claiming the right to be unhappy.” Mond responds with the following:Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.

The Savage’s response is simply, “I claim them all.” They are all part of being human, of being in the real world, and Huxley sees the drug-induced life of scientific and technological society as destructive of that real world. Thus, the Savage dies tragically by hanging himself, in primitive reaction against a world that has eliminated the side of human beings that he represents.

Brave New World Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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 instead of one human being resulting, there will be from eight to ninety-six identical humans.

These Bokanovsky Groups are employed whenever large numbers of people are needed to perform identical tasks. Individuality is a thing of the past. The new society makes every effort to fulfill its motto—Community, Identity, Stability. After birth, the babies are further conditioned during their childhood for their predestined class in society. Alpha Plus Intellectuals and Epsilon Minus Morons are the two extremes of the scientific utopia.

Mustapha Mond, one of the World Controllers, joins the inspection party and lectures to the new students on the horrors and disgusting features of old-fashioned family life. To the great embarrassment of the students, he, in his position of authority, dares to use the forbidden words “mother” and “father”; he reminds the students that in 632 a.f., everyone belongs to everyone else.

Lenina Crowne, one of the workers in the Hatchery, takes an interest in Bernard Marx. Bernard is different—too much alcohol was put into his blood surrogate during his period in the prenatal bottle, and he has sensibilities similar to those possessed by people in the time of Henry Ford.

Lenina and Bernard go by rocket ship to New Mexico and visit the Savage Reservation, a wild tract where primitive forms of human life are preserved for scientific study. At the pueblo of Malpais, the couple see an Indian ceremonial dance in which a young man is whipped to propitiate the gods. Lenina is shocked and disgusted by the filth of the place and by the primitive aspects of all she sees.

The pair meet a white youth named John. The young man discloses to them that his mother, Linda, came to the reservation many years before on vacation with a man called Thomakin. The vacationers separated, and Thomakin returned alone to the brave new world. Linda, marooned in New Mexico, gave birth to a son and was slowly assimilated into the primitive society of the reservation. The boy educated himself with an old copy of William Shakespeare’s plays that he found. Bernard is convinced that the boy is the son of the director of Hatcheries, who in his youth took a companion to New Mexico on vacation and returned without her. Bernard has enough human curiosity to wonder how this young savage would react to the scientific world. He invites John and his mother to return to London with him. John, attracted to Lenina and anxious to see the outside world, goes eagerly.

Upon Bernard’s return, the director of Hatcheries publicly proposes to dismiss him from the Hatchery because of his unorthodoxy. Bernard produces Linda and John, the director’s son. At the family reunion, during which such words as “mother” and “father” are used more than once, the director is shamed out of the plant. He later resigns his position.

Linda goes on a soma holiday, soma being a drug that induces euphoria and forgetfulness. John becomes the curiosity of London. He is appalled by all he sees—by the utter lack of any humanistic culture and by the scientific mass production of everything, including humans. Lenina tries to seduce him, but he is held back by his primitive morality.

John is called to attend the death of Linda, who took too much soma drug. Maddened by the callousness of people conditioned toward death, he instigates a mutiny of workers as they are being given their soma ration. He is arrested and taken by the police to Mond, with whom he has a long talk on the new civilization. Mond explains that beauty causes unhappiness and thus instability; therefore, humanistic endeavor is checked. Science is dominant. Art is stifled completely; science, even, is stifled at a certain point, and religion is restrained so that it cannot cause instability. With a genial sort of cynicism, Mond explains the reasons underlying all of the features of the brave new world. Despite Mond’s persuasiveness, the Savage continues to champion tears, inconvenience, God, and poetry.

John moves into the country outside London to take up his old way of life. Sightseers come by the thousands to see him; he is pestered by reporters and television men. At the thought of Lenina, whom he still desires, John mortifies his flesh by whipping himself. Lenina visits John and is whipped by him in a frenzy of passion. When he realizes that he, too, has been caught up in the “orgyporgy,” he hangs himself. Bernard’s experiment fails. Human emotions can end only in tragedy in the brave new world.

Brave New World Summary

Brave New World opens in the year 2495 at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, a research facility and factory that...

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Brave New World Chapter Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
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

Summary
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

Summary
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

New Characters
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.

Summary
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

New Characters
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

Summary
Part 1
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

New Characters
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

Summary
Part 1
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

New Character
The Warden: an Alpha-Minus who is in charge of the Savage Reservation in New Mexico

Summary
Part 1
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

New Characters
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

Summary
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

New Characters
Popé: Linda’s Indian lover

Mitsima: John’s Indian mentor

Summary
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

Summary
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

Summary
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

New Characters
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

Summary
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

New Character
Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury: the most important guest at Bernard’s reception for the Savage

Summary
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

Summary
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

Summary
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

New Character
The Deputy Sub-Bursar: he is called to distribute soma to the workers; he also calls Bernard about the Savage.

Summary
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

Summary
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

Summary
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

New Characters
Darwin Bonaparte: secretly photographs the Savage like a wild animal photographer would

Reporters from the various news services who try to interview the Savage

Summary
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...

(The entire section is 1390 words.)