Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bernard Marx, a citizen of the world in the year 632 a.f. (After Ford), a world in which individuality has long been forgotten, a world dehumanized and organized around the motto “Community, Identity, Stability.” Marx, born of a “prenatal bottle” instead of woman, is an anomaly in the community because too much alcohol got into his blood surrogate while he was incubating before birth. He has sensibilities, therefore, similar to those of people living during the time of Henry Ford. Marx conducts an experiment that fails: By studying a savage named John, whom he brings to the new culture, he learns that human emotions produce only tragedy in the brave new world.
Lenina Crowne, an Alpha worker in The Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Center, who is interested in Marx. She was predestined to her class, as were all citizens of the community, for, depending upon the community work to be done, citizens may come from the bottles as Alpha Plus Intellectuals all the way down through Epsilon Minus Morons. Lenina helps Marx with the experiment, falls in love with the savage, and is whipped to death by him when he attacks her in a fit of passion.
Thomakin, the director of Hatcheries, who years before had abandoned a woman he had taken with him on vacation to the Savage Reservation, a wild tract in New Mexico preserved by the state to advance the study of primitive societies. When it is discovered that Thomakin is the father of the savage whom Marx brings back to London, Thomakin resigns his directorship of the Hatcheries.
John, the savage who is the subject of Marx’s experiment and is Thomakin’s son. John received his only education by reading an old copy of William Shakespeare’s plays. While beside himself with passion, he whips Lenina to death and, in a fit of remorse, hangs himself.
Mustapha Mond, a World Controller responsible in the main for the conditioning of the young to the ways of the brave new world.
Linda, John’s mother, the woman abandoned by Thomakin at the Savage Reservation.
Bernard Marx is the main protagonist in the beginning of the novel, and he is destined for trouble—just as the Director finishes explaining the World State’s successful elimination of desire and its negative effects on citizens, Huxley presents us with Bernard’s thoughts, and his dilemma—he personifies everything the World State has supposedly suppressed in his lovesick, jealous, and angry inner tirade against anyone who would “have” Lenina, denying him his chance. Bernard is hardly a traditional hero figure, but that’s why he is so valuable to the story and to Huxley—he represents negative, perhaps even self-destructive, human values in a world that is growing increasingly less human.
Bernard doesn’t change, but his fortunes do after he visits the Reservation and discovers John, himself a powerful symbol of humanity. Bernard takes advantage of his new status to indulge in activities he previously criticized publicly but craves personally, particularly sex. Like many critics, Bernard desperately wants to be the very things he criticizes. Huxley may be taking a dig at literary critics of his time, many of whom were (and still are) characterized as frustrated writers.
When John refuses to greet guests at one of Bernard's parties, Bernard's success evaporates. By continuing to criticize the World State while still an active participant in its "pleasant vices," Bernard shows that he is a hypocrite. John and Helmholtz feel sorry for him because they agree that the World State needs criticizing, and they seem to understand that he is trapped in a body that is “unfit” for society; still, they have no respect for him because he refuses to acknowledge his own failings. Lenina sees him merely as an odd but somewhat intriguing man who offers her a distraction from her relationship with Henry Foster. She is happy to use him for her own social ambitions, but John is the one she really cares for.
Once he is exiled Bernard is of little use to the story, so he simply disappears to the island. Huxley may be doing more than “writing out” a character he no longer needs; in exiling Bernard he is exiling a more “socially trained” form of desire, one that can work within the confines of the World State. In the end, it is fair to assume that a great deal of John’s strength really came from his relationship with Bernard, his “guide.”
From John’s first appearance in the novel, he takes over “center stage” from Bernard for two reasons: He is wild and untamed, a throwback to a past the World State finds increasingly difficult to remember. Also, whether in the Indian reservation or the World State, he functions as the ultimate outsider. His only contact with the World State, after all, has been a textbook and the collected works of William Shakespeare.
(The entire section is 1187 words.)