In Brave New World, describe how Lenina contrasts with John, highlighting elements in his character as well as developing themes in the novel.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lenina's contrast with John is significant in its development of characterizations and themes.  Lenina represents the vast gulf between appearances and reality.  This gulf is represented in the relationship that Lenina and John share.  On one hand, Lenina is attracted to John.  Her relationship to him exists on the level of hope that goes against the despairing condition of reality.  The hopeful prospects that she holds in the relationship is set against the backdrop of emotional connection is not encouraged in the state.  For Lenina, this relationship establishes a fundamental contrast with John and his hopes of a "brave new world."

Lenina is one who lacks strength in her convictions.  She immediately recoils from the morality that John possesses.  She is able to retreat into a conformist condition in which adherence to social expectation is more important than all else.  This brings out a critical difference between she and John.  Clinging to his idealism and the belief in what can be, John represents the force of the non- conformist.  As "the Savage," he wishes to see that which can be, whereas Lenina tends to view only what is.  Her fear at what can be different is the precise element that animates him.  This helps to evoke a contrast in John.  When John sees the change between the appearance in what might have been with Lenina to what the reality is, he moves from reading Romeo and Juliet to Othello.  This change in reading habits and perception is reflective of him recognizing complexity. Lenina cannot see such complexity. As a result of his growing disillusionment with what is around him, John becomes submerged with complexity.  Lenina's willingness to take shelter in the community expectations and refuse to see anything transformative in reality allows John's characterization to emerge.  After her failed seduction which ends up becoming his failed emotional climax, Lenina finds safety in the lift.  It is a state of being as far away from his ideas of chivalry, nobility, and monogamy.  Lenina's recoil at such concepts enables her to provide a powerful contrast to John.  Such a contrast also makes clear why he rebels so intensely against a "new world" that held so much promise and possibility for him.

It is here in which Lenina's relationship with John not only provides contrast in characterization, but helps to enhance the themes of the work.  One of the most significant themes is how human happiness cannot be a construct of social design.  Individuals must struggle to find happiness on their own, apart from social constructs.  Lenina represents the social conformity that will not be able to find a true sense of individual happiness.  In contrast, they flee from it as Lenina did when she ran towards the elevator.  John's quest is a failed one, but is one in which "the Savage" understood the need to find a path apart from a social conformity where so much is demanded out of the individual. At the same time, this helps to bring out the contrast between appearances and reality, reflecting how happiness cannot be something "outer- directed."  It has to come from within.  This is something that Lenina lacks and something that John realizes, suffering greatly as a result.  The themes of appearances and reality along with the theme of happiness being apart from social construction are illuminated through Lenina's contrast with John.