Discuss the role of John the Savage as compared and contrasted with those of Bernard Marx and Helmholtz in Brave New World.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

All three are characters who are able to stand back and look critically at the society of the World State. Their roles in the novel are to question and critique this dystopia and to show the grip early conditioning has on a person.

The most alienated and critical character of...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

All three are characters who are able to stand back and look critically at the society of the World State. Their roles in the novel are to question and critique this dystopia and to show the grip early conditioning has on a person.

The most alienated and critical character of the three is John the Savage. Born of a World State mother and raised by her, while at the same time brought up in the mores of the culture of the Savage Reservation, John is torn between two worlds. Because his mother is considered a whore and an outsider, John never finds full acceptance among the "savages," yet when he arrives in the World State, he is increasingly horrified and dismayed. He perceives the shallowness of the culture, and is particularly horrified by the dozens and dozens of identical workers. He critiques this society boldly and passionately to Mustafa Mond.

Marx is out of sync with the World State culture as well, though not as profoundly. Not only has an accident in the test tube left him shorter and smaller than the average alpha male, he is also, as an alpha plus, much more intelligent, and thus, more inclined to question his culture's norms than most people. He likes solitude, for example, and his questing mind leads him to want to visit the Savage Reservation. However, Marx also longs to fit in, and to some extent, helps destroy John without meaning to, using him as a ticket to status and success.

Helmholtz is, of the three, the best adjusted to his culture. He has little reason for alienation from the World State, being tall, strong, and handsome, but his high intelligence also makes him privy to the inner-workings and rationale behind the World State and able to appreciate aspects of John, such as his love of Shakespeare, that are lost on the rest of his society. Together, these three allow the reader glimpses into the limitations of the "brave new world," as seen from both the perspective of the insider and the outsider.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would talk about how all three of these men are the main "rebels" in the "civilized" society.  You might say that they show various levels of reaction to the values of that society.

In order of least rebellious to most rebellious, we have Bernard, Helmholtz, and John.

Bernard is clearly least rebellious in that he does not want to be exiled and he really enjoys the fame he gets from his association with John.  Helmholtz is willing to really stick his neck out (poems, the brawl) and is also willing to take his exile.  John hates the society so much he prefers to die.

The three show a range of rebellious reactions to the society in the novel.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team