What are the similarities and differences between John the savage and Bernard Marx in Brave New World? Although they were raised very differently, Bernard Marx and John the Savage are both...

What are the similarities and differences between John the savage and Bernard Marx in Brave New World? Although they were raised very differently, Bernard Marx and John the Savage are both dissatisfied with the society of the brave new world. What qualities do the characters have in common? How are they different? Compare their strengths and weaknesses.

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Bernard and John are dissatisfied with life in the carefully constructed World State (or brave new world) where everyone is conditioned to be happy, or, if not happy, to be dependent on soma. Everyone is also programmed to be busy and social all the time while never forming deep attachments. Bernard, however, likes to stop and look at the blue sky while Lenina and other "better adjusted" people simply want to rush onward to the next activity.

Like Bernard, John has a capacity for appreciating the beauty of the world. Also like Bernard, he is a misfit in his society. Bernard is too short for an Alpha and is barely tolerated. John is a misfit on the Reservation because his mother is from the World State, and she is considered a whore; John is thus not entirely Indian. 

Bernard, however, is much more conditioned to accept the World State's morality than John. Bernard participates in orgies without moral qualms, even if he does not like them very much, and does not consider Lenina a "strumpet" for sleeping with other men. He does not embrace pain and suffering as a way to feel alive or to atone for sin (sin is an alien concept to him), and he is surprised and displeased when John drinks a mixture of mustard and water that makes him feel sick in order to "purify" himself. John believes that pain and suffering are necessary to make us fully human, as is art, and religion. Bernard can dispense with pain, suffering and religion.

John cannot tolerate Lenina's sexual mores. He also cannot tolerate life in the World State and kills himself. Bernard is a misfit who we are led to believe will be happier on the islands, but he manages to tolerate his sanitized society.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At some point Bernard agrees with John on the assertion that “civilized infantility” is very undemanding. He directs this idea to Mond who thinks that Bernard should be punished for such heresy. Both John and Bernard criticize the new world albeit for different reasons.

The difference is seen when Bernard’s criticism is directed at his inability to fit in his social status while John’s criticism is aimed at the civilized world’s values. Bernard is jealous of his peers who are well endowed while John is indifferent and does not measure himself against his peers. John is quite smart given his ability to study Shakespeare and even use his works to express his emotions and feelings. On the other hand, Bernard is not as intelligent. Bernard is shallow as seen when he welcomes his new popular status and even becomes more accepting of the society while John in his disdain for the same society commits suicide.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think that these two have much in common.  Bernard and John are both at least somewhat dissatisfied with the brave new world, but I am not sure that Bernard's dissatisfaction is real.

Look what happens when Bernard becomes famous because of John.  He starts to really embrace the society -- he changes his attitude towards sex and towards getting ahead in the society.  I do not think that he is really dissatisfied with the society per se.  Instead, I think he is dissatisfied with his place in the society.

John, on the other hand, really is dissatisfied with the society.  He is more honest than Bernard and more committed to his convictions.  That is why he kills himself while Bernard begs not to be exiled.

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Brave New World

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