Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis
Chapter 12 Summary
This chapter opens with Bernard pleading that John come out and talk to their guests. When John refuses to attend the party, Bernard must suffer the cruel remarks of his snobby party guests, who resent having to associate with him outside the company of John "the Savage." Lenina, however, doesn't resent Bernard, but is upset about not getting to see John and having to entertain the Arch Community Songster, instead. When the guests leave, Bernard briefly weeps, and John is shown rereading the play Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile, Mustapha Mond is reading a biology paper that takes a near heretical stance on the concept of "purpose." He decides not to publish it, but doesn't (yet) exile the author.
Later, Bernard and John talk about why Bernard is unhappy. He begins to feel as though John is a friend and thus subject to all the "punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies." Bernard then grovels to Helmholtz, wanting to be his friend again, and is surprised by how easily Helmholtz accepts. Evidently, Helmholtz has gotten into some trouble at work due to the fact that he went off script and tried to teach his students about rhyme with a poem that he wrote himself. He then reads the poem, which is terrible. Nevertheless, he's proud of it and feels that he's finally beginning to realize his true talents. John takes to this immediately.
Helmholtz and John are briefly able to bond over the beauty of Shakespeare's poetry, which they read aloud while Bernard laughs rudely at the elevated language. Then John reads from the play Romeo and Juliet, and Helmholtz outright laughs at the thought of Juliet's parents trying to force her to marry someone she doesn't want—or controlling her sex life at all. Helmholtz thinks this is ludicrous and decides that he needs some other form of madness or violence to write about. John, disappointed, stops reading.
Chapter 12 Analysis
"The Phoenix and the Turtle" by William Shakespeare. This is an allegorical poem about true love that John reads aloud for Helmholtz. Specifically, he quotes the following lines:
Let the bird of loudest lay
On the sole Arabian tree
Herald sad and trumpet be,
Like Romeo and Juliet, the poem deals in the themes of love and death, which preoccupy John in this chapter (perhaps because of his burgeoning relationship with Lenina).
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Once again, Huxley alludes to Romeo and Juliet, summarizing the basic plot so that Bernard and Helmholtz will have the opportunity to comment on just how different Shakespeare's idea of love is from theirs. John, who holds this play dear, takes offense at Helmholtz's laughter and begins to pull away as a friend. Helmholtz's disdain is meant to convey just how uncultured this society is.
Helmholtz reads a long, terrible rhyming poem he wrote that uses an ABAB rhyme structure, not unlike Shakespeare's. His inability to appreciate the Bard's work despite its technical virtuosity is yet another example of Helmholtz's limited abilities as a writer.
The Golden T. The Arch-Community Songster gifts Lenina a necklace with a small golden T on its chain, which Lenina touches softly at key moments in this chapter. It's immediately apparent to the reader that Huxley is likening this golden T to the Christian cross and that the Arch-Community Songster is a sly allusion to the Archbishop of Canterbury, his religious equivalent. Though Christianity as a whole no longer exists, the concept of "worship" still does, and this Arch-Community Songster, who holds a position of power within the "church" behind the Solidarity Services. That Lenina is engaged in a sexual relationship with an essentially religious figure is no doubt a comment on the corruption present in the Christian church.
Love. Given how averse this community is to emotional attachments, it's unsurprising that Helmholtz scoffs at the mere thought of monogamy. "Love" as such no longer exists in this world, and it has been supplanted by sex and drug use as the primary forms of expression, besides clothing. Some might argue that "love" as we understand it is merely a social construct and that, therefore, there are no ramifications to replacing it with complete sexual freedom. However, the lack of "love" as a recognizable emotion has stunted interpersonal development in this world, making characters, in their own words, "infantile."
Propaganda. The State uses propaganda to control the masses. This usually comes in the form of conditioning, but is also readily apparent in the feelies and "art" produced by people like Helmholtz, who have trained and composed at the various Bureaux of Propaganda. Every form of communication and art in this world has been carefully crafted to reinforce the conditioning citizens have undergone since childhood. Helmholtz even delivers a lecture "On the Use of Rhymes in Moral Propaganda and Advertisement," which emphasizes how language is used to manipulate the masses.