Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
When this chapter opens, Henry Foster is asking Lenina who she's going out with that night and if she's feeling ill (they've eliminated most infectious diseases in this world, but not all). In point of fact, Lenina isn't sick at all, but she's upset about her relationship with John, which has not yet turned sexual, despite her best efforts to seduce him. Fanny balks when Lenina tells her about it. She suggests that Lenina see other men, but Lenina has, and it hasn't stopped her from wanting to see John—and only John.
When Lenina shows up at John's apartment, he's surprised, having expected Helmholtz. He tells her that he wants to make a show of his love for her, to prove to her that he's worthy of her, so that they can get married. Lenina doesn't understand all this (never having considered the prospect of a monogamous marriage) and consequently grows upset, asking John whether he likes her or not. When he tells her he loves her, she strips naked, thinking that they can at last have sex. But John catches her wrists and screams that she's a whore. She's so frightened that she has to lock herself in the bathroom to protect herself from his sudden rage.
After a while, Lenina attempts to talk to him, interrupting his furious recitations of Shakespeare phrases. He graciously returns her clothes and belt, pushing them through a ventilator shaft over the door when she refuses to unlock it. Then he receives a call from someone who tells him that his mother is in grave condition. He leaves, and Lenina pokes her head out.
King Lear by William Shakespeare. In his rage, John quotes the following passage from King Lear:
The fitchew, nor the soiled horse, goes to 't
With a more riotous appetite.
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above:
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiends';
There's hell, there's darkness, there's the sulphurous pit,
Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah,
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten
my imagination . . . (act 4, scene 6, lines 136–146)
This passage, like the quote from Othello, is about the supposedly feckless and corruptible nature of women. It's meant to suggest that Lenina's lust is animalistic and that she doesn't satisfy John's requirements for appropriate female behavior.
Othello by William Shakespeare. John quotes the line "Impudent strumpet!" (V.ii.83) when Lenina undresses. He thinks that she's a whore who has been pretending to be chaste and that she has finally shown her true colors here. Remember that he likened the main character of Three Weeks in a Helicopter, the feely they went to see on their first date, to Othello, the Moor. His allusion to the play here aligns Lenina with the character Desdemona, Othello's falsely accused wife, whom he murders out of jealousy after his "friend" Iago convinces him that she has been unfaithful. In this, Huxley appears to be telling the reader that Lenina is innocent and that John has been driven to madness. He also quotes the lines:
O thou weed,
Who art so lovely fair and smell'st so sweet
That the sense aches at thee . . . (act 4, scene 2, lines 74–76)
Was this fair paper, this most goodly book,
Made to write “whore” upon? (act 4, scene 2, lines 79–80)
Heaven stops the nose at it . . . (act 4, scene 2, line 85)
He strings these lines together, omitting words, either because he forgot them or because he wants to hurry through the lines and get to the point: that he thinks Lenina is treacherous.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare. When John tries to tell Lenina that he wants to get married, he quotes the following lines:
If thou dost break her virgin knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite . . . (act 4, scene 1, lines 15–17)
He's unaware that she isn't a virgin anymore and that they won't be able to have the pure and holy wedding ceremony he imagines. When he finally understands that Lenina has had sex and, to his great horror, wants to have sex with...
(The entire section is 1,226 words.)