Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis
Last Updated on March 31, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1135
Before John and the others are exiled, they're held for a period of a couple of days in a small office or apartment, where they await transportation. John makes himself sick by drinking warm water and mustard (a purification trick he learned in Malpais). He asks Mustapha Mond to send him to the Falklands with Helmholtz, but instead John is sent to live in an abandoned lighthouse deep in the English countryside. There, he begins his ritual of purification, self-flagellation, and austerity in the hopes of cleansing himself of the evils of civilization.
Unfortunately, three men happen to drive by and see him whipping himself. They alert the press, who fly to the lighthouse in helicopters to interview John, whom they remember as “the Savage.” He is irritated by this and kicks one of them on the backside. He threatens many of the reporters, but they continue to come, as do tourists wanting to gawk at him. One man by the odd name of Darwin Bonaparte hides inside a fake tree for three days just to film John performing his rituals. Bonaparte is, it turns out, an executive at the Feely Corporation and thinks John’s story will make for a fabulous movie: The Savage of Surrey.
In the wake of the film’s release, tourists flock to John’s lighthouse, curious about the real Savage and encouraging him to whip himself for their amusement. Lenina, accompanied by Henry, visits in the middle of one of these episodes, and the sight of her incites John into a rage. He whips her, and she falls to the ground, injured and bloodied. It’s unclear if she dies in the resultant stampede and orgy, but it would appear that she is killed at the end of the novel and that the soma that John somehow ingested, in combination with his passion and fury, led him to partake of whatever sins and pleasures the spectators offered. Horrified, John hangs himself the next morning, and the last scene is of some visitors finding his dead body.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821). Presumably, the character Darwin Bonaparte is named after both Charles Darwin and Napoleon Bonaparte, as opposed to one of Napoleon’s relatives. Napoleon himself was a French conqueror and is generally considered one of the best generals to have ever lived. His campaign to conquer all of Europe brought him fame and fortune but was finally halted at the Battle of Waterloo in June of 1815. Following his defeat, Bonaparte was exiled to the island of Elba, not unlike the exiles in this novel.
Charles Darwin (1809–1882). The English naturalist famed for his contributions to the study of evolution. Though Darwin was not the first scientist to pose the theory of evolution, he is perhaps the most famous for it, in large part because of his study of the finch population on the Galápagos Islands, where he was able to prove without a shadow of a doubt that evolution is real. This would lead later scientists to major discoveries about human evolution and our relation to apes. The character Darwin Bonaparte is named in honor of both Darwin and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Huxley uses a simile when he calls the reporters “turkey buzzards.”
The Crucifix. Huxley repeats the image of the crucifix first introduced in chapter 7, during the ceremony that Lenina and Bernard witness in Malpais. There, it was a symbol of sacrifice and repentance, and John uses it here as a tool to enhance his suffering, which he feels necessary so that he might be purified of the sins of civilization.
The Eagle. This chapter adds a curious detail: that the eagle is John’s guardian animal. This symbolizes his desire to remain connected with nature and the spiritual world, which is evidenced by his desire to live in such austere conditions.
The Lighthouse. It’s important to note that this lighthouse has been abandoned for a long time. Instead of being a symbol of protection, guidance, and peace for travelers and lost souls, it is a place where people like John who seek protection find only misery and distress. John no doubt decides to live inside the lighthouse itself instead of making camp outside so that he might draw on the symbolism of the lighthouse and feel guided in his path to purification. This endeavor fails, which was to be expected, given the decrepit nature of the lighthouse itself.
Death. According to many scholars, there are two deaths in this final chapter: John’s and Lenina’s (or, at the very least, a woman who looks very much like Lenina and happens to be dating Henry; given that Betas like Lenina are often clones, this is possible, though unlikely, given the woman’s initial reaction to the sight of John). Lenina’s death further links her with Desdemona, Othello’s wife in his namesake play, whom Othello kills for no real reason. John’s death is a tragedy in the sense of it being unnecessary and brought on by the damaging effects of fame, which drove him into even deeper despair and self-loathing. His death will change nothing about this society but does serve as a chilling reminder to Huxley’s readers of the negative effects of fame and drug use.
Nature. Of all the characters in the novel, John and the Native Americans are the only ones who have any sort of relationship with or affinity for nature, which civilization abhors, having been conditioned to hate the country and flowers. John’s love of nature is in many ways a love of individualism, as well as a desire for isolation. He sees nature as a vast, unblemished landscape incapable of sin or evil or lust, and he longs to be a part of it, because he wants to purify himself. However, nature’s essential indifference to humanity makes it impossible for John to truly be a part of the land that he loves, and in the end his geographic isolation doesn’t keep civilization at bay. It’s also possible that Mustapha Mond sent John to the lighthouse deliberately, knowing that it isn’t a remote enough location for him to escape.
Violence. In the end, after many chapters of escalating emotional and physical violence, John finally snaps, committing atrocious acts, including what might be a murder. Huxley glosses over all the events of that night but makes it clear that John’s actions were so abhorrent to him that he felt the only way to truly repent was to take his own life. His suicide is itself an extreme form of self-negating violence that Huxley may be using to suggest that “advanced” societies run the risk of causing its citizens irreparable emotional and psychological harm in the name of “progress” or, in this case, “stability.”