Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
Chapter 7 Summary
Bernard and Lenina are being led around the reservation by a guide. Lenina refers to everything as "queer" (her word for things she dislikes) and finds the bodies and habits of the "savages" too beastly to think about. They walk around for a bit. See an angle. Look at some hills. They're nice hills. Then their guide takes them to the pueblo, where Lenina is appalled by the squalor, old age, and disease she encounters. Bernard explains that this is what life would be like if human beings weren't engineered to always be youthful and free of disease. Without the calming effects of her soma, Lenina finds this visit horrific and stressful and is upset by the pagan ritual she witnesses.
Though the music at this ritual bears a passing resemblance to that at the Solidarity Services, the ritual is like nothing Bernard and Lenina have ever seen: there are drums beating, men in masks, and elaborate dances with obscure meanings that Lenina doesn't understand. One man opens up a chest and reveals dozens of snakes, which he throws onto the ground. A boy allows himself to be whipped in front of everyone, for the good of the pueblo. Another boy, who will later be revealed as John, the Director's illegitimate son, explains to Bernard and Lenina that they whipped the boy in hopes of making the rain come. John wishes that he had been whipped, because he considers it a great honor.
Bernard, realizing that it's uncommon for a white person like John to have grown up on a Savage Reservation, asks him how he came to live there and hears the other side of the Director's story: John's mother is Linda, the Director's ex-girlfriend, who was left behind and only found out that she was pregnant afterward. Out of shame, she stayed on the reservation rather than have to face the humiliation of being pregnant. She had John via live birth and raised him on the reservation, teaching him to read from a manual and a large book of Shakespeare's works. This was difficult for her, because she was only a Beta who worked in the Fertilizing Room and, thus, had no skills beyond those needed to perform her duties. She can't mend her clothes, explain how a helicopter works, or answer John's more philosophical questions. She can only suffer what she thinks of as the "madness" of life on the Savage Reservation.
Chapter 7 Analysis
The Crucifix. During the ritual performed on the Reservation, the Native Americans reveal an image of what is probably Jesus Christ crucified on the Cross. This image, though never explicitly linked to Jesus, nevertheless becomes a symbol of his suffering and suffering in general. It's fitting that after this image is revealed a boy is whipped, symbolically suffering for his sins in order to make the rains come.
The Eagle. In the United States, the eagle has become a symbol of American pride, but in Native American cultures, it remains a symbol of power and of man's connection with the divine. This symbolism reaches all the way back to ancient Greece and beyond and can be found in classical texts such as The Odyssey. During the ritual in this chapter, the eagle is a spirit that allows the tribespeople to connect with the underworld.
Cleanliness. During their conditioning process, children are taught that "Civilization is Sterilization." This has two meanings: 1) that the civilization is made possible in part by the sterilization of roughly 70% of the female population, and 2) that cleanliness is paramount and that the whole world should be as sterile and antiseptic as possible. This is similar to the adage "cleanliness is next to godliness," which asserts that one must be clean to be close to God. Remove the religion from that sentiment and you have the belief that all of civilization should be rid of dirt and disease. Lenina's horror in being exposed to filth on the Savage Reservation stems from this belief in cleanliness.
Disease. Hand in hand with the theme of cleanliness is the theme of disease, which is viewed as a physical or biological form of filth. Everyone had been bioengineered to be immune to disease, which has allowed them to prevent aging and eliminate the spread of communicable disease. In the absence of disease, the medical profession has refocused its attention on preserving youth and preventing pregnancy, which both controls the population and emphasizes sex.
Madness. What Linda refers to as "madness" the reader understands to be the customs and the traditions of a culture so foreign as to appear nonsensical and, in many ways, despicable. In Linda's reaction, we can clearly see how racism, classism, ageism, and what amounts to extreme xenophobia has pickled her mind, making it impossible for her to understand cultures other than her own. Given that this novel is a satire of the modern world, Huxley is clearly using Linda's reaction to comment on the rampant intolerance of the time.
Religion. Organized religion has been all but destroyed in this new world, but on the Savage Reservations, the old ways and traditions have been preserved through the generations, allowing for their belief in spirits or gods associated with the natural world. Though Lenina has no direct experience with an organized religion of the kind practiced today, she does participate in the communal Solidarity Services, which are not unlike cults in their reliance on drugs, mind control, and a false sense of community. When she murmurs "Orgy-porgy" while watching the rituals on the reservation, it's clear that, while she understands some of the significance of this custom, she's horrified by it.