Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Bernard asks John to explain his life. Most of the chapter consists of a flashback in which John is a small child and Linda begins dating (and, it seems, being taken advantage of and abused) by an alcoholic and violent Native American named Popé, whom John detests. In one harrowing scene, Linda is whipped by three Native American women who think she's stealing their men. It's made clear that Linda became something of a prostitute on the Reservation and that she was helpless to defend herself against the abuses of men and women alike. Meanwhile, she slowly taught John to read using a manual from work and a large copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Unsurprisingly, he preferred the latter.
When John grows older, the elders on the Reservation begin to take an interest in him, and one of them teaches him how to sculpt water pots out of clay. He witnesses a marriage, which Linda has little regard for, but which seems to move John. Later, when he attempts to attend a ceremony for the young men in the village, he's driven out, pelted by rocks. Once, John tells Bernard, he had a dream of being crucified like Jesus and paying for his sins. Bernard then asks if John would like to come back to London with them, and John jumps at the chance.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. While relating his personal history to Bernard, John quotes two famous passages from Hamlet, a tragedy about a young man who fakes madness in order to seek revenge on his uncle, who killed his brother, Hamlet's father. These passages are:
Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty . . . (act 3, scene 4, lines 92–95)
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed . . . (act 3, scene 3, lines 90–91)
In both passages, Hamlet is referring to the incestuous acts committed by his uncle King Claudius, who married his sister-in-law, Hamlet's mother, Queen Gertrude. (In Hamlet's time, sisters-in-law were considered, simply, sisters, which makes it incestuous for Claudius to marry Gertrude.) The allusion to these lines is meant to underscore John's hatred of Popé and his disgust with sex.
John uses a simile when he describes Popé's long hair draped over Linda "like a black snake."
Alcohol. In previous chapters, we've seen how the rumor that alcohol had been introduced into Bernard's embryo at a crucial stage of development contributed to his social isolation. Here, alcohol in the form of mescal is consumed by Linda and Native Americans in excessive quantities that Lenina finds unpleasant. Thus, we see that alcohol in its various forms is a symbol of one's social status.
Blood. Traditionally, blood is a symbol of violence, death, passion, or even guilt, as when someone has blood on their hands. Here, blood becomes a symbol of purification, both in Jesus's crucifixion and in the ritual whipping that the boy suffers. When this blood is shed, his community is able to reap the rewards, having satisfied the gods and spirits.
Snakes. During the ritual in this chapter, an old man pulls dozens of snakes out of a chest, throwing them pointedly on the ground. In Pueblo mythology, snakes are symbols of fertility, and the old man is using them here to incite the rain gods to come and help their crop (in other words, to incite their maize to be fertile). Later, John describes Popé's hair as a "black snake" draped across Linda—an image that underscores their fertility and sexual relationship while also playing on the traditional symbolism of the snake as a treacherous enemy.
Literacy. Hand in hand with the theme of education and the symbolism of books is the theme of literacy, a skill which has been discouraged in the brave new world for the purpose of dampening a person's intellectual curiosity and stymieing their imagination....
(The entire section is 990 words.)