Although they were raised very differently, Bernard Marx and John the Savage are both dissatisfied with the society of the brave new world. What qualities do the characters have in common? How are they different? Compare their strengths and weaknesses.
While Bernard Marx is out with Lenina in a helicopter, he insists on hovering low over the waves for a few minutes. The two of them are all alone with nature. He finds it beautiful. She finds it horrible and unnatural:
“It makes me feel as though,” he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, “as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?”
But Lenina was crying. “It’s horrible, it’s horrible,” she kept repeating. “And how can you talk like that about not wanting to be a part of the social body?
This crystallizes how Marx is different from the rest of his society. It also shows how he is similar to John the Savage. Both men are seeking something outside of the superficial pleasures offered by the World State. Both have a hunger for the poetic and the individual and for exploring the deeper challenges of life. Both are critics of the World State, which is unusual in that people living there are typically conditioned from babyhood to be happy, unquestioning conformists.
Of course, John differs from Marx in that he never was conditioned. He grew up on the Indian Reservation and internalized the traditional values of that culture, in which female chastity was the norm. Suffering, dirt, pain, and religion were a natural part of life. John's experience of a deeper, more painful level of existence is reinforced by his reading of Shakespeare.
Both men are outsiders. Bernard is small for an Alpha. In his society, the most intelligent caste, the Alpha caste, are the tallest, while the unintelligent worker class, the Epsilons, are the smallest and darkest. As a result, Marx has an inferiority complex and never feels entirely at home in his world. John is an outsider because his mother, Linda, is an outsider on the Reservation. She is considered a whore, and he himself is not an Indian.
Unlike Marx, however, John is not driven by inferiority and vanity, and he has no desire for acceptance in the World State. He only wants to be left alone, and he finally commits suicide to find peace. Marx, on the other hand, has been conditioned all his life to function in the society he now questions, so he does not experience the deep anguish John does. One cannot, for example, imagine Marx beating himself. If Marx's sense of inferiority makes him flawed, John's flaw is in his embrace of too much suffering. Marx accepts exile to a remote island, so he can explore a deeper life, an activity unacceptable in his society. The implication at the end of the novel is that he will find happiness in exile. John can never fit in, as he is too different and too unwilling to change.