Significant Allusions

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Last Updated on December 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 567

Allusions to Shakespeare: Brave New World makes abundant references to the works of William Shakespeare and often incorporates lines from his plays directly into the narrative and dialogue. Shakespearean allusions primarily serve to develop John’s character, since he learned how to read using the complete works of Shakespeare. These allusions also instill irony into the text, as it is the “savage” character who quotes Shakespeare. However, John sometimes misapplies Shakespearean quotes, drawing an eerie parallel between himself and members of the World State, who learn through hypnopaedic memorization and may not completely understand the lessons they receive.

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  • The Tempest: “O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! [. . .] O brave new world that has such people in it.” The Tempest looms large in Brave New World, from the book's title to its use of bifurcated plot lines to this quote, which John repeats a number of times after arriving in the World State. At the start of The Tempest, characters find themselves in an unknown world, similar to how Bernard and Lenina travel to New Mexico and how John travels to the World State. John’s repeated use of this line to describe the World State reveals his shift in attitude, from genuine awe to sarcastic derision.
  • Romeo and Juliet: “Did he dare? Dare to profane with his unworthiest hand that . . . No, he didn’t.” John often uses the language of Romeo and Juliet to express his feelings toward Lenina. In some ways, the comparison is apt: John and Lenina are from two different cultures which are often at odds with each other, and neither of them fully understand the other’s true identity. However, comparing Lenina to Juliet also reveals the extent to which John doesn’t understand Lenina or her attitudes toward sexuality.
  • Othello: “Impudent strumpet!” is a misogynistic epithet that Othello’s titular hero uses against his wife, Desdemona. Iago, the play’s villain, has deceived Othello into thinking that Desdemona is unfaithful to him. It can be argued that John’s anger toward Lenina is equally misplaced. There are other parallels between John and Othello, particularly considering that they both experience isolation within their respective cultures.

Allusions to History: Aldous Huxley makes many allusions to history, particularly industrial and economic history, to develop the values of the World State. Furthermore, most of his characters’ names are allusions to specific individuals, and these comparisons contribute to their characterization.

  • Henry Ford: Henry Ford was an industrialist in the early twentieth century who made massive developments in the efficiency of factory production. This rendered his Model-T Ford vehicles affordable for many Americans. He is considered something of a spiritual figurehead in the World State. Time is marked as AF, years after Ford. People exclaim, “Good Ford!” in surprise and wear the letter “T” on necklaces to show their devotion.
  • Maurice Bokanowski: “Bokanovsky’s Process” is possibly an allusion to Maurice Bokanowski, the French Minister of Commerce and Industry from 1926 to 1928. His efforts targeted government inefficiency and economic stability, as well as economic questions posed by the falling birth rate.
  • Vladimir Lenin: Lenina Crowne’s first name contains a possible allusion to Vladimir Lenin, a major communist leader in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. 
  • Karl Marx: Bernard Marx’s last name is a possible allusion to Karl Marx, one of the writers of the Communist Manifesto in the mid-nineteenth century.

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