What Happens in Brave New World?

The novel is set in A.F. 632. Bernard Marx is a short, alienated Alpha living in a socially-stratified future where human cloning is an everyday occurrence. He invites Beta Lenina Crowne to spend a week at the Savage Reservation with him.

  • On the Savage Reservation, Bernard and Lenina meet a young man named John and his mother Linda, the ex-girlfriend of Bernard's boss, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning. Bernard decides to bring John and his mother back to London to shame his boss.
  • John is quickly dubbed "the Savage" by the media and becomes a kind of sideshow attraction to the Alphas of polite society. John strikes up a relationship with Lenina, who doesn't understand why he won't have sex with her. When she makes a pass at him, he attacks her, calling her a strumpet.
  • Meanwhile, Linda had been hospitalized due to her addiction to soma, a popular drug in this brave new world. The grief that John experiences when Linda dies creates a public scandal, and Bernard and Helmholtz are exiled to restore order. John attempts to purify himself in exile, but eventually takes his own life.

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Brave New World is considered one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written, and the first several chapters of the novel are spent worldbuilding so that the reader will understand how this brave new world operates. Fittingly, the first chapter opens with a guided tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning is leading a group of young students through the building, explaining the more complicated science that the author, Aldous Huxley, has invented for the novel. During this tour, the reader learns that everyone in this civilization is a clone, the product of Bokanovsky's Process, which takes a single fertilized egg, arrests the development, and then forces it to bud or split, creating up to ninety-six viable embryos, which in turn create ninety-six identical twins. This homogenization process has been perfected for the purpose of creating order in the world. Their world motto is "Community, Identity, Stability."

To maintain that stability, the World Controllers have devised a system wherein different classes of people (Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons) correspond to different levels of power, intellect, and wealth, with Alphas at the top with the best jobs and Epsilons at the bottom with all the grunt work. They're been conditioned to accept their station through an elaborate, systematic brainwashing process that involves sleep teaching, electric shocks, and explosions. Everyone, the Director says, is conditioned to hate nature but to love playing sports in the country, which World Controllers find productive because it stimulates the economy. All these decisions are made by a group of ten people, including one Mustapha Mond, the Resident Controller for Western Europe, whom we'll get to know later in the novel.

During this long tour, the reader is introduced to two of the main characters of the novel: Bernard Marx, an Alpha-Plus with a reputation for being antisocial, and Lenina Crowne, his love interest, whom he'll briefly date. In an awkward scene in an elevator, Lenina approaches him in front of a former conquest of hers, Benito Hoover, and asks Bernard if he still wants to take her away for a vacation in New Mexico. He gets flustered, which is considered strange in this society, then goes to talk to his friend Helmholtz, a screenwriter for the "feelies" (what they call the movies). Their vacation won't come until two chapters later, in Chapter 6, and in the meantime Lenina goes on a date with Henry, another suitor of hers, according to the dictum that "every one belongs to every one else" and that nobody should practice monogamy. Bernard is somewhat uncomfortable with this, which leads to trouble in both his personal and professional life.

Before he goes to New Mexico, he happens to speak with his boss, the Director, who threatens...

(The entire section is 1,221 words.)