Novel Project

Plot and Review by Hero Magnus

Plot of Brave New World

The book opens with the Director of the Hatchery taking a group of students through the process of creation in the World State, which involves the production of enormous numbers of embryos designed to fit specific castes. He then takes them through the process of conditioning the resulting infants to subscribe to the World State's rules and philosophies, which is done through sleep teaching and electric shocks. Finally he shows them the young children, engaging in 'erotic play,' not covertly, but openly, and playing impossibly complicated games. He explains that the World State has eliminated emotion and with it, the messiness of family, parents, and the home.

Meanwhile, a girl named Lenina is chastised for going out with one boy, Henry, exclusively for four months, and reluctantly admits attraction to an oddball named Bernard, who is at this time furiously listening to Henry discuss Lenina's sexual attributes with a friend.

Bernard invites Lenina to the Savage Reservation, where the uncivilized still reside with mothers and fathers. When Lenina agrees, Bernard flies to visit his friend Helmholtz Watson, who believes himself too intelligent for his job, unlike Bernard, who thinks himself too weak.

When Bernard asks the Director for permission to visit the Reservation, he tells a story of a woman with whom he traveled and was lost on the Reservation before granting his permission. (The Director at this time is planning to exile Bernard when he comes back.)

At the Reservation, Bernard and Lenina find aging people, religious rituals, and an ostracized man named John whose mother, Linda, slept with everyone. He can read (and in fact cites much Shakespeare throughout the novel) and is able to achieve an invitation from Bernard back to the World State.

Lenina is repulsed and takes a copious amount of soma (the drug of choice in the World State) to compensate. While she is unconscious, John breaks into the house and admires her, while Bernard obtains permission to bring John and Linda back. Once they return to the World State, the Director is humiliated because he is called the "father", a dirty word, of John, and resigns, so Bernard is not exiled.

Instead, John (and, because of this, Bernard) is a huge hit with the public, and Bernard abandons his criticism of the World State, sleeping with women and enjoying his popularity. John and Helmholtz become friends and Lenina becomes intent on seducing John, though he rebukes her with Shakespeare and punches. Linda is dying from soma overdoses, and while John is staying with her, children call her ugly and watch her expire as part of their death-conditioning.

Inspired and enraged, John throws the soma rations of a group of civilians out the window, and both Hemholtz and Bernard join the fuss. One of ten World Controllers, Mustapha Mond, arrests them and ends up discussing the meaning of the World State with the three. Helmholtz is delighted with his exile, which gives him a chance to write, and Bernard is in despair. John continues to protest with Mond the importance of God, emotion, and messiness to humanity.

John is refused the option of exile and instead heads to the country, where he lives in a lighthouse and attempts purification of the World State through whipping himself brutally. This attracts the media, and after a soma-fueled orgy finally ruins John of the hopes that he could retain the willpower of being an individual soul, he hangs himself.

Review of Brave New World

I don't have a numerical rating for Brave New World. One's reading of it is very personal, and there is no doubt that my thoughts on its quality are primarily based on my own perspective. My review is a mess of contradictions.

Brave New World comes to a close with a very clear moral, expressed with a few pages of simple but fascinating religious philosophy and more than a slight tinge of superiority. I would dislike this a lot more if I disagreed with Huxley's take on the importance of life being messy, but it still grates; the book itself revealed his theme, and his readers don't need such explicit descriptions.

The book bridges the gap between a trashy, fun read and a heavy one, but in the process hits the opposite of a sweet spot; it drags in parts and goes too fast in others. It was difficult to absorb the change in protagonist, which felt clunky and coincided with the introduction of several new characters. This was an immediate inhibition to my enjoyment of the book.

Similarly, the world Huxley creates is clearly racist (fair-skinned John is ostracized and his poor "white Linda" is seen with "almost black beside her" Pope, triggering his rage; other moments are prevalent) and sexist (Linda and Lenina are almost entirely depicted as stupid and impudent creatures) It is unclear whether these choices were deliberate marks of the dystopian society or simply reflected his viewpoints, but either way they were startling whenever I came across them.

Huxley portrayed the dystopian society as wanton and enjoying casual sex, and allowing for the erotic play of children to be without shame. Huxley shows his distaste for this, and although the matter of casual sex is perhaps warranted, I view the children oppositely. For do we not already live in a society in which children are sometimes beaten for these natural impulses, and nearly always shamed for them- so creating a lifelong distortion of sexuality for many generations of people? Through Huxley's dystopia you can see his utopia, and I do not always like it.

There are flashes of insight, like where Huxley has a character say that friends are for suffering the punishments you are unable to inflict on your enemies. The continued usage of Shakespeare through John is very touching, perhaps because the way he misinterprets or uses verses for his own benefit is in such sharp contrast to his somehow still-innocent knowledge of the words.

The book still resonates with many, and the poignancy of the novel comes through more when the analysis stops. It is ahead of its time in that the world created has strikingly similar elements to our own. The pushing of medication by big pharma, the increasingly earlier ages that children go to school, and the age-defying technologies we see as cosmetic all echo Huxley's fears. In a few months I will want to read it again, to see what I missed in this first reading. However, in my head I could not stop comparing it to The Handmaid's Tale; and I prefer Atwood's novel in every respect, and found it more apt to our times, down to the way that the dystopia began by limiting women's reproductive rights...