Huxley. Brave new word

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Testo

BRAVE NEW WORD
PLoT
The novel opens in the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre, where the Director of the Hatchery and one of his assistants, Henry Foster, are giving a tour to a group of boys. The boys learn about the Bokanovsky and Podsnap Processes that allow the Hatchery to produce thousands of nearly identical human embryos. During the gestation period the embryos travel in bottles along a conveyor belt through a factorylike building, and are conditioned to belong to one of five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon. The Alpha embryos are destined to become the leaders and thinkers of the World State. Each of the succeeding castes is conditioned to be slightly less physically and intellectually impressive. The Epsilons, stunted and stupefied by oxygen deprivation and chemical treatments, are destined to perform menial labor. Lenina Crowne, an employee at the factory, describes to the boys how she vaccinates embryos destined for tropical climates.
The Director then leads the boys to the Nursery, where they observe a group of Delta infants being reprogrammed to dislike books and flowers. The Director explains that this conditioning helps to make Deltas docile and eager consumers. He then tells the boys about the “hypnopaedic” (sleep-teaching) methods used to teach children the morals of the World State. In a room where older children are napping, a whispering voice is heard repeating a lesson in “Elementary Class Consciousness.”
Outside, the Director shows the boys hundreds of naked children engaged in sexual play and games like “Centrifugal Bumble-puppy.” Mustapha Mond, one of the ten World Controllers, introduces himself to the boys and begins to explain the history of the World State, focusing on the State’s successful efforts to remove strong emotions, desires, and human relationships from society. Meanwhile, inside the Hatchery, Lenina chats in the bathroom with Fanny Crowne about her relationship with Henry Foster. Fanny chides Lenina for going out with Henry almost exclusively for four months, and Lenina admits she is attracted to the strange, somewhat funny-looking Bernard Marx. In another part of the Hatchery, Bernard is enraged when he overhears a conversation between Henry and the Assistant Predestinator about “having” Lenina.
After work, Lenina tells Bernard that she would be happy to accompany him on the trip to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico to which he had invited her. Bernard, overjoyed but embarrassed, flies a helicopter to meet a friend of his, Helmholtz Watson. He and Helmholtz discuss their dissatisfaction with the World State. Bernard is primarily disgruntled because he is too small and weak for his caste; Helmholtz is unhappy because he is too intelligent for his job writing hypnopaedic phrases. In the next few days, Bernard asks his superior, the Director, for permission to visit the Reservation. The Director launches into a story about a visit to the Reservation he had made with a woman twenty years earlier. During a storm, he tells Bernard, the woman was lost and never recovered. Finally, he gives Bernard the permit, and Bernard and Lenina depart for the Reservation, where they get another permit from the Warden. Before heading into the Reservation, Bernard calls Helmholtz and learns that the Director has grown weary of what he sees as Bernard’s difficult and unsocial behavior and is planning to exile Bernard to Iceland when he returns. Bernard is angry and distraught, but decides to head into the Reservation anyway.
On the Reservation, Lenina and Bernard are shocked to see its aged and ill residents; no one in the World State has visible signs of aging. They witness a religious ritual in which a young man is whipped, and find it abhorrent. After the ritual they meet John, a fair-skinned young man who is isolated from the rest of the village. John tells Bernard about his childhood as the son of a woman named Linda who was rescued by the villagers some twenty years ago. Bernard realizes that Linda is almost certainly the woman mentioned by the Director. Talking to John, he learns that Linda was ostracized because of her willingness to sleep with all the men in the village, and that as a result John was raised in isolation from the rest of the village. John explains that he learned to read using a book called The Chemical and Bacteriological Conditioning of the Embryo and The Complete Works of Shakespeare, the latter given to Linda by one of her lovers, Popé. John tells Bernard that he is eager to see the “Other Place”—the “brave new world” that his mother has told him so much about. Bernard invites him to return to the World State with him. John agrees but insists that Linda be allowed to come as well.
While Lenina, disgusted with the Reservation, takes enough soma to knock her out for eighteen hours, Bernard flies to Santa Fe where he calls Mustapha Mond and receives permission to bring John and Linda back to the World State. Meanwhile, John breaks into the house where Lenina is lying intoxicated and unconscious, and barely suppresses his desire to touch her. Bernard, Lenina, John, and Linda fly to the World State, where the Director is waiting to exile Bernard in front of his Alpha coworkers. But Bernard turns the tables by introducing John and Linda. The shame of being a “father”—the very word makes the onlookers laugh nervously—causes the Director to resign, leaving Bernard free to remain in London
John becomes a hit with London society because of his strange life led on the Reservation. But while touring the factories and schools of the World State, John becomes increasingly disturbed by the society that he sees. His sexual attraction to Lenina remains, but he desires more than simple lust, and he finds himself terribly confused. In the process, he also confuses Lenina, who wonders why John does not wish to have sex with her. As the discoverer and guardian of the “Savage,” Bernard also becomes popular. He quickly takes advantage of his new status, sleeping with many women and hosting dinner parties with important guests, most of whom dislike Bernard but are willing to placate him if it means they get to meet John. One night John refuses to meet the guests, including the Arch-Community Songster, and Bernard’s social standing plummets.
After Bernard introduces them, John and Helmholtz quickly take to each other. John reads Helmholtz parts of Romeo and Juliet, but Helmholtz cannot keep himself from laughing at a serious passage about love, marriage, and parents—ideas that are ridiculous, almost scatological in World State culture.
Fueled by his strange behavior, Lenina becomes obsessed with John, refusing Henry’s invitation to see a feely. She takes soma and visits John at Bernard’s apartment, where she hopes to seduce him. But John responds to her advances with curses, blows, and lines from Shakespeare. She retreats to the bathroom while he fields a phone call in which he learns that Linda, who has been on permanent soma-holiday since her return, is about to die. At the Hospital for the Dying he watches her die while a group of lower-caste boys receiving their “death conditioning” wonder why she is so unattractive. The boys are simply curious, but John becomes enraged. After Linda dies, John meets a group of Delta clones who are receiving their soma ration. He tries to convince them to revolt, throwing the soma out the window, and a riot results. Bernard and Helmholtz, hearing of the riot, rush to the scene and come to John’s aid. After the riot is calmed by police with soma vapor, John, Helmholtz, and Bernard are arrested and brought to the office of Mustapha Mond.
John and Mond debate the value of the World State’s policies, John arguing that they dehumanize the residents of the World State and Mond arguing that stability and happiness are more important than humanity. Mond explains that social stability has required the sacrifice of art, science, and religion. John protests that, without these things, human life is not worth living. Bernard reacts wildly when Mond says that he and Helmholtz will be exiled to distant islands, and he is carried from the room. Helmholtz accepts the exile readily, thinking it will give him a chance to write, and soon follows Bernard out of the room. John and Mond continue their conversation. They discuss religion and the use of soma to control negative emotions and social harmony.
John bids Helmholtz and Bernard good-bye. Refused the option of following them to the islands by Mond, he retreats to a lighthouse in the countryside where he gardens and attempts to purify himself by self-flagellation. Curious World State citizens soon catch him in the act, and reporters descend on the lighthouse to film news reports and a feely. After the feely, hordes of people descend on the lighthouse and demand that John whip himself. Lenina comes and approaches John with her arms open. John reacts by brandishing his whip and screaming “Kill it! Kill it!” The intensity of the scene causes an orgy in which John takes part. The next morning he wakes up and, overcome with anger and sadness at his submission to World State society, hangs himself
Character List
John - The son of the Director and Linda, John is the only major character to have grown up outside of the World State. The consummate outsider, he has spent his life alienated from his village on the New Mexico Savage Reservation, and he finds himself similarly unable to fit in to World State society. His entire worldview is based on his knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, which he can quote with great facility.
John (In-Depth Analysis)
Bernard Marx - An Alpha male who fails to fit in because of his inferior physical stature. He holds unorthodox beliefs about sexual relationships, sports, and community events. His insecurity about his size and status makes him discontented with the World State. Bernard’s surname recalls Karl Marx, the nineteenth-century German author best known for writing Capital, a monumental critique of capitalist society. Unlike his famous namesake, Bernard’s discontent stems from his frustrated desire to fit into his own society, rather than from a systematic or philosophical criticism of it. When threatened, Bernard can be petty and cruel.
Bernard Marx (In-Depth Analysis)
Helmholtz Watson - An Alpha lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering, Helmholtz is a prime example of his caste, but feels that his work is empty and meaningless and would like to use his writing abilities for something more meaningful. He and Bernard are friends because they find common ground in their discontent with the World State, but Helmholtz’s criticisms of the World State are more philosophical and intellectual than Bernard’s more petty complaints. As a result, Helmholtz often finds Bernard’s boastfulness and cowardice tedious.
Helmholtz Watson (In-Depth Analysis)
Lenina Crowne - A vaccination worker at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. She is an object of desire for a number of major and minor characters, including Bernard Marx and John. Her behavior is sometimes intriguingly unorthodox, which makes her attractive to the reader. For example, she defies her culture’s conventions by dating one man exclusively for several months, she is attracted to Bernard—the misfit—and she develops a violent passion for John the Savage. Ultimately, her values are those of a conventional World State citizen: her primary means of relating to other people is through sex, and she is unable to share Bernard’s disaffection or to comprehend John’s alternate system of values.
Mustapha Mond - The Resident World Controller of Western Europe, one of only ten World Controllers. He was once an ambitious, young scientist performing illicit research. When his work was discovered, he was given the choice of going into exile or training to become a World Controller. He chose to give up science, and now he censors scientific discoveries and exiles people for unorthodox beliefs. He also keeps a collection of forbidden literature in his safe, including Shakespeare and religious writings. The name Mond means “world,” and Mond is indeed the most powerful character in the world of this novel.
Mustapha Mond (In-Depth Analysis)
Fanny Crowne - Lenina Crowne’s friend (they have the same last name because only about ten thousand last names are in use in the World State). Fanny’s role is mainly to voice the conventional values of her caste and society. Specifically, she warns Lenina that she should have more men in her life because it looks bad to concentrate on one man for too long.
Henry Foster - One of Lenina’s many lovers, he is a perfectly conventional Alpha male, casually discussing Lenina’s body with his coworkers. His success with Lenina, and his casual attitude about it, infuriate the jealous Bernard.
Linda - John’s mother, and a Beta. While visiting the New Mexico Savage Reservation, she became pregnant with the Director’s son. During a storm, she got lost, suffered a head injury and was left behind. A group of Indians found her and brought her to their village. Linda could not get an abortion on the Reservation, and she was too ashamed to return to the World State with a baby. Her World State–conditioned promiscuity makes her a social outcast. She is desperate to return to the World State and to soma.
The Director - The Director administrates the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. He is a threatening figure, with the power to exile Bernard to Iceland. But he is secretly vulnerable because he fathered a child (John), a scandalous and obscene act in the World State.
The Arch-Community-Songster - The Arch-Community-Songster is the secular, shallow equivalent of an archbishop in the World State society.
Popé - Popé was Linda’s lover on the New Mexico Savage Reservation. He gave Linda a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
The Warden - The Warden is the talkative chief administrator for the New Mexico

Analysis of Major Characters
John
Although Bernard Marx is the primary character in Brave New World up until his visit with Lenina to the Reservation, after that point he fades into the background and John becomes the central protagonist. John first enters the story as he expresses an interest in participating in the Indian religious ritual from which Bernard and Lenina recoil. John’s desire first marks him as an outsider among the Indians, since he is not allowed to participate in their ritual. It also demonstrates the huge cultural divide between him and World State society, since Bernard and Lenina see the tribal ritual as disgusting. John becomes the central character of the novel because, rejected both by the “savage” Indian culture and the “civilized” World State culture, he is the ultimate outsider.
As an outsider, John takes his values from a more than 900-year-old author, William Shakespeare. John’s extensive knowledge of Shakespeare’s works serves him in several important ways: it enables him to verbalize his own complex emotions and reactions, it provides him with a framework from which to criticize World State values, and it provides him with language that allows him to hold his own against the formidable rhetorical skill of Mustapha Mond during their confrontation. (On the other hand, John’s insistence on viewing the world through Shakespearean eyes sometimes blinds him to the reality of other characters, notably Lenina, who, in his mind, is alternately a heroine and a “strumpet,” neither of which label is quite appropriate to her.) Shakespeare embodies all of the human and humanitarian values that have been abandoned in the World State. John’s rejection of the shallow happiness of the World State, his inability to reconcile his love and lust for Lenina, and even his eventual suicide all reflect themes from Shakespeare. He is himself a Shakespearean character in a world where any poetry that does not sell a product is prohibited.
John’s naïve optimism about the World State, expressed in the words from The Tempest that constitute the novel’s title, is crushed when he comes into direct contact with the State. The phrase “brave new world” takes on an increasingly bitter, ironic, and pessimistic tone as he becomes more knowledgeable about the State. John’s participation in the final orgy and his suicide at the end of the novel can be seen as the result of an insanity created by the fundamental conflict between his values and the reality of the world around him.
Bernard Marx
Up until his visit to the Reservation and the introduction of John, Bernard Marx is the central figure of the novel. Bernard’s first appearance in the novel is highly ironic. Just as the Director finishes his explanation of how the World State has successfully eliminated lovesickness, and everything that goes along with frustrated desire, Huxley gives us our first glimpse into a character’s private thoughts, and that character is lovesick, jealous, and fiercely angry at his sexual rivals. Thus, while Bernard is not exactly heroic (and he becomes even less so as the novel progresses), he is still interesting to the reader because he is human. He wants things that he can’t have.
The major movement in Bernard’s character is his rise in popularity after the trip to the Reservation and his discovery of John, followed by his disastrous fall. Before and during his trip to the Reservation, Bernard is lonely, insecure, and isolated. When he returns with John, he uses his newfound popularity to participate in all of the aspects of World State society that he had previously criticized, such as promiscuous sex. This about-face proves Bernard to be a critic whose deepest desire is to become what he criticizes. When John refuses to become a tool in Bernard’s attempt to remain popular, Bernard’s success collapses instantaneously. By continuing to criticize the World State while reveling in its “pleasant vices,” Bernard reveals himself to be a hypocrite. John and Helmholtz are sympathetic to him because they agree that the World State needs criticizing and because they recognize that Bernard is trapped in a body to which his conditioning has not suited him, but they have no respect for him. Lenina’s relationship to Bernard is different: she sees him merely as a strange, interesting fellow with whom she can take a break from her relationship with Henry Foster. She is happy to use him for her own social gain, but she doesn’t have the emotional investment in him that she does in John.
Helmholtz Watson
Helmholtz Watson is not as fully developed as some of the other characters, acting instead as a foil for Bernard and John. For Bernard, Helmholtz is everything Bernard wishes he could be: strong, intelligent, and attractive. As such a figure of strength, Helmholtz is very comfortable in his caste. Unlike Bernard, he is well liked and respected. Though he and Bernard share a dislike of the World State, Helmholtz condemns it for radically different reasons. Bernard dislikes the State because he is too weak to fit the social position he has been assigned; Helmholtz because he is too strong. Helmholtz can see and feel how the shallow culture in which he lives is stifling him.
Helmholtz is also a foil for John, but in a different way. Helmholtz and John are very similar in spirit; both love poetry, and both are intelligent and critical of the World State. But there is an enormous cultural gap between them. Even when Helmholtz sees the genius in Shakespeare’s poetry, he cannot help but laugh at the mention of mothers, fathers, and marriage—concepts that are vulgar and ridiculous in the World State. The conversations between Helmholtz and John illustrate that even the most reflective and intelligent World State member is defined by the culture in which he has been raised.
Mustapha Mond
Mustapha Mond is the most powerful and intelligent proponent of the World State. Early in the novel, it is his voice that explains the history of the World State and the philosophy upon which it is based. Later in the novel it is his debate with John that lays out the fundamental difference in values between World State society and the kind of society represented in Shakespeare’s plays.
Mustapha Mond is a paradoxical figure. He reads Shakespeare and the Bible and he used to be an independent-minded scientist, but he also censors new ideas and controls a totalitarian state. For Mond, humankind’s ultimate goals are stability and happiness, as opposed to emotions, human relations, and individual expression. By combining a firm commitment to the values of the World State with a nuanced understanding of its history and function, Mustapha Mond presents a formidable opponent for John, Bernard, and Helmholtz.
Themes, Motifs & Symbols
Themes
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Use of Technology to Control Society
Brave New World warns of the dangers of giving the state control over new and powerful technologies. One illustration of this theme is the rigid control of reproduction through technological and medical intervention, including the surgical removal of ovaries, the Bokanovsky Process, and hypnopaedic conditioning. Another is the creation of complicated entertainment machines that generate both harmless leisure and the high levels of consumption and production that are the basis of the World State’s stability. Soma is a third example of the kind of medical, biological, and psychological technologies that Brave New World criticizes most sharply.
It is important to recognize the distinction between science and technology. Whereas the State talks about progress and science, what it really means is the bettering of technology, not increased scientific exploration and experimentation. The state uses science as a means to build technology that can create a seamless, happy, superficial world through things such as the “feelies.” The state censors and limits science, however, since it sees the fundamental basis behind science, the search for truth, as threatening to the State’s control. The State’s focus on happiness and stability means that it uses the results of scientific research, inasmuch as they contribute to technologies of control, but does not support science itself.
The Consumer Society
It is important to understand that Brave New World is not simply a warning about what could happen to society if things go wrong, it is also a satire of the society in which Huxley existed, and which still exists today. While the attitudes and behaviors of World State citizens at first appear bizarre, cruel, or scandalous, many clues point to the conclusion that the World State is simply an extreme—but logically developed—version of our society’s economic values, in which individual happiness is defined as the ability to satisfy needs, and success as a society is equated with economic growth and prosperity.
The Incompatibility of Happiness and Truth
Brave New World is full of characters who do everything they can to avoid facing the truth about their own situations. The almost universal use of the drug soma is probably the most pervasive example of such willful self-delusion. Soma clouds the realities of the present and replaces them with happy hallucinations, and is thus a tool for promoting social stability. But even Shakespeare can be used to avoid facing the truth, as John demonstrates by his insistence on viewing Lenina through the lens of Shakespeare’s world, first as a Juliet and later as an “impudent strumpet.” According to Mustapha Mond, the World State prioritizes happiness at the expense of truth by design: he believes that people are better off with happiness than with truth.
What are these two abstract entities that Mond juxtaposes? It seems clear enough from Mond’s argument that happiness refers to the immediate gratification of every citizen’s desire for food, sex, drugs, nice clothes, and other consumer items. It is less clear what Mond means by truth, or specifically what truths he sees the World State society as covering up. From Mond’s discussion with John, it is possible to identify two main types of truth that the World State seeks to eliminate. First, as Mond’s own past indicates, the World State controls and muffles all efforts by citizens to gain any sort of scientific, or empirical truth. Second, the government attempts to destroy all kinds of “human” truths, such as love, friendship, and personal connection. These two types of truth are quite different from each other: objective truth involves coming to a definitive conclusion of fact, while a “human” truth can only be explored, not defined. Yet both kinds of truth are united in the passion that an individual might feel for them. As a young man, Mustapha Mond became enraptured with the delight of making discoveries, just as John loves the language and intensity of Shakespeare. The search for truth then, also seems to involve a great deal of individual effort, of striving and fighting against odds. The very will to search for truth is an individual desire that the communal society of Brave New World, based as it is on anonymity and lack of thought, cannot allow to exist. Truth and individuality thus become entwined in the novel’s thematic structure.
The Dangers of an All-Powerful State
Like George Orwell’s 1984, this novel depicts a dystopia in which an all-powerful state controls the behaviors and actions of its people in order to preserve its own stability and power. But a major difference between the two is that, whereas in 1984 control is maintained by constant government surveillance, secret police, and torture, power in Brave New World is maintained through technological interventions that start before birth and last until death, and that actually change what people want. The government of 1984 maintains power through force and intimidation. The government of Brave New World retains control by making its citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled that they don’t care about their personal freedom. In Brave New World the consequences of state control are a loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions—in short, a loss of humanity.
Motifs
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
“Pneumatic”
The word “pneumatic” is used with remarkable frequency to describe two things: Lenina’s body and chairs. “Pneumatic” is an adjective that usually means that something has air pockets or works by means of compressed air. In the case of the chairs (in the feely theater and in Mond’s office), it probably means that the chairs’ cushions are inflated with air. In Lenina’s case, the word is used by both Henry Foster and Benito Hoover to describe what she’s like to have sex with. She herself remarks that her lovers usually find her “pneumatic,” patting her legs as she does so. In reference to Lenina it means well-rounded, balloon-like, or bouncy, in reference to her flesh, and in particular her bosom. Huxley is not the only writer to use the word pneumatic in this sense, although it is an unusual usage. The use of this odd word to describe the physical characteristics of both a woman and a piece of furniture underscores the novel’s theme that human sexuality has been degraded to the level of a commodity.
Ford, “my Ford,” “Year of our Ford,” etc.
Throughout Brave New World, the citizens of the World State substitute the name of Henry Ford, the early twentieth-century industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, wherever people in our own world would say Lord” (i.e., Christ). This demonstrates that even at the level of casual conversation and habit, religion has been replaced by reverence for technology—specifically the efficient, mechanized factory production of goods that Henry Ford pioneered.
Alienation
The motif of alienation provides a counterpoint to the motif of total conformity that pervades the World State. Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John are alienated from the World State, each for his own reasons. Bernard is alienated because he is a misfit, too small and powerless for the position he has been conditioned to enjoy. Helmholtz is alienated for the opposite reason: he is too intelligent even to play the role of an Alpha Plus. John is alienated on multiple levels and at multiple sites: not only does the Indian community reject him, but he is both unwilling and unable to become part of the World State. The motif of alienation is one of the driving forces of the narrative: it provides the main characters with their primary motivations.
Sex
Brave New World abounds with references to sex. At the heart of the World State’s control of its population is its rigid control over sexual mores and reproductive rights. Reproductive rights are controlled through an authoritarian system that sterilizes about two thirds of women, requires the rest to use contraceptives, and surgically removes ovaries when it needs to produce new humans. The act of sex is controlled by a system of social rewards for promiscuity and lack of commitment. John, an outsider, is tortured by his desire for Lenina and her inability to return his love as such. The conflict between John’s desire for love and Lenina’s desire for sex illustrates the profound difference in values between the World State and the humanity represented by Shakespeare’s works.
Shakespeare
Shakespeare provides the language through which John understands the world. Through John’s use of Shakespeare, the novel makes contact with the rich themes explored in plays like The Tempest. It also creates a stark contrast between the utilitarian simplicity and inane babble of the World State’s propaganda and the nuanced, elegant verse of a time “before Ford.” Shakespeare’s plays provide many examples of precisely the kind of human relations—passionate, intense, and often tragic—that the World State is committed to eliminating.
Symbols
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Soma
The drug soma is a symbol of the use of instant gratification to control the World State’s populace. It is also a symbol of the powerful influence of science and technology on society. As a kind of “sacrament,” it also represents the use of religion to control society.

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