Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
Contributed by Sharen Felty
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Chapter 11-12
Summary

Summary: Chapter 11

A consequence of the Director’s disgrace is his resignation from his position. Bernard keeps his job. John, who becomes known as “the Savage,” instantly becomes a hit in society. Linda continually takes soma and ends up in a state of intoxication that is half-asleep, half-awake. Bernard enjoys popularity as John’s appointed guardian. He brags about his active sex life to Helmholtz. Helmholtz’s only response is a gloomy silence. Bernard finds this offensive. Bernard decides that he will no longer speak to him. Believing that his new popularity as John’s discoverer and guardian will protect him from the consequences of his unorthodox behavior. He writes to Mond and informs him that John thinks that “civilized infantility” is too easy. Bernard declares that he agrees with this. When Mond reads this letter, clearly heretical, he decides he will teach Bernard a lesson.

John finds the sight of dozens of identical twins at a factory sickening. He uses bitter irony when echoing the line from The Tempest, “O brave new world that has such people in it.” He refuses to take any soma and goes to see his mother frequently. He goes to Eton and sees Alpha children laughing at a film that shows “savages” using whips to beat themselves on a Reservation.

Lenina likes John. She finds she cannot tell whether he likes her. She brings him to see a feely called Three Weeks in a Helicopter. It conveys the story of a black man who kidnaps a woman, a blond Beta-Plus. John detests the movie but he finds it brings back his sense of passion for Lenina. He is overwhelmed by his physical desire and he is ashamed about this. John refuses to sleep with Lenina and this bewilders the woman. He retreats into his locked room and reads another of Shakespeare’s plays, Othello. Lenina takes some soma in her own room.

Summary: Chapter 12

Bernard sets up a large party for important people. He lures them there with the promise of meeting the Savage. When the guests arrive, John refuses to come out of his room. This humiliates Bernard and makes all of the guests feel embarrassed. One of these guests is the Arch-Community Songster of Canterbury. Everyone leaves, seeing Bernard in contempt. Lenina is disappointed because she does not have the chance to see John again to ask why he behaved in such an odd way after the feely. The Arch-Community Songster tells Bernard that he must be more careful in how he criticizes the World State.

Bernard returns to the melancholia of his past because his newfound popularity has disappeared. He blames everything on John. Bernard feels grateful and resentful at once that Helmholtz provides him with the friendship he requires without making any criticism of his earlier failure to be friendly. Helmholtz is in trouble as a result of reading a number of unorthodox rhymes to some of his students at college. Yet he does feel excited to have finally discovered his own voice.

Helmhotz and John meet. They like each other immediately. Bernard is jealous of this and he wishes he had never introduced them. He tries to escape how he feels by taking some soma. John reads to Helmholtz some passages from Shakespeare. Helmholtz is enchanted by the poetry. However, when he hears a passage from Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet’s parents try to push her to marry Paris, he starts laughing. He finds not only the idea of having a mother and father but also the idea that anyone would worry about which man a girl should be with very funny. John feels wounded by Helmholtz’s reaction and he puts his books away.

Analysis

John is given an in-depth introduction to World State society in this part of the book. It mainly disgusts him. He sees World State culture as being inhumane, superficial, and immoral.

The primary themes of The Tempest are dramatized in the relationship between John and Bernard. John originally thought he would have the part of Miranda and come to love the new world that he would find. In reality, however, he becomes known as “the Savage” and ends up with a role like that of Caliban. Bernard is the Prospero to John’s Caliban because he shows John civilization and expects that John will be grateful for that.

Linda’s fate shows what Mond meant when he suggested the incompatibility between truth and happiness. John is the only one who isn’t content to let Linda use soma, even though he is aware that she is taking so much of it that she will die within one or two months. The explanation the doctor gives to John demonstrates how callous the World State is about human life. Human beings are seen as things that are to be “used up until they wear out.” Similar to manufactured goods, people who get old and are worn out are disposable. Linda embarks on a permanent soma-holiday. The short time she has yet to live is spent in a haze of fantasies and hallucinations.

The personal reasons Bernard has for letting Linda give in to soma are very unpleasant. While everyone in London wants to see John, they are equally certain they do not want to see Linda. As long as Linda is out of the picture, Bernard has freedom to use John however he wishes. It is by way of his exploitation f John that Bernard shows that his earlier sense of dissatisfaction with the World State was caused only by his wish to enjoy more of the pleasures it offers, not from any desire to live like an “adult” (which is the way he had explained the matter to Lenina earlier in the story). Once Bernard gains success and starts to enjoy all the benefits of Alpha status, he even goes so far as to drop his friendship with Helmholtz, who is a nonconformist and whose reputation is becoming worse. Any link with Helmholtz could jeopardize Bernard’s newfound position.

John and Lenina go to a feely that presents old racist stereotypes. In the film, a “gigantic negro” has sex with a blonde woman. This scene would be incredibly shocking to the audience of this novel, which were white, middle-class, and living in the early twentieth century. The people watching the feely, however, find it conventional. They are even impressed by the special effects. The audience rather finds it shocking when the black man, who is released from his conditioning when he suffers a blow to the head, kidnaps the blonde to have a monogamous three-way sex adventure in a helicopter. It is the monogamy of this that shocks them. In the end, the woman is rescued by three Alpha males and this restores order.

This scene calls to the mind a feature of films that is even older than this novel. Theatregoers enjoy seeing characters in movies break the rules that views themselves are forced to abide by. This kind of vicarious enjoyment is provided with a faint veneer of respectability by way of an appropriate ending that brings back the status quo. However, the truth is still that the audience finds enjoyment in fantasizing about transgressing rules. This entire scene is in part the author’s joke. It is also a possibility, though, that monogamy is perhaps not as unusual a fantasy for World State citizens to indulge in as we have been led to believe. 

The power of conditioning is demonstrated in the scene in which John reads Romeo and Juliet. While Helmholtz is rather unorthodox, he remains a product of conditioning in the World State. It is true that he finds enjoyment in the artistic quality of Shakespeare’s language, but he is unable to appreciate the drama involved in Juliet’s parents wanting Juliet to marry Paris. As John links his feelings for Lenina with the love between the characters of Romeo and Juliet, the fact that Helmholtz reacts with laughter is an insult not only to his cultural values but his deepest feelings. Helmholtz cannot help his response. He has a very different response to the emotions in the play than John does.

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