Brave New World opens in a place called the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre. The Director of the Hatcher and Henry Foster, one of his assistants, are providing a tour to a group of boys. The boys are told about the processes that let the Hatchery produce thousands of almost identical human embryos: the Bokanovsksy and Podsnap Processes. In these processes, during the process of gestation the embryos, in bottles, go along a conveyor belt through a building that looks like a factory. They are eventually conditioned to be members of one of five castes. These castes are the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Embryos designated as Alphas are destined to be the thinkers and leaders of the World State. Each of the castes beneath them is conditioned to be less and less intellectually and physically impressive. The Epsilons are subjected to chemical treatments and oxygen deprivation to stupefy them and stunt their growth. Their destiny is to perform manual labor. An employee of the factory called Lenina Crowe tells the boys the way she vaccinates the embryos that will live in tropical climates.
After this, the Director brings the boys to the Nursery. There they see some Delta infants undergoing reprogramming to dislike flowers and books. The Director says that this conditioning assists in making the Deltas docile and enthusiastic consumers. He tells the boys about the “hypnopaedic” (sleep-teaching) methods that are utilized in teaching children about the World State’s morals. Older children are napping in another room. In it is a whispering voice that is reciting a lesson in “Elementary Class Consciousness.”
When they go outside, the Director directs the boys to the sight of hundreds of children, all naked, taking part in sexual play. They are participating in games such as “Centrifugal Bumble-puppy.” A man who is one of the ten World Controllers, Mustapha Mond, introduces himself. He starts telling the boys about the World State’s history. He focuses on the successful endeavors of the State in eliminating strong desires and emotions, as well as human relationships, from society. Within the Hatchery, Lenina talks in the bathroom with someone called Fanny Crowne, She is telling Fanny about the relationship she has with Henry Foster. Fanny shows her disapproval of the fact that Lenina has been in an exclusive relationship with Henry for four months. Lenina says that he finds herself attracted to Bernard Marx, a man considered strange and odd-looking. In a different part of the Hatchery, Bernard is filled with rage when he overhears a discussion between the Assistant Predestinator and Henry about “having” Lenina.
Lenina tells Bernard after work that she would be pleased to go with him on a visit to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico. He has invited her there. Bernard is happy but a bit embarrassed. He flies a helicopter to meet up with Helmholtz Watson, a friend. He and his friend talk about their dislike of the World State. Bernard’s primary cause of unhappiness is the fact that he is too weak and small for his caste. Helmholtz dislikes the system because he is too intelligent for the job he has to work, which is in writing hypnopaedic phrases. Over the next few days, Bernard goes to the Director, who is his superior. He asks for permission to go on his visit to the Reservation. The Director begins telling a story about how he visited the Reservation with a woman. This happened twenty years earlier. He claims that the woman he was with disappeared and was never recovered. He does finally provide Bernard with the permit. Bernard and Lenina leave to go to the Reservation. They receive another permit from its Warden. Before they go into the Reservation, Bernard contacts Helmholtz. He discovers that the Director is now tired of what he perceives as Bernard’s unsocial and difficult attitude. When Bernard returns, it is planned that he will be exiled to Iceland. Bernard is upset and angry. He goes into the Reservation anyway.
Bernard and Lenina are shocked when they see the inhabitants of the Reservation who are aged and ill. In the World State, no one looks visibly aged. They see a religious ritual that involves the whipping of a young man. They are disgusted by this. After this, they meet John. John is a young man with fair skin. He has been isolated from the remainder of the village. John recounts to Bernard information about his childhood. He was the son of a woman called Linda who the villagers rescued about twenty years earlier. Bernard comes to understand that Linda must be the woman the Director mentioned. While speaking with John, Bernard finds out that Linda was ostracized because she was willing to sleep with every man in the village. It was because of this that John was isolated as he grew up. John says that he learned to read with a book titled The Chemical and Bacteriological Conditioning of the Embryo and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. The latter was given to Linda by Popé, one of her lovers. John tells Bernard about his wish to see the “Other Place.” This is the “brave new world” that his mother has described to him. Bernard asks him to go back to the World State with him. John says he will but asks that Linda be permitted to come, too.
Lenina is disgusted with everything she sees at the Reservation. She takes a dose of soma strong enough to knock her out and sleeps for eighteen hours. Bernard goes to Santa Fe and calls Mustapha Mond. He gets permission to bring Linda and John back to the World State. In the meantime, John breaks into the house where Lenina is unconscious. He wants to touch her but resists this desire. Bernard, Lenina, Linda, and John travel to the World State. The Director is waiting there, eager to send Bernard into exile before his Alpha coworkers. However, Bernard ends up turning the tables with the introduction of Linda and John. The Director’s sense of shame at being a “father” causes him to resign. The very word “father” makes people laugh nervously. The Director’s resignation gives Bernard the freedom to stay in London.
John’s odd life on the Reservation makes him a hit with London society. He tours the World State’s factories and schools. As he does so, he becomes more and more disturbed by the society that he encounters. He is still sexually attracted to Lenina. However, his feelings are more than simple lust. He feels very confused. In this process, he makes Lenina confused, too. She cannot understand why John does not want to have sex with her. As Bernard is the discoverer as well as the guardian of the “Savage,” he also becomes very popular. He promptly takes advantage of this new status. He sleeps with many women and throws dinner parties, bringing over important guests. Most of these people do not like Bernard, yet they are willing to tolerate him if it means they will have the chance to meet John. One evening, John refuses to see the guests, even the Arch-Community Songster. As a result, Bernard loses a lot in social status.
John and Helmholtz begin to get along soon after Bernard introduces them. John reads parts of Romeo and Juliet to Helmholtz. Helmhotz laughs at an earnest passage about marriage love, and parents. He sees these ideas as ridiculous. They are seen as almost scatological in World State culture.
John’s strange behavior fuels Lenina’s fascination with him. She becomes obsessed. Lenina refuses to go with Henry to see a feely. She takes some soma and goes to see John at Bernard’s apartment. She wants to seduce him. John responds to this with curses, lines from Shakespeare, and even blows. She flees to the bathroom. He takes a phone call. He learns that Linda is about to die. She has been on a permanent soma-holiday since she got back. He goes to the Hospital for the Dying where he watches her die. There is a group of lower-caste boys there watching her, too. They are getting their “death conditioning.” The boys are wondering why she looks so unattractive. While the boys are only curious, John becomes enraged. Once Linda is dead, John meets some Delta clones. They are getting their ration of soma. He attempts to tell them to revolt. He says they need to throw the soma out a window. A riot is the result of this. Bernard and Helmholtz hear word of the riot. He hurries to the scene and tries to help John. The police use vapor to calm the riot. Bernard, John, and Helmholtz are arrested. They are brought to the office of Mustapha Mond.
John and Mond begin a debate about the value of the policies of the World state. John argues that the policies dehumanize the World State’s residents. Mond says that happiness and stability have greater importance than humanity. Mond says that for the sake of social stability, science, art, and religion have had to be sacrificed. John argues that human life isn’t worth living without these things. Bernard has a wild reaction when Mond asserts that he and Helmholtz will be sent to distant islands. He is removed from the room. Helmholtz is ready to accept the exile. He believes it would give him an opportunity to write. He is soon sent from the room, too. John and Mond continue to talk. They talk about religion, as well as how soma is used to control negative emotions in order to ensure social harmony.
John says good-bye to Helmholtz and Bernard. As he isn’t able to go with them to the islands of Mond, he goes to a countryside lighthouse. There he gardens and uses self-flagellation to try to purify himself. He is caught doing this by World State citizens. Reporters arrive wanting to film him doing this for news reports and a feely. Once the feely is aired, many people come to the lighthouse and order John to whip himself in front of them. Lenina arrives. She goes up to John with open arms. John’s reaction involves threatening her with his whip and saying “Kill it! Kill it!” The scene is so intense that an orgy occurs. John takes part in this. When he wakes up the following morning, he is overcome with sadness and anger because of how he submitted to the World State. He hangs himself.