Brave new world Book summary

Aldous Huxley

Overview

About

The Brave New World was written between the first and the second world war, at the time, rapid technological advancement was considered to be a central aim for humanity. Aldous Huxley wrote this book as a social critique that took the outlook of factory production and technology advancement to its extreme. The themes examined in the book were deemed to be inappropriate and it was thus banned in several places. The reception of the book was mostly negative, but it was later credited to be a book of a new genre that included the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell. The book is recognized today for raising important questions about society and the purpose of human life. The setting of the Brave New World moves between utopia and dystopia, as the World State makes use of happiness to control citizens rather than fear like in the dystopian novel, 1984.

Plot Summary

The book is set in A.F. 632 (600 years after Ford) in a society that has abolished familial relations and monogamy, humans are mass-produced in a factory-like setting, and are conditioned from birth for specific roles. Society is divided into castes, Alpha and Beta are the leader castes while Delta, Gamma, and Epsilon castes form the working class. Everyone is kept content through the means of sexual promiscuity and consumption of a wonder drug called Soma. We begin in the Hatchery and Conditioning center of Central London, the Director of the institute guides new students through the various steps of Ectogenesis, and the conditioning protocols that program the humans to behave according to the standards set by the World State through Neo-Pavlovian methods and Hypnopaedia (Sleep Teaching). Bernard Marx is an Alpha Plus male who works in the psychology department of the conditioning center, he is considered to be unusually small for his caste, and so always feels like an outsider. Lenina is a pretty Beta woman that also works at the center, and like all other women has several sexual partners including Bernard.

Bernard feels isolated more strongly than other members of the society, he avoids taking Soma and wishes to have a deeper relationship with Lenina. He proposes to take her to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico, where humans still live in families, follow old religions, and grow old. Lenina is reluctant at first because of how odd Bernard behaves sometimes, but she ultimately gives in. Bernard has just one other individual that he has a significant attachment to, and that is Helmholtz Watson. Helmholtz works in the Emotional Engineering college and is reputed for creating truly memorable Hypnopaedic teachings. He is an ultra achiever and so feels unchallenged in his work, he wishes to create writing that deals with an important subject.

Bernard goes to the director to gain a permit for his visit to the Savage Reservation, and the Director recalls a time when he had visited the reservation. His trip had ended badly, as the woman he was accompanied by had gotten lost. He berates Bernard for being unorthodox in his private life due to his attitude towards sports, soma, and sex. Lenina and Bernard arrive at the reservation and witness an elaborate ritual of the natives. They soon encounter Linda and her son John. Linda had been rescued by the native hunters of the reservation after she had gotten lost, and to her surprise, she had been pregnant with the child of the director. John recounts his life for Bernard, John has been an outsider all of his life, because his color and complexion differed significantly from the other natives. He also has a complicated relationship with his mother, who is persecuted by the women of the reservation due to her sexual promiscuity. John learns to read and discovers the complete works of Shakespeare that help him give form to his feelings and thoughts. John is infatuated with Linda's beauty and compares her to the beauty of Juliet in his mind.

Bernard arranges for John and Linda to return to civilized society by gaining permission from the World Controller of Western Europe, Mustapha Mond. The director is planning to exile Bernard upon his return, but the revelation that the Director had fathered a child causes him to resign from his position in disgrace. Bernard becomes an instant celebrity for being the guardian of John, who is a curiosity for all of civilized society. The fame corrupts Bernard and he begins to participate in all the activities that he had earlier expressed a disinterest in. Bernard also fights with Helmholtz, and his relationship with John also deteriorates. Bernard's social standing plummets as soon as he is unable to use John to entice other people into giving in to his demands. He eventually returns to Helmholtz and introduces him to John. They both find a lot of common ground and they forgive Bernard for his behavior.

Linda grew fat and old in the reservation where there was no modern machinery to keep humans young until death. When she returns to civilized she indulges in soma endlessly and thereby shortens her life span. John struggles with civilized society due to its lack of emotional depth, he is an extremely passionate individual who feels his emotions very strongly. Lenina falls in love with John, but she fails to behave in a way that he deems appropriate, while John talks about Marriage, Lenina just wants to have sex. John has a mental breakdown when he confesses his love to Lenina and she undresses to be with him. John is then called away to the hospital, as Linda is now drawing her final breath.

Linda fails to recognize John in the stupor of her intoxication and mistakes him for Pope, one of her lovers from the reservation. John is incensed and attempts to shake her conscious but Linda dies. John is broken by his mother's death and prevents the soma ration from being distributed to the lower castes, Helmholtz helps while Bernard doesn't.

They are all taken to Mustapha Mond, who explains to John the ideology of civilized society. He shares much with John and Helmholtz, and Mustapha exiles both Bernard and Helmholtz to one of the islands where individuals that have grown too individualistic for society are sent. John is required to remain in civilized society for the sake of the experiment. He escapes to the outer limits of London and begins to live in an abandoned lighthouse. The common people remain interested in his way of life, and a reporter is able to gain a recording of John punishing himself with a whip for thinking about Lenina. The video is made into a feely, and hundreds of people visit John to see him perform his 'stunt' with the whip. John is overwhelmed by the crowd and he ends up beating Lenina when she appears before him, John loses himself in the crowd and consumes Soma. The next day he is completely horrified at his actions and commits suicide.

  • Author(s)

    Aldous Huxley
  • Publication date

    1932

  • Language

    English

  • Classification

    Science fiction, dystopian fiction

  • Pages

    311

Keywords

Science, Fiction

Publisher

Chatto & Windus