Synopsis Of The Novel

Almost everyone seems happy in the World State's brave new world of 632 a.f. (After Ford), a "utopia" Huxley imagined in 1932 and set 600 years in the future. In the pre-Ford era anthrax bombs had created economic instability during the Nine Years' War. Now the need for security supersedes individual freedom. An autocracy of 10 Controllers manages life from an artificially manufactured birth to a painless and unemotional death. Everything is done for the welfare of the human collective. Instead of old-fashioned two-parent reproduction (vivipar-ation), the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning creates human life. Women receive Pregnancy Substitute to suppress maternal impulses and to produce eggs, which are then artificially fertilized and placed in bottles. The Bokanovsky Process chemically alters embryos into humans ranging from the super-intellectual Alpha Pluses to the semimoronic dwarfed Epsilons. Lower classes come from a single egg that buds into 96 identical clones, and oxygen deprivation causes the desired mental defects. Any science not suiting the Controllers' pur poses is deemed "dangerous and potentially subversive." Controlled in this manner, humans have an inescapable destiny.

Besides reproductive genetic engineering, behavior conditioning controls the population. Through neo-Pavlovian conditioning infants hear loud sirens and receive electrical shocks to make them hate books and roses. They are taught that "prehistoric" pre-Ford populations suffered reading the Bible and that books taught independent thinking and history, which is "bunk." Roses have no value because they are uncommercial and may influence urban workers to love nature. In place of religion, society worships Ford, symbolized by Henry Ford's Model T replacing the Christian cross. As children grow into adulthood, repetitive subliminal messages (hypnopaedia) inculcate propaganda suggestions. All games include elaborate apparatus to increase economic consumption, and children's participation in erotic play, including multiple-sensory movies called feelies, promotes promiscuity. The word family is vulgar. Everyone pops the pleasure-enhancing drug soma, which has no side effects and masks discontent.

All throughout the human life span Controllers decide what is best for the common good, but from time to time things go wrong. The Alpha-Plus psychologist Bernard, a loner mocked for his Gamma-like appearance, is different. During his embryonic stage, the Controllers put too much alcohol in his blood-surrogate. Bernard and another misfit, the poet Helmholtz, become friends. Bernard attends the quasi-religious Solidarity Service where the president is the minister, the T is the cross, and everyone else leaves feeling reperfected. Unlike Len-ina, the woman Bernard likes, he refuses to join in the orgy. Lenina has been conditioned with the feelings and desires of her lower class and cannot understand Bernard's nasty desire to express his individuality. They plan to vacation on a New Mexico Indian Reservation, an outpost not worth civilizing. Long ago the Director had taken a "pneumatic" Beta-Minus woman there who was lost and did not return with him. Bernard fears being banned for his nonconformity, but, bred as an intelligent Alpha, he is intoxicated with his own significance.

At the Reservation Lenina feels repugnance at the wild and uncivilized ways: children, born in wombs, nurse indecently at their mothers' breasts; the old and toothless reek of decay. Disease and death are visible. By contrast, in the civilized World State sterile internal secretions balance youthful equilibrium, and blood transfusions keep metabolism stimulated. Lenina and Bernard meet an old squaw, the Director's lost woman Linda, who bore him a son, John. Linda tried to maintain her World State civility by teaching John about the civi lized world's helicopters, soma, and feelies. She substituted Indian pes-cal for soma, but her promiscuity displeased Indian wives. John, like Bernard, feels trapped between two cultures. He reads Shakespeare, had a father-substitute, and performed his own manhood rites, fasting and torturing himselflike Christ on the cross. Bernard empathizes with the two savages but has an ulterior motive in taking them to his world. He will have some leverage against the Director's banning him for his unorthodox ways.

On return to the World State, Bernard and Lenina take Linda and John to the Bloomsbury Centre, its 4,000 rooms buzzing with the activity of turning embryos into whole predestined populations. Newly decanted babies suck down pints ofpasteurized external secretion, and the napping toddlers unconsciously listen to propaganda tapes on hygiene, erotic sexuality, and sociability. To all present Bernard presented John, the Director's son, who called him father, and Linda, his woman, who is now embarrassingly fat and old. Caught in petrified disgust, the astonished Director resigns on the spot. Everyone is curious about the savage, John, but Linda repels them. She sinks into a soma-induced trance to hide from her new reality. But Bernard revels in his new celebrity as the Savage's friend and guardian. John and Lenina go to a feelie, which John considers a base and ignoble experience. He has romantic notions of love from reading Romeo and Juliet, and having sex with Lenina would feel immoral. She is disappointed. Helmholtz, who has become John's friend, finds it strange and comical that there should be so much tension in the man-woman relationship. But, for John, there must be a commitment, and he must feel worthy.

Besides pining for Lenina, John is grief-stricken to learn his mother is dying, a strange emotion in a world where an individual is insignificant among the masses. At the hospital the soma-drugged Linda cannot communicate, which makes John feel guilty and alone, fearful he is losing his one human connection. The death-conditioned Bokanov-sky Group comes into the room, surprised at such an extreme reaction and horrified at seeing Linda's "flaccid and distorted senility." Their modern medicine is able to give even a moribund sexagenarian a girlish appearance. When his mother dies, John's grief is palpable, upsetting the visiting group that associates death with pleasure. In his presence, identically cloned Delta workers obediently receive their daily soma, and John realizes in a flash he must make this slave world free again. He throws their soma out the window, calling it "poison to soul as well as body." A fight ensues. Bernard and Helmholtz arrive. Bernard declares John mad while Helmholtz helps him. All three are taken to see Controller Mond.

Mond at last bans the insubordinate Bernard and Helmholtz for causing instability. Then he explains the World State to John in a declaration of Huxley's core Brave New World ideology. Science, art, and religion were sacrificed for the common good. Science was first controlled during the Nine Years' War when anthrax bombs threatened the world. Now, when humans need to release residual anger and passion, chemically administered Violent Passion Surrogate stimulates the adrenals. New discoveries in pure science might be subversive and are outlawed. The high art of literature must be sacrificed for conformity. Old books like Shakespeare's tragedy Othello can cause people to feel self-conscious and unlearn new ways. Religion in a youthful and prosperous society, when people are safe, well, and not afraid to die, is unnecessary. "God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice," he says. They live in a utopia where security and happiness replace desire for beauty and truth. Besides, soma controls discord.

In the end, John faces a hopeless future. He isolates himself in an old lighthouse to purify himself from the contamination of civilized life. In old-world tradition, he flagellates himself, calling on God to forgive his lust for Lenina and his callousness over Linda's death. For a while he lives in peace, but then inquisitive people find his pain fascinating and invade his privacy. Giving John soma, they all engage in an orgy of pain. In futility John the Savage hangs himself. He cannot bring freedom and love to a world convincing him it is pointless to live, and he cannot return to his savage roots.

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