7 min read ⌚
Want to visit London about half a millennium from today?
Or, at least, its summary.
Who Should Read “Brave New World”? And Why?
“Brave New World” is widely considered one of the best dystopian novels ever written, which, in other words, means that if you’re into SF and futurism, this is one of the first books you should read.
But, in a much more important way, “Brave New World” is a book about everybody wanting to find out what may happen in the very near future if we’re not careful in our present.
Aldous Huxley Biography
Aldous Huxley was an English novelist, essayist, and philosopher, one of the most important writers of the 20th century.
After graduating with first-class honors from Oxford’s Baliol College, Huxley went on a career which brought him both fame in the alt-culture circles and no less than seven Nobel Prize in Literature nominations.
In addition to novels, he also wrote nonfiction works such as the controversial “The Doors of Perception” (where he described his experiences with psychedelic drugs), travelogues, film stories, satires and Hollywood screenplays.
He died in 1963, as one of the preeminent thinkers of our time.
The narrative of the “Brave New World” opens at a World State factory called the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in AF 632 (AD 2540).
Since the novel is one of the most famous in the dystopian genre, you can already guess that they are not hatching chickens there.
And straight from the start, the Director of the factory explains what it is exactly that they are doing.
And we learn that the hatching of the human embryos is the more innocuous aspect of it. The conditioning – the hypnopaedia, or sleep-learning – is the shadier element.
It’s precisely as it sounds like!
Namely, through hypnopaedia (discovered accidentally when a Polish boy named Reuben Rabinovitch learned an entire radio broadcast in English when a radio receiver was left on during his sleep), people are conditioned from birth to believe what the government wants them to believe.
In other words, that the government is good and that things such as upward mobility are about as mythical as Santa Claus.
Or, in other words, if you are conditioned to be an Epsilon, you should be happy with doing your menial tasks because you’re helping society, just as much as the Alpha caste which is superior, both in terms of intelligence and strength.
So, it’s basically Plato’s noble lie multiplied by a million – since you don’t even know that you’re being lied!
Well, the main guy in our story knows, to some extent, that there’s something wrong about this all.
His name is Bernard Marx, and he is an Alpha caste psychologist who has researched sleep learning for all his life and isn’t too much impressed with the idea.
Also, he’s not exactly an Alpha type material: unlike the average member of his caste, he’s a bit shorter and stockier, which gives him an inferiority complex. Also, he isn’t really interested in promiscuous sex or communal sports, and he’s oftentimes angry and jealous.
Although in this world “everybody belongs to everyone else,” he has no more than one real friend – the unfulfilled writer Helmholtz Watson – and no more than one love interest, Lenina Crowne.
Needless to add, his Director doesn’t like him one bit and wants to exile him to Iceland – which, for some reason, in a dystopian society, is not one of the best places you can live in!
In a nutshell: Hatching and Conditioning, job not well done with Mr. Marx!
Job brilliantly done in the case of Lenina!
She’s young and beautiful, popular and promiscuous.
Also, she’s somewhat attracted to Bernard, so she goes out on a date with him.
And, as you already found out, Bernard is not exactly a conformist, so it’s not going to be a visit to a restaurant or a casual night of Netflix and chilling.
Bernard takes Lenina on holiday outside their World State – because unlike in “The Giver,” the people in the World State do have an option to leave their premises.
The place they’re going to is a Savage Reservation, a place where people are not born via test tubes, but naturally, where some of them are sick, and others old.
And where there are still such things as religion and rituals.
So, basically, something like a remnant of the world we’re currently living.
Well, here, Bernard and Lenina encounter Linda, a woman who was previously living in the World State but is now an inhabitant of the reservation, together with her son John.
So, what has happened?
Well, just like Lenina, Linda was brought to the reservation on holiday by another World State fellow, who had impregnated and left her behind.
Linda never even wanted to return, because, you see, being pregnant is a big no-no in the World State, and she’s better off living among the savages with her all-savage son, John.
But, wait a moment – what happened to the guy who made Linda her baby?
Oh, nothing much: he’s just the Director of Hatching and Conditioning!
The guy who wants Bernard exiled has fathered a savage child from a banished woman who is currently living in the Reservation?
You come with us, says Mr. Marx.
Of course, we will, say Linda and John – because it’s not like they’re enjoying their life at the Reservation.
For one, the villagers haven’t accepted them.
How could they?
John has learned to read through the only two books Linda owned: a scientific manual and “The Complete Works of Shakespeare.”
Now, don’t get us wrong, but you too would have a serious problem accepting someone who describes the World State as “brave new world” (which, if you remember, isn’t a good sign)!
And does similar things – well, about a billion times!
Anyway, once they return, the effect Bernard expects from introducing John to the world as the son of the Director is the one he gets: the Director is shamed enough that he has to resign.
Bernard, in the meantime, becomes the custodian of John, who is basically now a celebrity in the World State.
However, he doesn’t care that much about Bernard or the state – they both seem empty to him. So, mainly, he bonds with Helmholtz – who, being a writer, is the only one who can actually understand him – and wants to bond with Lenina.
And Lenina wants the same.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, Lenina’s idea of love is the product of a cultivation process in a society which believes that love is not a good thing and that sex is way better.
John’s idea of love, on the other hand, is the result of reading too much Shakespeare.
So, you can see where they are incompatible, right?
Speaking of incompatible – John’s mother Linda is now 24/7 high on soma, a happiness-inducing drug everybody’s using in this society to suppress bad emotions.
Well, Linda has tons of them, since people think that she’s hideous and no one really cares about her anywhere on that planet.
So, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when, at one point, John is informed that his mother is on her deathbed.
However, his reaction to the news – pain, grief, anger – is a surprise to the other inhabitants of the World State, since they are not taught to treat death as something so dreadful.
An emotional mayhem ensues which leads to the arrests of John, Bernard, and Helmholtz.
Which means that they are about to meet the Big Guy.
Brave New World Epilogue
The Big Guy is Mustapha Mond, the Resident World Controller of Western Europe, one of the ten people who manage the running of the World State.
He knows exactly what he’s doing – but, he doesn’t come out as such a bad person.
Simply put, he thinks that things such as freedom and art are worth sacrificing when the reward is social stability.
He banishes Helmholtz and Bernard to the islands – the former to the Falkland Islands, the latter to Iceland – but he presents this as a win-win situation, since the World State will not be rattled by rebellions, and Helmholtz and Bernard will meet many interesting people at the places where they’re going.
Even though John likes to go the islands as well, he stays in England – because Mond wants to see what will happen next.
And what does happen is what one expects when a consciously incompatible person goes on living in a world he doesn’t belong in.
First, John goes into a full ascetic mode, and then he starts practicing self-flagellation. People come to see this bizarre behavior, and Lenina is also people.
However, to John she is different, and once he sees her, he attacks her with the whip, which, as “Fifty Shades of Grey” taught is, can be strangely arousing to many people.
And it is especially – if you’re on soma in AF 632 London.
So, an orgy ensues.
We learn about it the next day when John is stricken with remorse thinking about the events.
So, yes – he hangs himself.
That’s your Utopia right there.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Brave New World PDF Quotes”Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced. Click To Tweet But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin. Click To Tweet If one's different, one's bound to be lonely. Click To Tweet Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. Click To Tweet One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
There are not many things we can say about “Brave New World” that haven’t been said before. It has been included in Guardian’s Robert McCrum’s list of the 100 best novels in history and has been voted as the 5th best English-language novel ever written in the Modern Library poll.
Should we add anything other than – quite deservedly?
We think we should not.
Learn more and more, in the speed that the world demands.