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Literature

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

Characters

  • Bernard Marx: Alpha-Plus psychologist who is a staid academic on the outside but a party animal on the inside.
  • John "the Savage": A beer-swigging wild man and eventual leader of the Deltas.
  • Lenina Crowne: Bernard's girlfriend who is an excuse for him to go to the Savage Reservation, after which she is pretty much forgotten.
  • Linda: Ex-hippie and one-time Haber College party girl, she's now totally into peyote, mescal, soma, sex, more sex, and avoiding reality.
  • The D.H.C.: The Dean of Haber College who nearly loses his position when Linda reveals that he's the father of John "The Savage."
  • Fanny Crowne: The hot coed with the naughty-sounding name who, in the book's afterward, is revealed to have married John.

Discussion

Brave New World takes place in London (England) six hundred years after the presidency of Gerald Ford. In this world, there is little work to do, and people stay in college for decades "learning" things that will never really be useful.

The novel begins in the cafeteria of Haber College, where lines of students walk in slow, shuffling steps to fill their trays. Everyone buys the same thing: baked tofu, succotash, cherry Jell-o, and lattes laced with "soma." )Soma is a drug that increases the metabolism, drives away drowseyness, and can cause jitters, irritability, and headaches in those who use it frequently and then must do without. Use of soma is common in this society to the point of almost being legally required.) After lunch, everyone gets together in the rec room for an orgy.

Bernard Marx is an Alpha-Plus (that is, the member of a very well respected group) psychologist. He considers himself to be a fine example of individuality in a world of conformity, and intends to prove it by taking a trip with his girlfriend Lenina to the far off, mysterious Savage Reservation (Hawaii). Before they leave, Bernard's boss "the D.H.C." reminisces about going to the Reservation when he was younger and pretty much having sex with everything that moved. This seriously grosses out Bernard.

While visiting the Reservation, Bernard meets Linda and her son John. John is called "The Savage" by island natives because he engages in antisocial behavior and can put a whole éclair in his mouth without using his teeth. It turns out that John is really the D.H.C.'s son, but nobody knows about it. Well, except Linda. And John. And now Bernard.

Bernard decides to bring them home with him.

Back at the college, the D.H.C. is dealing with the fallout of a horrible tragedy -- one of the Alphas lost a prize horse, and the animal turned up in the D.H.C.'s office, dead. It is suspected that the "prank" was the work of the Deltas, a mindless, immature group of miscreants if there ever was one.

Bernard reveals to everyone that "The Savage" is the D.H.C.'s son, in hopes of ursurping his superior's power. However, the D.H.C. then reveals that Bernard has actually been on double-secret probation, and that this attempt is the last straw. Bernard is banished to Falkland City College.

Confused by the college, John joins the Deltas, mostly because the Deltas will let anyone join . As part of the group, he starts a food fight in the normally staid cafeteria and turns the post-lunch orgy into a hedonistic toga party.

When the Deltas borrow John's car and wreck it, and Linda is killed by a stray golf ball, John decides he's had enough. He first tries to purify himself with ritualistically drinking massive amounts of beer and dancing "the gator," but this only leads to also-ritualistic vomiting, which isn't very helpful.

Finally, John decides to sabotage the big homecoming parade with the help of his Delta "brothers." He rebuilds his wrecked car as a sheet-metal-covered tank and drives through the middle of the parade, creating chaos all around. The crowd, screaming and running, breaks into an orgy.

John grabs a good-looking woman, throws her into his car, and drives off. He is eventually elected to Congress.

Topics for further research

  • What the heck is so "brave" about this "new world"?
  • The phrase "brave new world" is a reference to what Stephen Sondheim musical?
  • When one of the Deltas thumps out the National Anthem on his head, should you remove your hat and stand?
  • What does it mean at the end of the book when John yells to the crowd, "Soma is people"?

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