Brave New World Summary and Study Guide

Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

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Brave New World Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 36-page guide for “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 18 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Stability and Control.

Plot Summary

Brave New World, a dystopian novel published in 1932, is perhaps Aldous Huxley’s most famous and enduring work, consistently ranked among the top-100 English-language novels by entities such as the Modern Library, BBC, and The Observer. The novel opens with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, in which the Director explains the foundational ideas of society’s “stability,” which stems from the production-line uniformity of its citizens. People in the World State are literally factory-made; they are then brainwashed into relishing whatever lot in life they are assigned: one of five main castes determined largely by predestined and scientifically-controlled intelligence levels. Alphas are at the top, followed by Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and finally Epsilons. These roles and their necessity are decided by the ten “World Controllers” who run the world, one of whom, Mustapha Mond, we meet early in the novel. Mond gives a history lesson of the wars and strife leading up to the formation of the World State and implementation of its systems.

After the society has been introduced and explained, Huxley shifts gears into the main plot of the novel, revolving around the characters Lenina Crowne, who works as a nurse at the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and her coworker, Bernard Marx, who works in the Psychology Bureau. Lenina and Bernard are drawn to one another, though Lenina in a more socially-acceptable fashion, maintaining the tenets that Bernard strains against.

As the two of them are about to leave for a trip to Malpais, the Savage Reservation in New Mexico, Bernard learns that the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning is planning to ship him off to Iceland, thinking he sets a bad example and could corrupt his coworkers. In so doing, the Director tells a story about a woman he was sleeping with a long time ago who went missing on the same reservation and was presumed dead. While Bernard and Lenina are there, they run into a strange man named John, dressed in the manner of the savages, but clearly a white man, fluent in English. Marx finds that this is the son of the Director and the very same woman who had been presumed dead, Linda. Marx convinces Mond to allow him to bring Linda and John back to civilization for scientific purposes.

As they arrive back in London, Marx is able to humiliate the D.H.C. with what he has found (viviparous birth being an incredible scandal), and his social currency, so long in abeyance, finally skyrockets to where he thinks it should have been all along. He parades John (or, “the savage”) around society parties, and people put up with him to gain access to this wonder. However, John has fallen in love with Lenina and becomes obsessed with her, tortured by the free love she seems willing to give, which does not match the monogamous conception of love he grew up with. He becomes depressed and refuses to accompany Marx anymore, effectively ruining his newly-gained social standing.

As things begin to come to a head, Lenina finds herself infatuated with John, to the point of refusing her former suitors, such as Henry. She attempts to seduce John, which again triggers his conscience and he ends up becoming violent, raging like King Lear from Shakespeare’s eponymous play, so that Lenina locks herself in the bathroom. Finally, she hears him leave and escapes.

We then learn that what called John “away” was the hospital where his mother has been staying. She is dying, still intoxicated in her soma stupor. As he tries to interact with her, a group of children is ushered into the room for death-conditioning, and their lack of somberness and respect makes John even more upset. His mother dies and as John grieves over the loss of his mother, he pushes a child down.

Afterwards, John tries to start a riot, attempting to wake a group of Deltas receiving their soma allotment from their stupor. Instead, they turn on him. Helmholtz and Bernard find him and, after the authorities arrive and pacify the crowd, the three of them are arrested together. The novel’s final three chapters consist of an extended conversation with Mustapha Mond and the three of them, until one-by-one, Helmholtz and Bernard are removed, and it is finally a dialogue. The two go back and forth about what makes for an ideal society, Mond arguing for stability and simulated happiness, and John arguing for tears. They end with neither side giving ground.

The final chapter follows John’s attempt to self-isolate, constantly interrupted by reporters and sightseers and filmmakers, until, unable to cope and pushed over the edge by a visit from Lenina, John hangs himself.

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