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Brave New World

Brave New World Summary


Here you will find a Brave New World summary (Aldous Huxley's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Brave New World Summary Overview

At the outset, we are introduced to a future society based in what used to be London, where human embryos are mass-produced and conditioned for specific roles in a strictly hierarchical society. This society is divided into castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon; with Alphas being the intellectual elites and Epsilons the manual laborers. Two employees, Lenina Crowne and Henry Foster, serve as our immediate introduction to this world. However, Lenina becomes drawn to the unconventional Bernard Marx, and agrees to accompany him to a “Savage Reservation” in New Mexico, despite her friend Fanny's disapproval. Meanwhile, Bernard grapples with his dissatisfaction with the system, feeling out of place due to his physical inadequacies. Upon reaching the Savage Reservation, Lenina and Bernard encounter aging and disease, both of which have been eradicated in their society. They also meet John, a fair-skinned young man who has been raised in isolation due to his mother's, Linda, sexual promiscuity. John tells them of his upbringing, how he learned to read from an embryology manual and Shakespeare's works, and expresses his desire to see the world his mother had described to him. Despite the shock and disgust Lenina feels for the Reservation, Bernard secures permission to bring John and Linda back to London. Back home, Bernard escapes banishment due to the Director's shame at being revealed as John’s father. John quickly becomes a curiosity for London's high society, but is increasingly disturbed by their lifestyle and values, leading to conflict and confusion between him and Lenina. As John's disillusionment grows, he finds camaraderie with Bernard's friend, Helmholtz, who also feels at odds with his society. Meanwhile, Lenina's infatuation with John escalates, leading her to attempt to seduce him, only to be met with rejection and confusion. As John navigates this unfamiliar world, he is confronted with the death of his mother and the disturbing behaviors of the society, resulting in him inciting a riot. The riot sees him, Bernard, and Helmholtz arrested and tried by Mustapha Mond, one of society's ten World Controllers. They debate the merits of their society, leading to Bernard and Helmholtz’s exile. John, however, rejected the option to leave and sought isolation in a lighthouse. Yet, his attempt at solitude was foiled by the intrusive society culminating in a frenzied orgy where Lenina is present. Overwhelmed by guilt and frustration, John ends his life the following morning.

chapter 1

The story unfolds in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in the year a.f. 632 (632 years “after Ford”). The Director is guiding students through the human manufacturing and conditioning factory. He enlightens them on how humans are no longer birthed, but surgically created from ovaries and incubated in bottles. The Hatchery assigns each embryo to a caste system - Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. The lowest three castes undergo the Bokanovsky Process where an egg is shocked to create ninety-six identical humans. Alphas and Betas are exempt from the process. The Director indicates that this cloning promotes social stability per the World State’s motto: “Community, Identity, Stability.” The Director further introduces Podsnap’s Technique, a method to expedite egg maturation. This results in thousands of siblings from the same parents within two years. An employee, Mr. Henry Foster, reveals that the factory's record is over 16,000 siblings. The Director and Mr. Foster describe the 267-day process post fertilization. The embryos are transported on a conveyor belt, mimicking a human womb's conditions. On the last day, they are “decanted,” or birthed. Seventy-percent of female embryos are sterilized to become “freemartins.” Treatments differ amongst castes, with the lower ones being made smaller and less intelligent. Those intended for work in hot climates are conditioned accordingly. The Director asserts the goal is for individuals to embrace “their inescapable social destiny.” Lenina Crowne is introduced to the students. She vaccinates the tropics-bound fetuses against diseases. She is reminded by Mr. Foster of their upcoming date, which the Director views as “charming.” Henry discusses how fetuses are conditioned for their imminent jobs. However, the Director, checking his watch, concludes there is insufficient time to view Alpha Plus conditioning, choosing instead to head to the Nurseries before the children wake up.

chapter 2

Guided by the Director, the students find themselves in the Nurseries. Notices read “Infant Nurseries. Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms.” A group of eight-month-old infants, dressed in the khaki of the Delta caste, are presented with books and flowers by nurses. As they reach for these objects, alarms sound and mild electric shocks are administered, resulting in the babies developing a fear of both items. The Director informs the students that through this process, the children will naturally dislike books and flowers after 200 repetitions. This conditioning discourages lower castes from reading, preventing potential 'deconditioning'. Hatred for flowers is instilled to encourage more consumption. The lower castes were once conditioned to appreciate nature and flowers, leading them to travel and use transport. As nature doesn't cost anything, only transport was consumed. To increase overall consumption, love for nature was abolished, but the desire to travel retained. The lower castes are conditioned to despise the countryside, but enjoy country sports, which require equipment and transport, meaning they spend more. The Director then shares a story about Reuben, a child of Polish-speaking parents, which triggers embarrassment among the students as mentions of parents and sexual reproduction are considered obscene. One night, Reuben repeated a radio broadcast in his sleep, a George Bernard Shaw speech, leading to the discovery of sleep teaching, or hypnopaedia. The Director mentions this discovery occurred twenty-three years after the first Ford Model T was sold, making a 'T' on his stomach, which the students mimic. He explains that while hypnopaedia is ineffective for intellectual training, it is useful for moral conditioning. The tour proceeds to a dormitory where Beta children sleep. The nurse reports the Elementary Sex lesson has ended and the Elementary Class Consciousness lesson has started. A voice recording plays, emphasizing the superiority of the Alphas and the inferiority of the lower castes, while promoting contentment within the Beta caste. This lesson is repeated numerous times over thirty months. Hypnopaedia, the Director states, is the most effective method for instilling societal norms and morality.

chapter 3

The Director shows the students a group of naked kids playing in a garden and comments that modern games now require complex machinery, unlike the old times. A boy who dislikes the erotic games the children are encouraged to play interrupts him. The boy is taken to a psychologist, and the Director shocks the students by revealing that such sexual play used to be seen as taboo. His discourse is cut short by a man he introduces as Mustapha Mond, also known as "his fordship". As four thousand clocks strike four signaling a shift change, Henry Foster and Lenina prepare for their date, ignoring Bernard Marx, notorious for his unsavory reputation. The narrative then alternates between three scenes: Mond’s address to the boys, Henry’s conversation in the male locker room, and Lenina’s discussion in the female locker room. The students are starstruck by Mond, the Resident Controller for Western Europe, and one of only ten World Controllers. Mond quotes Ford, saying, “History is bunk,” which explains the students' lack of knowledge of the history shared by the Director. Mond, aware of rumors about his possession of forbidden books, reassures the Director he won't corrupt the students. Mond talks about life before the World State's control over reproduction, child-rearing, and social relationships. He suggests that strong emotions led to unrest and conflict, causing millions of deaths and immense suffering. Resistance to the World State’s hypnopaedia, caste system, and artificial gestation waned after the Nine Years’ War and a severe propaganda campaign. Religion, Shakespeare, museums, and families faded into obscurity. A drug called soma was discovered, and old age was eradicated. No one was allowed to sit alone and think or allowed “leisure from pleasure.” In the changing room, Bernard overhears Henry’s conversation about Lenina with the Assistant Predestinator. The Assistant suggests a sensory movie for Henry and Lenina, and their objectifying conversation about Lenina disgusts Bernard. The Assistant and Henry tease Bernard, further annoying him. The scene then moves to a public bathroom where Lenina chats with Fanny Crowne. Fanny, taking a Pregnancy Substitute, advises Lenina to stop seeing only Henry after four months. She warns Lenina about Bernard’s bad reputation, but Lenina decides to accept his invitation to the Savage Reservation, finding Bernard sweet. Fanny compliments Lenina's contraceptive belt, a gift from Henry.

chapter 4

When Lenina publically accepts Bernard's invitation to visit the Savage Reservation, Bernard feels exposed. His preference for private discussion leaves Lenina puzzled as she heads off to meet Henry. Embarrassed by Lenina's open discussion of their sexual affairs, Bernard quickly leaves when the good-natured Benito Hoover tries to converse. Lenina and Henry then proceed to enjoy their date on Henry's helicopter, satisfied with their life. Bernard reveals his insecurity over his small stature when he orders two Delta-Minus workers to ready his helicopter. With larger size being a mark of high status among lower castes, he finds difficulties in asserting authority. He then visits Helmholtz Watson, his friend and a popular lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering. Despite Helmholtz's physical perfection and intelligence, he shares Bernard's feelings of dissatisfaction and alienation. Bernard brags about Lenina accepting his invitation, which Helmholtz dismisses, focusing rather on his dissatisfaction with his job. Helmholtz feels that his writing talent is wasted in creating hypnopaedic phrases and desires more. Bernard's paranoia escalates, mistakenly believing someone is eavesdropping on their conversation.

chapter 5

Upon finishing a round of Obstacle Golf, Lenina and Henry hover above a crematorium in a helicopter, witnessing the collection of phosphorus from incinerated bodies to be used as fertilizer. They consume coffee laced with soma before venturing to the Westminster Abbey Cabaret. They ingest another round of soma prior to returning to Henry's flat. Despite their soma-induced stupor, Lenina does not forget her contraceptives. On alternate Thursdays, Bernard must participate in the Solidarity Service at Fordson Community Singery. Seated twelve per table, with alternating genders, they pass around a cup filled with strawberry ice cream soma and swallow another soma tablet. As an electrifying hymn plays in the background, they reach a thrilling climax, culminating in a sexual frenzy. This ritual leaves Bernard feeling more alienated than before.

chapter 6

Bernard and Lenina go to a wrestling match, but Bernard is moody and refuses soma, a mind-altering drug. On their way back, he pauses the helicopter over the ocean. Lenina is scared and asks him to fly away from the vast water body. Bernard says the silence makes him feel unique, but eventually gives in, takes soma, and sleeps with her. The following day, Bernard confesses that he didn't really want to sleep with Lenina the first night but wished to show maturity. He then seeks the Director’s authorization to visit the Reservation. Bernard is ready for the Director’s disapproval of his odd behavior. The Director divulges that he went there with a woman who disappeared two decades ago. As Bernard empathizes, the Director realizes he's overshared and criticizes Bernard’s antisocial actions, warning him about potential exile to Iceland. Bernard exits, secretly pleased to be considered a rebel. "One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments . . . Everybody’s happy nowadays . . ." The pair journey to the Reservation. Upon meeting the Warden for permit approval, they are bombarded with endless facts about the place. Bernard remembers he's left the scent tap on at home, a costly mistake. After enduring the Warden's long speech, he hurriedly calls Helmholtz to shut off the tap. Helmholtz reveals that the Director plans to exile Bernard to Iceland, making Bernard's rebellious pride vanish into fear. Lenina calms him down with soma.

chapter 7

At the Reservation, Lenina observes a tribal celebration. The rhythmic drumming evokes memories of Solidarity Services and Ford’s Day. Symbols of an eagle and a crucified man are presented, followed by a young boy entering a snake pit. He is whipped until he faints, much to Lenina's horror. A fair-haired young man dressed in Native American attire shocks Lenina and Bernard by speaking fluent English. He reveals his desire to be the sacrificial lamb, but the villagers refused. He introduces himself as John, whose mother is Linda, originally from the outside world. After injuring herself on a visit to the Reservation, she was saved by the locals and has lived there ever since. His father, identified as Tomakin, is also from the outside world. Bernard hears this and realizes “Tomakin” is the Director, Thomas, but keeps this to himself. John takes Lenina and Bernard to meet his mother, Linda, who is old, overweight, and toothless, and Lenina finds her repulsive. Linda shares that John was born due to contraceptive failure, and she couldn't abort him within the Reservation. Too embarrassed to return to the World State pregnant, she stayed. After settling into Reservation life, she slept around as per her conditioning, but was assaulted by women whose partners she seduced.

chapter 8

John recounts to Bernard of his upbringing, marred by feelings of isolation and exclusion. He was fascinated by his mother, Linda's, tales of another world, yet saddened by her promiscuity and alcoholism, fueled by her lover, Popé's, gift of mescal. Despite being excluded from native rituals, John embraced the local culture and learned to read from a Beta Embryo-Store Workers guide that Linda had. His learning expanded when Popé brought Shakespeare's works, which John devoured, finding solace in the words that mirrored his suppressed emotions. Bernard, with a hidden agenda to disgrace the Director by revealing him as John's father, invites John to London. John welcomes this, but only if Linda can accompany him. Bernard agrees to arrange for it. Overwhelmed with joy, John quotes from The Tempest, expressing his excitement about the new world: “O brave new world that has such people in it.” He naively inquires if Bernard is married to Lenina, to which Bernard chuckles and denies, advising John to reserve his enthusiasm until he witnesses the World State firsthand.

chapter 9

Overwhelmed by the Reservation, Lenina takes a dose of soma that knocks her out for eighteen hours. Meanwhile, Bernard heads to Santa Fé to get in touch with Mustapha Mond. After telling his story to several secretaries, he eventually gets through to the World Controller. Mond concedes that John and Linda could be of scientific value to the World State and instructs Bernard to get the necessary clearance from the Warden of the Reservation to bring them under his charge. At the same time, John worries that Bernard and Lenina might have abandoned him. He enters the cabin where Lenina is still unconscious due to her soma intake. He rummages through her stuff until he finds her sleeping on the bed. Silently quoting lines from Romeo and Juliet, he stares at her. He yearns to touch her but is afraid to tarnish her purity. As Bernard's helicopter nears, John manages to flee the cabin, concealing his intrusion.

chapter 10

The Director and Henry confer at the Hatchery, with the Director revealing his intention to use Bernard's dismissal as a warning to others due to his unconventional actions. He justifies this by stressing that individual sacrifices are insignificant given the Hatchery's ability to produce numerous new infants. Upon Bernard's arrival, he is scolded by the Director for not behaving childlike and satisfying his instincts instantly. The Director informs him of his transfer to Iceland. But the situation quickly changes as Bernard introduces Linda and John. Linda blames the Director for her pregnancy, leaving everyone speechless. John drops to his knees and exclaims, “My father!” This prompts uncontrollable laughter among the workers and the Director hastily leaves the room.

chapter 11

The Director steps down in shame, enabling Bernard to retain his job. “The Savage” or John captivates the society immediately. Linda constantly consumes soma, landing in a nebulous state between wakefulness and sleep. Bernard, as John's designated guardian, enjoys newfound popularity. He brags about his active sex life to Helmholtz, who only reacts with a dismal silence, leading Bernard to stop talking to him. Despite his unconventional behavior, Bernard believes his fame as John's guardian will guard him. In a letter to Mond, he concurs with John's criticism of the “civilized infantility.” Mond ponders if Bernard needs to be taught a lesson. John is appalled by the sight of identical twins in a factory, sarcastically citing “O brave new world that has such people in it.” He rejects soma and frequently visits his mother. He also visits Eton where Alpha children mock a film showcasing “savages” on a Reservation. Lenina is attracted to John, but unsure of his feelings for her. She takes him to watch a feely titled Three Weeks in a Helicopter, a story of a black man kidnapping a blond Beta-Plus woman. John despises the movie but it reignites his desire for Lenina, causing him shame. He rejects Lenina's sexual advances, locking himself in his room to read Shakespeare’s Othello. Confused, Lenina retreats to her room and takes soma.

chapter 12

Bernard hosts a grand party, offering guests an opportunity to meet John. However, John doesn't cooperate, staying in his room and leaving Bernard to face the embarrassment of his disappointed guests, including the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury. Lenina is also let down as she was hoping to understand John's unusual behavior post-feely. The Arch-Community-Songster advises Bernard to be cautious with his criticisms of the World State. With his popularity waning, Bernard reverts to his prior depressive state, blaming John. He's thankful yet bitter towards Helmholtz for maintaining their friendship despite his previously cold demeanor. Helmholtz is in hot water for sharing unconventional rhymes with college students, but he's exhilarated to have discovered his unique voice. Helmholtz and John meet and instantly connect, making Bernard envious. He wishes he hadn't introduced them and takes soma to numb his emotions. When John shares Shakespearean verses with Helmholtz, he's captivated until John recites from Romeo and Juliet about Juliet's parents pushing her to wed Paris. Helmholtz finds the concept of parents and the fuss over a girl's partner selection laughable, causing John to feel insulted and withdraw his book.

chapter 13

Henry suggests Lenina might need a "Violent Passion Surrogate" when she declines his invitation to a feely and seems distressed. Lenina confesses to Fanny that she is curious about being with a savage, but Fanny cautions her against focusing too much on one man. Lenina insists that only John can hold her interest. After taking soma, Lenina tries to tempt John into a romantic encounter. She notices his displeasure at her visit. John, deeply infatuated, invokes Shakespeare to convey his feelings, discusses marriage and professes his love. Lenina questions his silence about his desires up until now, but his talks about lifelong bonding and aging together scare her. Lenina tries to physically entice him by beginning to undress, but John reacts with anger and fear, labelling her as promiscuous and hits her. In response, Lenina locks herself in the bathroom while John angrily recites from King Lear, expressing his disdain for women and reproduction. The phone rings, he answers it and she overhears him leave.

chapter 14

John races to the Park Lane Hospital, asking a nurse to take him to Linda, his mother. She's somewhat taken aback by the term 'mother' but still shows him to Linda's bedside. Tearfully, John reminisces about their shared moments while eight-year-old Bokanovsky children surround Linda, pointing out her physical flaws. When John hits a particularly rude child, the nurse reprimands him for interrupting the children's death-conditioning process and ushers them away. John is mistaken by an ailing Linda for Popé. Upset, he jolts her, insisting she acknowledge him as her son. As she utters his name, an old childhood hypnopaedic phrase slips out before she begins choking. A distraught John sprints to the nurse for assistance, but Linda has already passed away by the time they return. His sobs fill the room as the nurse frets over the impact of this spectacle on the children's death conditioning. She distracts them with chocolate éclairs. When a child points to Linda and asks John, “Is she dead?” he pushes him away and flees the ward.

chapter 15

John sees two groups of identical Delta twins in the hospital, collecting their soma after work. He bitterly repeats the words, “How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world.” Haunted by these words, he pleads with them to reject the soma, labeling it as a tool of their enslavement. The soma distributor informs Bernard of the situation through a call answered by Helmholtz. Both of them race to the hospital. John is incensed by the Deltas' disinterested expressions, and he chucks their soma out the window. This causes an angry uproar among the Deltas. Helmholtz arrives and helps John defend against the frenzied Deltas. Bernard has reservations—he is afraid of risking his life to aid them, but is also guilty about his hesitation. The police show up, spraying soma and a potent anesthetic, and a recorded message questions why there is unrest. Soon enough, the Deltas are sobbing, making amends, and their soma is replenished. Helmholtz and John are asked by the police to follow them without creating a scene. Bernard attempts to exit sneakily but is apprehended before he can vanish.

chapter 16

Upon Bernard, Helmholtz, and John's arrival, Mond remarks to John, “So you don’t much like civilization, Mr. Savage.” John agrees, though he appreciates certain aspects, including the persistent music. Mond quotes Shakespeare’s The Tempest, leaving John surprised to learn Mond has read Shakespeare. Mond clarifies that Shakespeare's works are banned. His justification includes the longevity of beautiful things like literature, which contradicts their consumerist society's focus on the new. Additionally, the World State's citizens wouldn't comprehend Shakespeare due to the foreign nature of the experiences and emotions he writes about. The pursuit of social stability has eradicated grand struggles and strong emotions, replaced by a form of "happiness" Mond equates to childlike gratification. John counters this, arguing such "happiness" results in grotesque humans. He challenges Mond: couldn’t all citizens be Alphas? Mond retorts that the World State needs citizens content with their designated roles. A population of Alphas led to a civil war in an experimental island, proving that non-Alphas are necessary for societal equilibrium. Despite the World State's advanced technology, Mond expounds that even tech needs control for society's happiness and stability. Even beneficial technologies are curtailed to maintain a work-leisure balance. Contrarily, the revered concept of science has been suppressed in the World State. Even Alphas lack scientific education or understanding. Mond, hinting at his past as a rebellious scientist, equates "science" with the pursuit of truth, which clashes with the state's prioritization of happiness, suggesting the society is built on lies. Mond announces Helmholtz and Bernard's exile. Bernard pleads for mercy as he's lead away by three men who sedate him. To him, Mond claims exile is a reward, as the islands are inhabited by the most intriguing people. Mond confesses to Helmholtz his envy but explains his preference for managing others' happiness. Mond sees the islands as necessary, as dissidents who can't be exiled would likely be killed. He offers Helmholtz a choice of destination. Helmholtz, hoping a harsh climate will inspire his writing, accepts Mond's suggestion of the Falkland Islands.

chapter 17

Helmholtz departs to find Bernard, leaving John and Mustapha Mond to further their intellectual debate. Now, instead of societal aspects abolished by the World State, they examine religion, a concept also erased from their society. Mond introduces John to his cache of forbidden religious texts, reading lengthy excerpts from Cardinal Newman and Maine de Biran. They suggest that faith is fundamentally a reaction to the fear of loss, ageing, and death. Mond believes that in a society devoid of losses, religion is unnecessary. When John questions the innate nature of divine belief, Mond replies people simply believe what they're conditioned to, stating “Providence takes its cue from men.” John argues that belief in God would prevent the World State's citizens from degradation through their indulgent vices. Faith would give them reason for self-discipline and purity. God, he insists, is behind “everything noble and fine and heroic.” But Mond disagrees, asserting no one in the World State is degraded, they just adhere to different values. Their society doesn't necessitate tolerating unpleasantness. Soma, he points out, offers an easy escape from any accidental discomfort, dubbing it “Christianity without tears.” John argues for his yearning for God, poetry, genuine danger, freedom, goodness, and even sin. Mond warns that these desires will only bring unhappiness. John acknowledges this but remains steadfast in his wishes.

chapter 18

Bernard and Helmholtz part ways with John, with Bernard regretting the awkward situation he caused in Mond's office. John wishes to accompany them to the islands, but Mond prevents him, desiring to prolong "the experiment." John later isolates himself in an old lighthouse, growing his own food and punishing himself to cleanse away the taint of society. Delta-Minus workers spot John self-flagellating one day. Following this, journalists arrive to speak with him. Furious, John assaults a reporter and insists on being left alone. Despite his fury, the incident is reported, attracting more journalists. John's violent response escalates. Thinking of Lenina, he flagellates himself while being filmed, resulting in a hit feely. Feely enthusiasts begin to visit John, chanting, “We want the whip.” Amidst the chanting, Lenina emerges from a helicopter, arms extended towards John. He labels her a harlot and whips her, exclaiming, “Oh, the flesh! . . . Kill it, kill it!” The crowd, enthralled, mimic him, dancing and singing “Orgy-porgy, Orgy . . .” Past midnight, the helicopters depart, leaving John passed out from soma and the prolonged “frenzy of sensuality.” Waking up and recalling the previous day's events, he's horrified. As the media reports on the “orgy of atonement,” a horde of visitors converge on the lighthouse, only to find John has taken his own life.

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