'Brave New World' Summary

Brave New World opens in the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre. The year is 632 After Ford, so roughly 2540 AD. 

The Director of the hatchery and his assistant, Henry Foster, are giving a tour to a group of boys and explaining what the facility does: processes dubbed “Bokanovsky” and “Snap,” which allow the hatchery to produce thousands of nearly identical human embryos. The embryos are processed on a conveyor belt, where, in assembly-line fashion, they are treated and tweaked to fit in one of the five social castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Alphas excel in intellectual and physical abilities and are primed to become leaders, while the other castes display progressively inferior degrees of physical and intellectual defects. Epsilons, subject to oxygen deprivation and chemical treatments, are stunted in a way that makes them only fit for menial labor. 

Introduction to the World State

The Director then demonstrates how a group of Delta children are programmed to dislike books and flowers, which will make them docile and prone to consumerism. He also explains the “hypnopaedic” method of teaching, where children are taught World State propaganda and foundations in their sleep. He also shows the boys how hundreds of naked children engage, mechanically, in sexual activities. 

Mustapha Mond, one of the ten world controllers, introduces himself to the group and gives them the backstory of the World State, a regime programmed to remove emotions, desires and human relationship from society—all negative emotions are suppressed by the consumption of a drug known as soma.

At the same time, inside the hatchery, technician Lenina Crowne and her friend Fanny Crowne talk about their sexual encounters. In the World State’s promiscuous society, Lenina stands out for having exclusively seen Henry Foster for four months. She is also attracted to Bernard Marx, a diminutive and insecure Alpha. In another area of the Hatchery, Bernard reacts badly when he overhears Henry and the Assistant Predestinator having a lewd conversation about Lenina.

A Visit to the Reservation

Bernard is set to go on a trip to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico and invites Lenina to join him; she happily accepts. He goes to meet his friend Helmholtz Watson, a writer. They are both dissatisfied with the World State. Bernard has an inferiority complex towards his own caste because he is too small and weak for an Alpha, while Helmholtz, an intellectual, resents having to just write hypnopaedic copy. 

When Bernard formally asks the Director for permission to visit the Reservation, the Director tells him a story about a trip he took there 20 years prior when, during a storm, a woman who was part of their group got lost. Bernard is granted permission and he and Lenina leave. Before heading into the Reservation, Bernard learns that his attitude raised suspicion in the Director, who plans to exile him to Iceland. 

In the Reservation, Lenina and Bernard notice, with shock, that the residents are subject to illness and old age, scourges that were eliminated from the Old State, and also witness a religious ritual that includes the whipping of a young man. Once the ritual is over, they meet John, who lives isolated from the rest of society. He is the son of a woman named Linda, who was rescued by the villagers 20 years prior. Bernard quickly associates this story with the account of the Director’s expedition.

Linda was ostracized by the society in the Reservation because, having grown up in the World State, she tried to sleep with all the men in the village, which explains why John was raised in isolation. He learnt how to read from a couple of books titled The Chemical and Bacteriological Conditioning of the Embryo and The Complete Works of Shakespeare, which were given to his mother by one of her lovers, Popé. John tells Bernard that he wants to see the “other place,” referring to it as “Brave New World,” quoting a line spoken by Miranda in The Tempest. In the meantime, Lenina knocked herself out by taking too much soma, having felt overwhelmed by the horrors she witnessed in the Reservation. 

Family Secrets

Bernard gets permission from Mustapha to bring John and Linda back to the World State. 

While Lenina is in her drug-induced stupor, John breaks into the house where she is resting and is overcome by the desire to touch her, which he barely suppresses. 

After Bernard, John, and Linda fly back to the World State, the Director is planning to execute Bernard’s exile sentence in front of all the other alphas, but Bernard, by introducing John and Linda, outs him as John’s father, which is a shameful thing in the World State’s society, where natural reproduction had been eliminated. This prompts the Director to resign, and Bernard is spared his exile sentence.

John, now known as “The Savage,” becomes a hit in London, because of the strange life he lead, but, the more he sees of the world state, the more he is distraught. He is still attracted to Lenina, even though the feelings he experiences are more than mere lust, which, in turn, confuses Lenina. Bernard becomes the guardian of The Savage, and becomes popular by proxy, sleeping with many women and getting a pass for his less-than-ideal attitude in society, if that means that people get to meet the savage. The Savage also befriends the intellectual Helmholtz, and the two get along, even though the latter is taken aback when John recites a passage about love and marriage from Romeo and Juliet, as those tenets are considered blasphemous in the World State. 

Lenina is intrigued by John’s behavior, and, after taking soma, she tries to seduce him in Bernard’s apartment, to which, offended, he retorts with quoting Shakespeare and with curses and blows. While Lenina is hiding in the bathroom to escape John’s fury, he learns that his mother, who has been overmedicated with soma since her return to the World State, is about to die. He visits her on her deathbed, where a group of children, who are receiving their death conditioning, ask why she is so unattractive. John, overcome with grief, is enraged, and causes a riot by depriving a group of Deltas of their soma ration by throwing it out the window. Helmholtz and Bernard come to his aid, but after the riot is placated, the three of them get arrested and brought to Mustapha Mond.

A Tragic Ending

John and Mond discuss the values of the World State: while the former claims that denying emotions and desire dehumanizes the citizens, the latter says that art, science and religions need to be sacrificed for the sake of social stability, to which John replies that, without any of those things, life is not worth living. 

Bernard and Helmholtz are to be exiled to distant islands, and, while Bernard does not react well to it, Helmholtz gladly accepts to go live in the Svalbard islands, as he thinks this would give him a chance to write. Since John is not allowed to follow Bernard and Helmholtz in exile, he retreats to a lighthouse with a garden, where he gardens and engages in self-flagellation in order to purify himself. World State citizens catch wind of it, and soon, reporters are on location in order to produce a “feely” of it, a form of entertainment set to give sensorial pleasure. After the feely airs, people venture to the lighthouse in person, to see the self-flagellating firsthand. Among these people is Lenina, who approaches him with her arms open. Again, he has a violent reaction to that, and, brandishing his whip, he screams “Kill it, Kill it.” This scene degenerates into an orgy, to which John takes part. The following morning, realizing he has submitted to the World State, he hangs himself.

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Frey, Angelica. "'Brave New World' Summary." ThoughtCo, Feb. 5, 2021, thoughtco.com/brave-new-world-summary-4694365. Frey, Angelica. (2021, February 5). 'Brave New World' Summary. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/brave-new-world-summary-4694365 Frey, Angelica. "'Brave New World' Summary." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/brave-new-world-summary-4694365 (accessed March 28, 2023).