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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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CHAPTER FOUR

In this chapter, Huxley turns from building up his new-world technology to telling his story, which gives more vivid life to Lenina, Bernard, and a new character named Helmholtz Watson. Lenina is still little more than the typical hedonist of the new world. (A hedonist is someone who believes that pleasure is the highest good.) In the first scene, Lenina makes sexual advances toward Bernard in a crowded elevator and can't understand why he is embarrassed. Then she goes to a suburban park with Henry Foster to "consume" sports equipment. In some ways she is the book's heroine, but Huxley forces you to see how shallow she is.

In the second scene, Bernard reveals himself as someone you can understand more easily than most of the other characters you have met so far-because he's more of an individual, more like you or someone you know, and less like the instructional cartoon characters of the Director and Controller or the always cheerful conformists and clones.

By accident, Bernard is small for an Alpha. This makes it hard for him to deal with members of lower castes, who are as small as he is, but by design. He treats them in the arrogant but insecure way that some poor whites in the old South treated blacks, or that lower-class British people treated natives in Africa or India in the days of the British Empire. Huxley's original readers knew such people as friends or relations, or through the novels of Rudyard Kipling. Americans might know them best through the novels of William Faulkner.


Bernard goes to meet his friend Helmholtz, a writer and emotional engineer. Like Bernard, Helmholtz is unhappy in a world of people who are always happy.

Like Bernard, he is different from most Alphas. He is different not because he is short and feels inadequate, but because he is a mental giant. He is successful in sports, sex, and community activities-all the activities in which Bernard feels he is a failure. But Helmholtz is still not happy because he knows he is capable of writing something beautiful and powerful, rather than the nonsense that he has to write for the press or the feelies.

While the two friends are talking, Bernard suddenly suspects someone is spying on them, flings the door open, and finds nobody there. This is surprising, because while you've been told that the state runs everything in this new world, you haven't felt oppressed by the rulers. You find nothing like the Big Brother of George Orwell's novel 1984 or the secret police in books about Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. The scene is a reminder that this world, too, is a dictatorship.

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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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