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

All the important characteristics of the brave new world and its people are visible in this chapter, though the action does not carry the plot much further forward. After you finish reading it, decide whether you regard the chapter as a peak or a plateau, an exciting vision or a restful summary. Everybody who is important in London wants to see John, the true Savage. Nobody wants to see Linda, who had been decanted just as they had been, who committed the obscene act of becoming a mother, and who is fat and ugly. Linda doesn't care, however, because she has come back to civilization-which for her is a soma holiday that lasts longer and longer-and that will kill her, though she doesn't know it. Is Huxley really saying that everyone in this Utopia is in the same fix, but doesn't know it?

As John's guardian, Bernard Marx is suddenly popular and successful with women. Huxley shows you how hollow Bernard's success is in two ways: he lets you see that Bernard's friend Helmholtz is not impressed but only saddened because Bernard has revealed that he really is like everybody else; and he tells you that people still don't really like Bernard or the way he criticizes the established order.

Bernard takes the Savage to see all the high points of the World State, a literary trick from older, classical Utopias that enables Huxley to satirize both the real world and the brave new world. One of the simplest examples is the official who brags that a rocket travels 1,250 kilometers an hour-not unlike an airline ad in one of today's newspapers. John responds by remembering that Ariel, the good spirit of Shakespeare's Tempest, could travel around the world in 40 minutes.

Bernard and John also visit a coeducational Eton, where Bernard makes advances toward the Head Mistress. This is another joke that Huxley aims at his English readers. He attended Eton, probably the most elite school in England-then and now a school for boys only.

Huxley really wants you to notice the Eton students laughing at a movie showing Savages in pain as they whip themselves for their sins, and that with the help of toys and chocolate creams, the students are conditioned to lose any fear of death. The Head Mistress says death is "like any other physiological process." Huxley follows her comment by saying that she and Bernard have a date for eight that night at the Savoy. He does not have to actually say that they plan to experience a different physiological process. This is an example of Huxley's wit and elegance, the ability to say much in few words.

The satire on both real and Utopian worlds continues when the scene switches to Lenina and Fanny. Thanks to her new-found fame, Lenina has slept with many very important people, like the Ford Chief Justice (in England, the chief justice is a lord) and the Arch-Community Songster of Canterbury (the Archbishop of Canterbury is the chief clergyman in the Church of England). They all ask her what it's like to make love to a Savage, but she still doesn't know; John has maintained his purity against Utopia's promiscuity.


The highlight of this scene is the song that says, "Love's as good as soma." This is an important variation on a theme; the people of Brave New World use their promiscuity to escape dull routine, just the way they use the drug.

John's purity even survives a trip to the feelies with Lenina. Because she knows the celebrity Savage, Lenina has already been on the Feelytone news. Huxley mentions television as a feature of the brave new world, anticipating something that became available to the public over 15 years after he wrote this book. However, he didn't anticipate that television news programs would end movie newsreels. "Feelytone" is a parody on Movietone News, one of the leading newsreels of the 1930s.

The feely shows a black making love to a blonde, which reminds John of Shakespeare's Othello. Huxley reminds you in this chapter, as he does throughout the book, that the Utopian caste system resembles real-world racial discrimination, though he takes pains to show that Deltas and Epsilons, at the bottom of the pecking order, may be white or black.

John's feelings about the feelies are not happy. He thinks the erotic touch of the show is "ignoble," and he thinks he's noble for not making love to Lenina as she expects and wants him to.

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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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