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Brave New World
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Apr 2013-Brave New World > Chapter 13-18

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Karena (karenafagan) Please keep discussion to these chapters. Spoilers will be present so please beware!


message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Cohen (abstractor1181) As I had expected, this story ends in tragedy. John has hung himself after the loss of his mother and being outcast from a society that has chewed him up and spit him out. Nothing positive has come from his sacrificng his way of life. His supposed friends, Hermholtz and Bernard, have turned their backs on him. Lenina's promiscuity creates a disgust in humanity in which he cannot bare.
Is Huxley telling us that we've been conditioned to accept only those thing that we know best? Or is he mocking those that believe a "savior" like John (Christ-like figure) can save us from ourselves? I would say its a little of both.


Angie Downs Ian wrote: "As I had expected, this story ends in tragedy. John has hung himself after the loss of his mother and being outcast from a society that has chewed him up and spit him out. Nothing positive has come..."

I think that Huxley is asking what happens to a god-less society that turns to technology for enlightenment? I think that Huxley was probably questioning his own belief system when he wrote this book.

The end of the book is so frustrating because in the last moments of John's life, his torment is turned basically into a porno. He can no longer return to being a savage and can no longer live in civilization either. John knows that living in a god-less society is wrong, and because of that, he would rather not live at all.


Jessica | 464 comments @ Angie I agree. I didn't feel like Huxley was mocking religion. I think he questioning his own beliefs here. For John to say this...

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

makes me think Huxley is posing quite a heavy question, and you hit it on the nail, Angie. When the world turns away from these things it becomes stagnant.

The god-less society created by Ford is so emotionless. They don't really have anything to live for. They are so happy that they have become numb. They do not even realize they are being controlled by government either. The scene where John is watching his mother die is by far one of the most tragic scenes I have read. The mocking of death that happens is heart-wrenching.

John was chewed and spit out but not only by his own choice. He really didn't have a say. The controller wanted to continue to use him as a part of his experiment. I believe he knew where John's road was headed and he wanted to see it happen as a lesson to the rest of "civilized" society. Helmholtz and Bernard could not have done anything to change the controller's mind. John was killed, in the end, by having no place in the world. He wasn't allowed the peace to live, as he wanted. His life was made into an example with a very unfortunate ending.


message 5: by Grandpa Jud (last edited Apr 08, 2013 07:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Grandpa Jud (grandpajud) | 42 comments John had no place in the New World and that was his downfall. It is interesting that he was also an outcast in the primitive society in which he was raised but he tolerated being shunned by members of that society much better.

John was also victimized by his own sexual hang-ups. He could not see that the physical attraction he felt towards Lenina was a sexual impulse that was a perfectly normal response for any adult male. He judged himself by what he felt - not by how he acted. Therefore, he severely punished himself for how he felt towards Lenina even though he had not actually done anything wrong. He also judged Lenina by the same standards. Because she was sexually promiscuous, she was a "strumpet" and at the end of the book he used the whip on her. He viewed standards of sexual conduct as absolute, and did not respect her right to make decisions regarding her sexual activity that were different from the conduct he expected of himself.


message 6: by Grandpa Jud (last edited Apr 08, 2013 07:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Grandpa Jud (grandpajud) | 42 comments In the New World, sleep indoctrination plays a major role in the conditioning of young children. I don't think "sleep teaching" is possible in the real world. But I recall many years ago being told of an experiment being done where movie-goers were shown extremely brief images of coca-cola drinks as the movie progressed. These images appeared on the screen so very briefly (some minute fraction of a second) that the conscious mind was unaware of these images. At a conscious level, the movie-goers thought they were simply watching a movie. But there was a subliminal effect. The movie-goers did purchase more coca-cola after the movie was over.

Although we don't have sleep teaching, the values of a very young child that are dear to the society or to the child's parents are instilled in the very young child in a manner that is essentially indoctrination. The child of a Muslim (surprise, surprise!) grows up to be a Muslim and not because of a rational attempt to be sure that the child has equally experienced different religious faiths. An American child who starts school is likely to regularly recite the American pledge of allegiance, but not as the end result of an attempt to equally expose the child to the pros and cons of alternate forms of government.

So young children are indoctrinated with parental values and those of the child's society. This happens the world over and is perfectly normal. That being so, it doesn't bother me so much that the New World uses sleep indoctrination. The real issue for me is whether the right values are being inculcated, and not the method of achieving it. I also have deep reservations about the top-down determination of what values to instill rather than the diversity resulting from the bottom-up decisions of a multitude of parents (with differing ideals) as occurs in the real world.


message 7: by Grandpa Jud (last edited Apr 08, 2013 08:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Grandpa Jud (grandpajud) | 42 comments In the New World's quest to assure comfort and happiness, truth and beauty, as values to be pursued, are consigned to the ash heap. This is anathema to me. So science was all but extinguished - because scientific discoveries might disturb the equilibrium achieved by New World Society. Ugh - what bad judgment by the New World controllers. For abandoning the pursuit of science, the New World controllers deserve to have a more scientifically advanced race from another planet discover them and consume them for dinner.

But I forget why the quest for beauty was supposed to be bad. Perhaps someone can remind me. (I listened to an audio version of this book which makes it more difficult to go back and check what was said).

I also found repugnant the dumbing down of fertilized embryos so that as adults, these persons would be more satisfied with menial jobs. How perfectly awful to make a person less than he or she might have been.


Angie Downs Grandpa Joe wrote: "In the New World's quest to assure comfort and happiness, truth and beauty, as values to be pursued, are consigned to the ash heap. This is anathema to me. So science was all but extinguished - b..."

The quest for beauty, in art especially, is bad basically for the same reason that they don't teach literature. It is old. Because they lead a purely consumerist society, they do not want the citizens owning things that are old. Instead, they are supposed to be constantly replacing everything they have. If there is value placed on literature and art, then people would stop purchasing those types of items and the government wouldn't make as much money.


Angie Downs Grandpa Joe wrote: "In the New World, sleep indoctrination plays a major role in the conditioning of young children. I don't think "sleep teaching" is possible in the real world. But I recall many years ago being to..."

I think the main difference here is that as we (Americans) get older, we can choose to believe something else. Yes, as children, we probably adopt our parent's politics and religious beliefs, but as we get older, we develop our own. Personally, I was babtised, went to church in my youth, and raised Lutheran. Yet, as I grew older, I never even considered the act of babtism for my children, and I am an atheist. Quite different than my upbringing.

Not only that, but I am able to decide my own job. Just because my parents might have had certain expectations for me, didn't mean I didn't have a choice. And, certainly, the government didn't indoctrinate me from the beginning of my life to believe I should love a particular job. In fact, I've been told again and again that being a teacher is one of the most underpaid and under-appreciated jobs around. Yet, here I am.

Yes, we may be taught at an early age to say the pledge. And there may be other subtle indoctrination that comes up in our lives, but I believe we are a far cry from anything as extreme in BNW.


Grandpa Jud (grandpajud) | 42 comments Angie wrote: "Grandpa Joe wrote: "In the New World, sleep indoctrination plays a major role in the conditioning of young children. I don't think "sleep teaching" is possible in the real world. But I recall man..."

I agree completely.

The New World population also seems heartless in disturbing ways. For example, when Linda returns to the New World she is shunned because she looks her age. Nobody reaches out to her because they realize she needs a friend or for the purpose of making her feel included. Nobody shows her any sympathy. Likewise, none of the New World people show any inclination to imagine what it must be like to be in John's shoes in order to understand him better. The population seems very shallow and very uncurious about things they are not programmed to be interested in.


Danaë | 89 comments Angie wrote: "The quest for beauty, in art especially, is bad basically for the same reason that they don't teach literature. It is old. Because they lead a purely consumerist society, they do not want the citizens owning things that are old. Instead, they are supposed to be constantly replacing everything they have. If there is value placed on literature and art, then people would stop purchasing those types of items and the government wouldn't make as much money."

I agree, but I also think that beauty/art is discouraged because it would encourage creativity which is an expression of individuality. Creative thinking and art could then lead to critical thinking about society and cause chaos.


Danaë | 89 comments Grandpa Joe wrote: "The New World population also seems heartless in disturbing ways. For example, when Linda returns to the New World she is shunned because she looks her age. Nobody reaches out to her because they realize she needs a friend or for the purpose of making her feel included. Nobody shows her any sympathy. Likewise, none of the New World people show any inclination to imagine what it must be like to be in John's shoes in order to understand him better. The population seems very shallow and very uncurious about things they are not programmed to be interested in. "

I wonder if this is an expression of the childish state the controllers want to keep the population in. I can't recall the exact words, but several times being like an infant emotionally is praised. Years a go a friend studying child development told me that young children see things in black and white. This makes sense, as they need to absorb quickly what is safe or dangerous in the world. The shades of grey in between can come later. These New World people however have never been encouraged to think beyond the original black and white.

I also wonder how much of the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes was lost when the controllers cut out the parenting roles. Parents would usually be the ones saying "Now Susie, how do you think breaking all Bobby's crayons made him feel? Would you like him to do that to you?" If not parents certainly some adult giving one on one attention to the child, which doesn't seem to happen in the group conditioning situations these people use.


Martin Waterhouse I think this novel has to be read with the writer's historical context kept firmly in mind to appreciate its absolute genius. It's a parody - and a very funny one - of all the utopias being prescribed and promised by the political theories that are sweeping the world in that very strange period that was the 1930s. Capitalism was being battered - due to the Great Depression - and Socialism, Communism and Fascism were vying for dominance of people's hearts and minds; each declaring they had the keys to human happiness. And, alongside this, the science of eugenics seemed to be justifying the European dominance of its empires as well as the right of the upper-classes to rule the lower. So throw into this already very heady mix the hedonism of the Roaring Twenties, and the still very fresh memories of the Great War, and Alduous Huxley is writing in an extremely volatile time. So what does he do? He takes the piss out of everybody.
We follow the petty proto-revolutionary bureaucrat Bernard Marx (what a great name: George Bernard Shaw/Karl Marx) in his pathetic and ultimately futile quest for respect and importance in the genetically 'stable' utopia that has been manufactured. It's a very uncomfortable read at times - the erotic play of the toddlers comes to mind - and brutal too - the death clinics, and the descriptions of the Savages' reservations - but Huxley's point is to show that no matter what the grand Social Theories promise, they won't be able to take into account each individual's little weaknesses and lusts and ambitions; humans can't be put into little boxes and expected to be happy. The Shakespeare quoting savage John isn't happy in the reservation nor in the Brave New World; the stunted Bernard won't ever find acceptance from his peers, and Lenina ("Wonderful girl; splendidly pneumatic.") will never be able to understand her taste for something 'different'. Huxley isn't being prophetic, he's being parodic in Brave New World and he's having a lot of fun too.


Reija For me the most important quote was John speak how he not want comfort so on, "...I demand right to be unhappy" (my words, I read Finnish translation.) All that society wanted to be were for my u derstanding, was to be happy, no matter are alpha or epsilon. For John that wasn't enough, thinking what price their paid. But on the other hand, the most of them did seem kind of happy. Maybe I would too, if I lived there but when I looked it outside, it seem so weird.

I think it is interesting that these perfect world are so controlled in books and movies, and our heros need to fight against system. Would it impossible to descripe life after happy ending,after war. This book, of course, nothing change. I still wonder how long this kind of society would survive and what happens after it crashes.. well maybe I should check second part, I understood he returned this subject.


message 15: by Leo (last edited Apr 14, 2013 11:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leo Walsh (llleoll) | 17 comments To me, BNW shows the limits to two incomplete solutions to the human conditions. Rationalism vs. Romantic.

I've thrown together some thoughts here. Sort of ordered, sort of "half baked." Just to give them some air.

The One World government is definitely Rational. It is pragmatic, and does not get bogged down in ideology. Which does not fight its' people's shortcomings -- like the desire for sex, leisure and group attachment. Instead, it exploits natural human tendencies, and uses them to reward it's citizens (sex, soma, feelies, desire to fit in, etc.). And it creates a state and society whose entire purpose is to perpetuate that society.

We see the results: a stagnant society. Comfortable to live in, but devoid of challenge or meaning. Where "Truth" is not pursued. And the real truth seekers -- like Helmolz and Bernard -- must be removed from societies in order to keep them intact.

The "Noble Savage" culture -- which many in the Romantic movement were interested in regressing to -- seems anything but noble. Instead, it seems short sighted and xenophobic. In fact, they seemed outwardly hostile to John whose only fault was being born to Linda.

The results: Another stagnant society. But filled with pain, misery and squalor. Filled with struggle and passion, and yet exposed to the elements and, thus, a grim place to live in.

It seems to me that what Huxley is saying is that fulfillment lies between these two extremes. And that neither of the two extremes that were popular in his day -- the new-agey Romantics (Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzche, etc) and logical Positivists (Comte, Hume, Berkley, Spencer) both seem to lead to very poor outcomes.

We are best off on one of One Word's islands. Where free minds, who have seen beyond the edge of the social reality, are able to explore those edges. To produce "truth."

But we are struck with the tragedy of John. Who sees beyond the edge. And is forced to live in a world, alone and isolated, instead of moving onto that island. And his fate, like that of the hippies or Tolstoy's commune, was to perish in ignominy.


message 16: by Leo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leo Walsh (llleoll) | 17 comments Martin wrote: "I think this novel has to be read with the writer's historical context kept firmly in mind to appreciate its absolute genius. It's a parody - and a very funny one - of all the utopias being prescri..."

Nice comments Martin. I, too, thought some aspects of the society a gas. And all to familiar. Because people, when they find out that I find X-Box games boring and prefer to read, do a double-take.

X-Box is or centrifugal bumble-puppy.

That said, I did not find the isolation amusing. I found it heart-rending...


Nicky (nally_gene) | 10 comments I personally don't feel that the godless-ness of the New World was the primary downfall of John. I think a lot of it had to do with his unwillingness to falter in his unreasonably high standards for himself. There has to be a good balance between self-denial and indulgence that he couldn't get right due to the drastic change of scenery he underwent. The last chapter also made me wonder what he really ended up doing to Lenina. I know she (or another person of her same face) showed up and had an emotional response to the scene. Whether or not it was actually his Lenina, and whether or not he killed her, still lingers on my mind.


message 18: by Leo (last edited Apr 18, 2013 04:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leo Walsh (llleoll) | 17 comments "George Orwell, in 1984, paints a dystopia where humanity is destroyed by what we fear. Huxley's Brave New World paints a dystopia where we are destroyed by what we crave."

Not sure of the source, but this is a paraphrase of a comment I read this week. unfortunately, it was in another context and cannot locate the real quote, nor remember the author.

But I thought it appropriate.


Francie Grice John hanging himself was a tragic ending. I think he just couldn't reconcile the world he grew up in with what he was confronted with in the New World. And just to go back to some thoughts on maybe some religious symbolism mentioned in earlier threads: I could almost see John as Jesus trying to save the world (throwing the Soma away at the hospital and trying to teach Bernard and Helmholtz); Bernard as Judas (betraying John's friendship for recognition and status); and Lenina as Margy Magdaline (for obvious reasons). Overall, I loved the story; it does make you realize how lucky we are to be able to love and feel real emotions.


Katie | 1 comments Jessica wrote: "@ Angie I agree. I didn't feel like Huxley was mocking religion. I think he questioning his own beliefs here. For John to say this...

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want..."


I agree with both of you that he wasn't mocking religion. I think he was displaying the dangers of extremism of anything. Religion, science, self-sacrifice, etc. all were shown by Huxley in extreme. Therefore, none of the characters were truly happy (or sad). The civilized refused to acknowledge anything negative, so they never truly felt happy. While John never allowed himself to feel any positive feelings because he hated himself.

Sadly, I think that if John had just slept with Lenina when she propositioned him the tragic ending could have been avoided. I think Lenina could have given him monogamy, because it seemed she was tired of promiscuity and wanted something else. They just would have been on the fringes of society.

I think Huxley was trying to determine the dangers of completely embracing either old or new beliefs (during his time the old was Christianity, and the new was Henry Ford with the assembly line). Both of which were major pieces of American society during this time, and exactly how and where they could fit together.

And Francie I agree that there are definitely some religious symbolism throughout here. And Leo I love that quote, it's definitely a very apt description of the book.

In the end, the only character I actually liked was Helmholtz, he was the only real and genuine person. Everyone else just seemed kind of single-faceted and selfish.


Christine "I'd rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness you were having here" Savage says to Bernard. Unfortunately for John the only way he feels he can escape is by hanging himself. I was a little frustrated with John in the end because he was so rigid to his beliefs. The way he treated Lenina was unfair. He created this concept in his head and when she did not live up to it he cast her out. He missed so many opportunities! Both sides (John's & the Brave New World) were so rigid if they could just have found some balance!


message 22: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Bassette | 5 comments Leo wrote: ""George Orwell, in 1984, paints a dystopia where humanity is destroyed by what we fear. Huxley's Brave New World paints a dystopia where we are destroyed by what we crave."

Not sure of the source,..."


An interesting note about the books ending: nowhere is it stated or even remotely implied that this 'utopia' is 'doomed' to fail. I think that is an imposition that we have taken the liberty to assume, but it is not present in the novel.

What we DO have is a society that SEEMS to be at some sort of equilibrium, with the occasional aberration or artifact, one of these blips being the subject of the novel.

This society smacks of 'bad' or 'empty' to us and we judge it to be a failure, and my gut would tend to agree...but it is still a judgement of the quality of this society not a statement of its viability...I suppose that is possibly the most frightening part?


message 23: by Ryan (last edited Apr 29, 2013 09:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Bassette | 5 comments Random additional thoughts:

Ultimately, I think what makes this novel great is that it doesn't come across as preachy or self-righteous, but leaves the reader less and less clear on the intent of the author the further one delves into the work. Maybe a good term for this book would be ANTI-doctrine or similar.

Frightening (again, a judgement) is the sense some seem to have of certainties and absolutes which, in my not so humble opinion (lol) are the sign of a mind that has been manually turned to the 'auto-pilot' mode. However, having stated that, Huxley suggests that active intellectual grappling can lead to complete and utter despair.

I think there was also a clear and strong thread relating to this notion of where 'art' comes from...the need for tragedy and pain to fully appreciate pleasure and beauty etc...I saw a pretty blatant analogy to the ending of Romeo and Juliet (or, on second thought, much more with Othello) where there is a double death...I got the sense that he took his own life out of guilt after harming or perhaps killing Lenina.

Regardless, this is where sci-fi truly shines...presenting these ethical questions in a setting that is just removed enough (via a leap forward in time and technology) that we can attempt some objectivity.

Finally, and some of this is going to sound redundant, I feel like the author was attacking the 'feel good' folks (or at least in today's context this resonates for me) who would have you believe that sitting and dwelling on potentially negative thoughts is bad, and that the key to success is positive and uplifting thought...that time spent alone is somehow inherently harmful etc...again he parodies the extremes of self-righteousness...the rigidity and mantras of mindsets and dogma...


Maricarmen Estrada M When Huxley wrote this book, all the theories of conditioning were at their peak. I had that feeling of a futurist view of someone that lived many years ago.
I wonder how different his insights would have been after these last decades. In some ways our society has developed to live as in the Brave New World: godless, seeking pleasure at whatever cost, loveless, regardless of our one-ness, afraid of sacrifice...
Reading this book was uncomfortable, unpleasant, and at some times even disturbing, just as I think Huxley intended it. So, thank you for choosing this book and making me read it. I believe I wouldn't have chosen to read it otherwise.


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