Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

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Chapter 14

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 14 of Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World.

Brave New World | Chapter 14 | Summary



John the Savage arrives at the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying to be with his mother before she passes away. Rushing to Linda's bed he encounters all of the technological devices—the synthetic music, the 24/7 noise and images from the televisions, the bursts of soothing scents like verbena to keep the dying people happy until the end, but no mourning family or friends. As he holds Linda's hand while she floats in and out of consciousness, anesthetized by the constant flow of soma in her system, he mourns his childhood with her. The arrival of a crowd of identical Delta twins there for Death Conditioning interrupts his thoughts. Their rude staring at Linda like she is an unappealing animal in the zoo and their total lack of respect for his dying mother infuriate him. He physically stops one of the eight-year-olds from crawling beside his mother's bed. Afterward he tries to evoke his loving memories, but he can't. Instead his mind fills with anger at his ostracism, his mother's off-again, on-again love, and his hatred of Popé. He is resentful that his mother doesn't recognize him and rescue him from the horrible reality of her imminent death and from the life he is forced to endure in her beloved Other Place, which he detests. Instead of being consoled by the staff when Linda passes away, he is treated with coldness and disgust at his public outpouring of grief. Shoving the still gaping Delta twins away, he runs from the room.


Linda's death serves as the vehicle for the author to raise two concerns, the first about the meaning of civilized behavior. Although John understands he was an outcast because of his heritage when Indian ceremonies and rites were involved, he was also raised to honor the elderly, to feel satisfaction when he created pottery, to be open to the various spiritual concepts, to read, and to wonder. On the Reservation independent thinking and action were encouraged instead of being a cause for exile from the community. In his mind, though, this Other Place that Linda romanticized, this place he was so eager to see and enjoy, is uncivilized. The promiscuity people practice is vulgar and immoral, and the forced detachment that forbids emotion is unnatural, as is the government-sanctioned drugging of the inhabitants. The caste system that produces thousands of clones who are physically, mentally, and behaviorally identical is as disgusting to him as it is discriminatory. Inhibiting the people's right to think, to feel, and to be individuals by forcing them into childish lives of instant gratification is barbaric.

Secondly the scene in the hospital when Linda is dying raises the conflict between an emotion-free existence and one in which soma use is encouraged over sadness and trauma. The nurses are embarrassed by John's use of the word mother but are appalled by his anger at the young boys being conditioned to accept death with happiness and eclairs. The children are as confused by John's grief and tears as he is furious at their disrespect. John believes people must endure sorrow in order to appreciate joy. The ostracism he withstood from his peers on the Reservation was countered by the satisfaction he felt when Popé respected him after he rose up against the Indian leader to protect his mother's honor. Reality can be sometimes painful, as Bernard also realizes when his false friends reject him. He might not have been so jealous and vengeful if he had been allowed to feel and had been taught civilized ways to deal with emotional highs and lows, but this was forbidden.

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