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Brave New World | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

Back at Bernard's apartment, Bernard and Helmholtz find a pale and sickly John the Savage leaving the bathroom. He has been purifying himself from the evils he has experienced in the Other Place. Helmholtz and Bernard tell John that they are leaving the next day and offer their good-byes. The three hug each other, realizing that their friendship has brought them happiness. John demands to be allowed to live in a place of solitude. He chooses a secluded lighthouse on the coast near Portsmouth, taking only bare essentials to last him until the next spring. He plans to hunt, to fish, and to grow real food instead of eating the fake diet offered in the World State.

For a while John enjoys his solitude, but people find out he is there and mob the area. As they stare, they yell their demands to him like they would an animal in a zoo. He chases the first reporters away but is filmed flogging himself. After the release of the film, people mob the area, taunting him and demanding that he whip himself. When Lenina and Henry arrive, John tries to frighten her away with his whip but is overwhelmed by her beauty and tears. The crowd's taunting and singing and the vibrations of the helicopter inflame everyone, including John, and an orgy-porgy group hysteria complete with soma and passion continues through the night. The next morning more visitors find John hanging from the beams inside the lighthouse.

Analysis

Instead of finding fascination in the technological advances he witnesses in London, John is horrified by the cloning, the immorality, the lack of love and care for others, and the rejection of God. He is further appalled by the robotic nature of people's lives. After all of his horrifying experiences, he wants some solitude so he can find the time and strength to figure out what he wants his existence to mean. He adamantly refuses Mond's suggestion that he remain in civilized London and continue to be a part of the man's experiment. Before they left for the Falkland Islands, Bernard and Helmholtz noted his sickly appearance and asked if he had eaten something that disagreed with him. John's answer sums up his reservation life and World State experience: "I ate my own wickedness."

Huxley's descriptions of the voyeuristic people and media, their thirst for live and filmed news about John and his solitary life and purification ceremonies at the lighthouse as well as their need for up close and personal encounters, add more impetus to his satire. The media fully understands that sensationalism sells. People want to witness it and to be a part of it if possible. The author's creation of the Feelies, Solidarity Services, nightclubs, and soma reflect the Roaring Twenties culture, the speakeasies that popped up as a response to government-sponsored Prohibition, and the tabloids popular in that era. World War I had been over for only 13 years, and people were suffering worldwide through the deprivations caused by the first two years of the Great Depression. They needed amusement. The propaganda machines of the world were already feeding many people what they wanted to hear when Huxley started to write this book. He just reflects the period by incorporating some of their techniques, one being the bandwagon appeal that encourages people to follow the crowd, into the World State's practices.

The final of many ironies in the book is situational. It stems from the example of foreshadowing that occurs when John first meets Bernard and Lenina after the corn festival dance. He laments that he wasn't chosen for the sacrifice in which the young Indian brave threaded his way through slithering snakes while being whipped. "They could have had twice as much blood from me," he says, his voice shaking with despair. Now at the end of the book, John whips himself until he bleeds when the voyeurs insinuate their way into his life with their orgy-porgy hysteria. He sacrifices his values when he takes soma and sleeps with Lenina. The next day, mortified by his weakness, he hangs himself. John's reaction to being hounded by the media and his subsequent suicide sharply contrast with the shallowness of the world he was visiting. People like him can never belong anywhere.

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