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Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

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Chapter 8

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 8 of Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World.

Brave New World | Chapter 8 | Summary



In Chapter 8 John the Savage tells Bernard his story. His earliest memory is of lying in bed with Linda as she sings to him. He is quite young here because Popé lifts him away from Linda with one hand, puts him in the front room, and locks him out of the bedroom. He remembers Linda's sadness when the Indian women are mean to her. After that Linda spends much of her time drinking mescal with Popé. John once tries to save his mother from a whipping by the women, but they flog him, too. When he tries to comfort her, she screams that she is not his mother, that she refuses to be called his mother, and that only animals give birth to their young. Remorseful for her ugly words, she hugs and kisses him. He is happiest when she tells him stories about the Other Place and when Mitsima relates various Indian myths and stories about the Christian God.

Linda starts to teach him how to read, but he doesn't learn much until he is around 12 years old and Popé gives him the book The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Whenever the other boys stone him or when he is prohibited from participating in Indian ceremonies, he reads. Mitsima teaches him how to make pottery, which gives him much satisfaction. Bernard asks John to come back to the Other Place with him and promises Linda will join them. John is so excited that he quotes Miranda from Shakespeare's play The Tempest, saying, "O brave new world that has such people in't" and demands "Let's start at once."


Through John's short oral autobiography, the author discloses aspects in the young man's culture that parallel segments in the World State. John fondly remembers how Linda sang him songs from the Other Place such as "Streptocock-Gee to Banbury T" and "Bye Baby Banting, soon you'll need decanting." She tries to teach him to read by giving him one of the books given to Betas, but she can't teach him much of it because she was taught only what she needed to perform her job. He understands Shakespeare's plays better because they deal with emotions, and the incidents in them reflect those he experiences. That point illustrates the fallacy of a key World State concept—in fact, conditioning can't fully eradicate the existence of human emotions.

Linda might have come to the Reservation with her emotions frozen by chemicals and hypnopaedia like Lenina, but they thawed as the years passed. She feels the pure love of motherhood when she hugs John. She desires the warmth of female friendships and is sad because she isn't allowed to join in Indian customs, such as weaving. Born with emotions that were not stunted and conditioned away, John is miserable when the Indians throw stones at him, when they ridicule him for his white skin and blond hair, and when the Indian girl he loves marries an Indian boy. Because his loyalty to Linda is innate, he hurls stones at his peers when they call her nasty names. Reading Shakespeare's words helps him find his own—those he says aloud and those he holds in his heart. They touch his soul more deeply than the Indian myths and stories about Christianity.

Both the World State and Malpais life promote separation and discrimination. Previous chapters show how the two top castes disdain the three lower ones. In this section, the Indians are held on the Reservation behind an electrified fence, an example of purposeful discrimination. Although the men use Linda, none of the Indians respect her cultural differences and they permit the women and children to ridicule her. The Indians bully John and consider him unequal to his peers because he is different. When he ceremonially cuts his wrist until it bleeds to mirror a rite the young men his age are fulfilling, one that he was denied because he is not their equal, he realizes that loneliness is a part of Time, Death, and God. He says to Bernard, "Alone, always alone" and Bernard replies, "So am I." They conclude that no matter where they come from, some people are just going to feel alone, like they do.

The author foreshadows possible outcomes in the book when John tells Bernard that twice in his life he experienced situations in which he felt complete desolation at being a social outcast. The first occurred when he cut his wrist while staring into the black depths pooled at the bottom of a mountain overhang. The second happened when he stood against a slab of rock in the position of Jesus being crucified. Both of these incidents were triggered by horrible unhappiness.

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