In some ways this is too bad, as the concerns that his "novels of ideas" raised are still with us.
However, his characters' statement of those ideas is somewhat dated and their aristocratic and artistic milieus are difficult to identify with today. If you can get past that though, you may find his best novels quite provocative—and viciously funny in places. Huxley came from a well-to-do background himself and was educated at Eton and Oxford.
After the First World War he was kept out of the fighting by near-blindness , he wrote for a literary publication, while publishing poetry and stories. His first novel was Crome Yellow , which wittily satirized the intellectual pretensions of his upper-crust friends—although he denied this, saying the characters in the novel were just stick figures created to present ideas. His next novel was Antic Hay , my personal favourite, which parodied the bohemian community in post-war London—while creating a couple of ridiculously tragic characters who have stayed in the memory for years.
Whenever I run across a self-important artist I think of the hopelessly deluded Casimir Lypiatt. Point Counter Point is held to be Huxley's greatest literary production, and it does present some more wicked parodies of contemporary intellectuals—his friends the novelist D. Lawrence and the critic Middleton Murry—as well as create some lost figures in touching situations.
But the characters' ideas are played off against against each other at much wordier length than in Crome Yellow and the tone is more cynical. Because he is outstanding physically and mentally, because he is a good committeeman and a highly successful lover, he is an individual whose talent sets him apart - and the World State does not want extraordinary individuals; it wants "cogs in a wheel. They discuss the social usefulness of all the castes and the fact that everybody is "happy.
Later, they spend the night in Henry's room, Lenina having taken the proper precautions to prevent pregnancy. Comment As at other points in the book, the necessity of doing things according to schedule and in a prescribed manner is stressed: the golf course and night club close at specified times; Lenina takes the contraceptive precautions specified by the regulations.
He arrives a little late and takes a place in the group. Twelve men and women take alternate seats around the table. Soma tablets and liquid are taken as communion. As the Soma begins to take effect, individuals jump to their feet and shout as if in religious ecstasy. Although he feels nothing, Bernard acts his part. They all dance around the table shouting "orgy-porgy" in a kind of frenzy and then fall on the couches exhausted.
Indiscriminate sexual relations conclude the "service. But Bernard feels nothing - no rapture, no peace, no solidarity. He remains alone and unsatisfied. Huxley's substitution of the Solidarity Service for the expected religious service re-emphasizes the extent to which the World State controls the people. The religious impulse in man has manifested itself through the ages; the World State recognizes this impulse and makes use of it. The Solidarity Service is a parody of and substitute for the Christian Communion Service; Soma is used to induce a "religious" feeling.
She remembers his odd views - his dissatisfaction with his life, his desire to be different. Part Two Bernard receives a permit to visit the Savage Reservation.
The Director, who must sign the permit, tells Bernard of his visit there some twenty years before. He recalls that the girl who had accompanied him on the trip disappeared, and he had to return to London without her. While in the office, the Director reprimands Bernard for his odd behavior and warns him that conformrty is necessary. Comment The Director's account of his visit to the Savage Reservation becomes very important later in the book.
Paris Review - Aldous Huxley, The Art of Fiction No. 24
In discussing Bernard's odd behavior, the Director uses an interesting term - "infantile decorum. Part Three Bernard and Lenina arrive at the Reservation. The Warden attempts to impress them with statistics and tells them there is no escape from the Reservation for the sixty thousand Indians and half-breeds. Since the Savages have not been conditioned, they still preserve their old beliefs and customs religion, marriage, natural birth, family life. Comment Again we see the reversal in the values held by the World State. The Savages are considered uncivilized because they believe in marriage and morality as their ancestors had.
Bernard calls Helmholtz and finds that the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning intends to replace Bernard and have him sent to Iceland because of his odd views and lack of conformity. Bernard and Lenina are given permission to enter the Reservation and are flown to the guesthouse. Comment In this chapter Huxley is preparing us for the contrast between life on the Reservation and life in the "civilized" part of the World State.
Lenina recalls "truths" she has been taught - "A gramme in time saves nine" or "Progress is lovely" - and Bernard mockingly makes reference to the number of times this was repeated during conditioning to assure her acceptance of a particular idea. The Savages have not been conditioned; consequently they do not hold the same "truths.
Lenina is disgusted by the Savages - seeing evidence of old age, disease, and dirt horrifies her.
Comment The things that horrified Lenina are the things that are not characteristic of the world she knows. The World State has abolished disease, marriage, motherhood, and old age everywhere except on the Reservations. The government did not consider it worthwhile to "civilize" certain ethnic groups and certain remote areas of the World State. The drums, the singing, and the performance remind Lenina of the Solidarity Services. The dance continues, with the leader of the dancers throwing snakes to the others. The ceremony ends with the whipping of a young man. Lenina shudders at the sight of blood.
Suddenly a young white man appears. Comment Lenina is distressed by the sufferings of the young man because she was conditioned to consider blood and violence disgusting, not because she feels sorry for him. The man was Tomakin, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning. Comment Bernard recalls the Director's story and realizes that knowledge of this affair with Linda could result in the Director's disgrace.
Lenina and Bernard meet Linda, who is a fat, ugly blonde. She is pleased to see them and recounts with horror that she, a Beta, had had a baby. She tearfully describes her life on the Reservation and speaks fondly of her life in the Other Place. Comment Huxley stresses the difficulty Linda had in adjusting to life on the Reservation since she had been conditioned to act and think only one way.
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She considers John "mad" because he accepts the Savage's values rather than hers. Life on the Reservation contrasts violently with life in the Other Place. Here pain, suffering, disease, filth, and old age still exist - in the Other Place science has succeeded in abolishing anything which interferes with or impairs the physical well-being of the citizenry. We have already noted the contrast and conflict regarding morality.
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- Bernard and Helmholtz are banished to;
Note that both ways of life are based on ignorance - an ignorance based on superstition or an ignorance fostered by the state. Huxley does not consider either way of life attractive or desirable because he believes that life should be conscious existence - a life based on reflection and study and an acceptance of one's own being. Comment Although Bernard is considered odd because he does not conform blindly to life in the World State, he has known no other life. John tells Bernard of the many men who visited Linda, the women who beat her because of her sexual activities, Linda's stories of life in the Other Place, his learning to read, and his life among the Savages.
Comment The account of Linda's and John's life among the Savages underlines the differences between the two cultures. Linda, having been decanted and conditioned as a "Beta," had one set of values; the Savages, having maintained the "old ways," had a different set. John accepted the values, ideas, and ideals of the Savages. Having received a superior education because of her caste, Linda was able to teach John how to read. His close reading of Shakespeare provided him with many ideas and beliefs and helped him develop a strong code of moral conduct.
Bernard tells John he will try to obtain permission for him and his mother to come to the Other Place London. John is thrilled with the idea and, like Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest , exclaims, "O brave new world that has such people in it. John enters Lenina's room and finds her asleep, but he is too modest to touch her.
Comment Bernard realizes that the return of John and Linda to London will assure his position and prevent his transfer to Iceland. The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, wishing to humiliate Bernard because of the unorthodoxy of his behavior, publicly announces his banishment to Iceland. Linda enters and exclaims that the Director is John's father; the crowd roars with laughter, forcing the Director to rush from the room. Comment Bernard realized that the presence of John and Linda in London would prevent any untoward action being taken because of his lack of conformity.
The Director had hoped to use Bernard as an example of the consequences of nonconformity and had decided to make a public announcement. The arrival, of Linda and John a physical manifestation of the Director's own unorthodoxy saves Bernard. This chapter opens with a rather detailed description of the work of the Hatching and Conditioning Centre - fertilization, predestination, decanting, conditioning.
Then, in conversation with Mr. Foster concerning Bernard Marx, the Director says, "Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself. Bernard's "crime" is his desire to do what he wanted to do instead of what they wanted him to do. Bernard takes the "Savage" to see many aspects of the Brave New World.
At this point Lenina is attracted to John, but he ignores her. Comment A change takes place in Bernard in his new role as celebrity - he enjoys the attention he now receives. John is unimpressed by what he sees and still maintains his "old-fashioned" ideas and values; although attracted to Lenina, he considers such impulses immoral and represses them. These tours which Bernard and John take provide descriptions of other aspects of life in the World State - specifically, the factory system and the educational system.
Remembering that science has developed a method of producing up to ninety - six identical twins from a single egg, we see these identical automatons performing identical tasks. The upper-caste students Alphas and Betas, each produced from a single egg are not really educated - they are indoctrinated. In both situations individuality is nonexistent - each is but a member of a particular group.
Having thus lost the friendship of these people, he turns again to John and Helmholtz. Comment Bernard realizes that his popularity is based on the curiosity others have about the Savage. He realizes that John and Helmholtz are his only "real" friends. At this point we find John reading Shakespeare to them - making them aware of new ideas, new beliefs, and new values which they find difficult if not impossible to accept. This chapter emphasizes the difference in character of Bernard and Helmholtz, and their differences in point of view and attitude.
Bernard's dissatisfaction with the life he is leading seems to stem from his not being accepted alcohol in his blood - surrogate , while Helmholtz's dissatisfaction seems to stem from his belief that life must have some meaning beyond the purely physical.