Brave New World

Brave New World Video

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Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

Video Transcript:

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, is a dystopian novel set several centuries in the future. The story envisions a world that, in its quest for social stability and peace, is in fact devoid of emotion, love, beauty, and true relationships.

World Controllers run the society through a five-tiered caste system. The ruling elite, called Alphas and Betas act as scientists, politicians, and other top minds; Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are the lower castes and represent the world's industrial workers. Members of every caste receive a narcotic called Soma to prevent them from feeling pain or unhappiness. The society discourages familial bonding and the consumption of goods becomes a replacement for religion.

The book opens with Tomakin, an Alpha and the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, giving a group of young students a tour of the facilities. An assembly line creates embryos; babies growing inside bottles are segregated into castes. Each child is raised without their biological parents. The facility conditions toddlers through two techniques: Neo-Pavlovian, which use electric shocks and sirens, and Hypnopaedia, which plays ethical phrases on repeat when children are sleeping.

Mustapha Mond, an Alpha and one of the top World Controllers, lectures the students about the history of the current utopian world order. He explains that people were once individualistic and had children through live births, which led to intimacy and complex family dynamics, preventing happiness and social stability. After a Nine Years' War with anthrax bombs and then an economic crisis, the world reformers seized control. They eradicated religion, monogamy, and most other individualistic traits; and stabilized society with the caste system and the drug, Soma.

Early in the novel, we meet Bernard, an Alpha who is a non-conformist. Most people consider him to be odd, although he finds a confidante in Helmholtz Watson, an intellectually superior Alpha who has become disillusioned with society. Helmholtz is tired of his job writing slogans and statements to keep people subjugated and “happy.” He is searching for a way of expressing something, but he still does not know what. He pities Bernard, understanding that their intellectual leanings prevent both of them from fitting into the society.

Lenina Crowne, a beautiful young woman whom Bernard is attracted to, agrees to accompany him to the Savage Reservation, a plot of the worst land where people remain in a natural state fenced off from the society. Tomakin grants Bernard permission to take the trip, then reminisces about visiting the Reservation himself with a woman twenty-five years earlier. Unfortunately, Tomakin was unable to find her after she got lost in the mountains during a storm. Later, when Bernard and Lenina are on their way to the Reservation, Helmholtz tells Bernard by phone that Tomakin is about to transfer Bernard to Iceland, due to Bernard’s antisocial behavior.

Once at the Reservation compound, Lenina and Bernard befriend a young man, “John the Savage,” who soon reveals a story about his mother named Linda. Before John the Savage was born, Linda visited the Reservation with his father, Tomakin. After going for a walk by herself, Linda fell and hurt her head and then was eventually rescued by local hunters from the Reservation. She was unable to return to the society after she discovered she was pregnant with Tomakin’s baby, John the Savage. Intrigued by this story, Bernard hatches a plan after he figures out that Linda is the same woman that Tomakin left on the Reservation years earlier.

Bernard cleverly finds a way to bring Linda and John the Savage back to London. When he presents mother and son to Tomakin in front of several people in the society, Tomakin runs away and then resigns because he is publicly humiliated and ashamed of being a father. Bernard becomes an overnight celebrity due to his affiliation with John the Savage, whose good looks and mysterious past make him famous.

Meanwhile, Helmholtz and John the Savage become good friends. Helmholtz has gotten into trouble for writing a piece of poetry about being alone and then reading it to his students. John the Savage pulls out his ancient copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare and starts to read. The fiery passion of the language overwhelms Helmholtz, who realizes that this is what he has been trying to write.

In the meantime, Lenina has developed a crush on John the Savage, who reveals he loves her. However, when she tries to seduce him, he becomes angry and violent, causing Lenina to retreat.

John the Savage goes to the hospital where Linda has finally succumbed to taking too much Soma. There, a large group of identical twins are mocking Linda for her ugliness. John the Savage furiously tries to protect his mother, but she dies and he blames himself for her death.

When John the Savage arrives downstairs in the hospital, one-hundred identical twins are waiting for their daily ration of Soma. He tells them Soma is poisoning their minds, grabs the drugs, and then throws them away. This incites the Deltas who attack John the Savage. Helmholtz and Bernard arrive at the hospital to find John the Savage in the middle of a reckless mob, which Helmholtz eagerly joins to help his friend.

All three men are taken to meet Mustapha. He decides that Bernard and Helmholtz will be banished to an island for people who have become more individualistic in their views and can no longer fit in with the larger society. When John the Savage critiques the society’s current structure, Mustapha argues that it in fact maximizes each person's happiness; history, art, religion, and science only create emotions that destabilize society and thus lead to suffering. Mustapha does not banish John the Savage, as he views him as an experiment in civil conditioning.

Seeking solitude, John the Savage runs away from London to an abandoned lighthouse on the outskirts of the city, where he sets up a small garden and builds bows and arrows to hunt for his food. Feeling guilty over Linda’s death, John the Savage makes a whip and beats himself with it. Reporters arrive and one man manages to film the flogging. Then, more crowds arrive by helicopter to ogle John the Savage which disrupts his solitude and drives him into a frenzy.

When John the Savage sees Lenina in the crowd trying to reach him, he beats her with the whip. The crowd soon begins to chant a sensual hymn used to generate a feeling of oneness. John the Savage loses himself within the voyeuristic crowd, takes Soma, and wakes the next day overwhelmed with guilt and self-hatred. Reporters soon find his dead body; he has hanged himself in an archway of the lighthouse.