John – the illicit son of the Director and Linda, born and reared on the Savage Reservation ("Malpais") after Linda was unwittingly left behind by her errant lover. John ("the Savage", as he is often called) is an outsider both on the Reservation—where the natives still practice marriage, natural birth, family life and religion—and the ostensibly civilised World State, based on principles of stability and shallow happiness. He has read nothing but the complete works of William Shakespeare, which he quotes extensively, and, for the most part, aptly, though his allusion to the "Brave New World" (Miranda's words in The Tempest) takes on a darker and bitterly ironic resonance as the novel unfolds. John is intensely moral according to a code that he has been taught by Shakespeare and life in Malpais but is also naïve: his views are as imported into his own consciousness as are the hypnopedic messages of World State citizens. The admonishments of the men of Malpais taught him to regard his mother as a whore; but he cannot grasp that these were the same men who continually sought her out despite their supposedly sacred pledges of monogamy. Because he is unwanted in Malpais, he accepts the invitation to travel back to London and is initially astonished by the comforts of the World State. However, he remains committed to values that exist only in his poetry. He first spurns Lenina for failing to live up to his Shakespearean ideal and then the entire utopian society: he asserts that its technological wonders and consumerism are poor substitutes for individual freedom, human dignity and personal integrity. After his mother's death, he becomes deeply distressed with grief, surprising onlookers in the hospital. He then ostracizes himself from society and attempts to purify himself of "sin" (desire), but is finally unable to do so and hangs himself in despair.
Bernard Marx – a sleep-learning specialist at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Although Bernard is an Alpha-Plus (the upper class of the society), he is a misfit. He is unusually short for an Alpha; an alleged accident with alcohol in Bernard's blood-surrogate before his decanting has left him slightly stunted. Bernard's independence of mind stems more from his inferiority complex and depressive nature than from any depth of philosophical conviction. Unlike his fellow utopians, Bernard is often angry, resentful, and jealous. At times, he is also cowardly and hypocritical. His conditioning is clearly incomplete. He doesn't enjoy communal sports, solidarity services, or promiscuous sex. He doesn't even get much joy out of soma. Bernard is in love with Lenina but he doesn't like her sleeping with other men, even though "everyone belongs to everyone else". Bernard's triumphant return to utopian civilisation with John the Savage from the Reservation precipitates the downfall of the Director, who had been planning to exile him. Bernard's triumph is short-lived. Success goes to his head. Despite his tearful pleas, he is ultimately banished to an island for his non-conformist behaviour.
Helmholtz Watson – a handsome and successful Alpha-Plus lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering and a friend of Bernard. He feels unfulfilled writing endless propaganda doggerel, and the stifling conformism and philistinism of the World State make him restive. Helmholtz is ultimately exiled to the Falkland Islands—a cold asylum for disaffected Alpha-Plus non-conformists—after reading a heretical poem to his students on the virtues of solitude and helping John destroy some Deltas' rations of soma following Linda's death. Unlike Bernard, he takes his exile in his stride and comes to view it as an opportunity for inspiration in his writing.
Lenina Crowne – a young, beautiful fetus technician at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. She is part of the 30% of the female population that are not freemartins (sterile women). Lenina is promiscuous and popular but somewhat quirky in their society: she had a four-month relation with Henry Foster, choosing not to have sex with anyone but him for a period of time. She is basically happy and well-conditioned but will use soma to suppress unwelcome emotions, as is expected. Lenina has a date with Bernard, to whom she feels ambivalently attracted, and she goes to the Reservation with him. On returning to civilization, she tries and fails to seduce John the Savage. John loves and desires Lenina but he is repelled by her forwardness and the prospect of pre-marital sex, rejecting her as an "impudent strumpet". Lenina visits John at the lighthouse but he attacks her with a whip, unwittingly inciting onlookers to do the same. Her exact fate is left unspecified.
Mustapha Mond – Resident World Controller of Western Europe, "His Fordship" Mustapha Mond presides over one of the ten zones of the World State, the global government set up after the cataclysmic Nine Years' War and great Economic Collapse. Sophisticated and good-natured, Mond is an urbane and hyperintelligent advocate of the World State and its ethos of "Community, Identity, Stability". Among the novel's characters, he is uniquely aware of the precise nature of the society he oversees and what it has given up to accomplish its gains. Mond argues that art, literature, and scientific freedom must be sacrificed to secure the ultimate utilitarian goal of maximising societal happiness. He defends the genetic caste system, behavioural conditioning, and the lack of personal freedom in the World State: these, he says, are a price worth paying for achieving social stability, the highest social virtue because it leads to lasting happiness.
Fanny Crowne – Lenina Crowne's friend (they have the same last name because only ten thousand last names are in use in the World State). Fanny voices the conventional values of her caste and society, particularly the importance of promiscuity: she advises Lenina that she should have more than one man in her life because it is unseemly to concentrate on just one. Fanny then, however, warns Lenina away from a new lover whom she considers undeserving, yet she is ultimately supportive of the young woman's attraction to the savage John.
Henry Foster – One of Lenina's many lovers, he is a perfectly conventional Alpha male, casually discussing Lenina's body with his coworkers. His success with Lenina, and his casual attitude about it, infuriate the jealous Bernard. Henry ultimately proves himself every bit the ideal World State citizen, finding no courage to defend Lenina from John's assaults despite having maintained an uncommonly longstanding sexual relationship with her.
Benito Hoover – Another of Lenina's lovers. She remembers that he is particularly hairy when he takes his clothes off.
The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning (DHC), also known as Thomas "Tomakin" – He is the administrator of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where he is a threatening figure who intends to exile Bernard to Iceland. His plans take an unexpected turn, however, when Bernard returns from the Reservation with Linda (see below) and John, a child they both realize is actually his. This fact, scandalous and obscene in the World State not because it was extramarital (which all sexual acts are) but because it was procreative, leads the Director to resign his post in shame.
Linda – John's mother, decanted as a Beta-Minus in the World State, originally worked in the DHC's Fertilizing Room, and subsequently lost during a storm while visiting the New Mexico Savage Reservation with the Director many years before the events of the novel. Despite following her usual precautions, Linda became pregnant with the Director's son during their time together and was therefore unable to return to the World State by the time that she found her way to Malpais. Having been conditioned to the promiscuous social norms of the World State, Linda finds herself at once popular with every man in the pueblo (because she is open to all sexual advances) and also reviled for the same reason, seen as a whore by the wives of the men who visit her and by the men themselves (who come to her nonetheless). Her only comforts there are mescal brought by Popé as well as peyotl. Linda is desperate to return to the World State and to soma, wanting nothing more from her remaining life than comfort until death.
The Arch-Community-Songster – The secular equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the World State society.
The Warden – An Alpha-Minus, the talkative chief administrator for the New Mexico Savage Reservation. He is blond, short, broad-shouldered, and has a booming voice.
Darwin Bonaparte – a "big game photographer" (i.e. filmmaker) who films John flogging himself. Darwin Bonaparte is known for two other works: "feely of the gorillas' wedding", and "Sperm Whale's Love-life". He has already made a name for himself but still seeks more. He renews his fame by filming the savage, John, in his newest release "The Savage of Surrey". His name alludes to Charles Darwin and Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Freemartins: These women have been deliberately made sterile by exposure to male hormones during fetal development but still physically normal except for "the slightest tendency to grow beards." In the book, government policy requires freemartins to form 70% of the female population.
- Popé, a native of Malpais. Although he reinforces the behaviour that causes hatred for Linda in Malpais by sleeping with her and bringing her mescal, he still holds the traditional beliefs of his tribe. In his early years John also attempts to kill him. He gave Linda a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
- Mitsima, an elder tribal shaman who also teaches John survival skills such as rudimentary ceramics (specifically coil pots, which were traditional to Native American tribes) and bow-making.
These are non-fictional and factual characters who lived before the events in this book, but are of note in the novel:
- Henry Ford, who has become a messianic figure to the World State. "Our Ford" is used in place of "Our Lord", as a credit to popularising the use of the assembly line. Huxley's description of Ford as a central figure in the emergence of the Brave New World might also be a reference to the utopian industrial city of Fordlândia commissioned by Ford in 1927.
- Sigmund Freud, "Our Freud" is sometimes said in place of "Our Ford" because Freud's psychoanalytic method depends implicitly upon the rules of classical conditioning, and because Freud popularized the idea that sexual activity is essential to human happiness, beyond its role in procreation. (It is also strongly implied that citizens of the World State believe Freud and Ford to be the same person.)
- H. G. Wells, "Dr Wells", British writer and utopian socialist, whose book Men Like Gods was an incentive for Brave New World. "All's well that ends Wells", wrote Huxley in his letters, criticising Wells for anthropological assumptions Huxley found unrealistic.
- Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, whose conditioning techniques are used to train infants.
- William Shakespeare, whose banned works are quoted throughout the novel by John, "the Savage". The plays quoted include Macbeth, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure and Othello. Mustapha Mond also knows them because as a World Controller he has access to a selection of books from throughout history, including the Bible.
- Thomas Robert Malthus, 19th century British economist, believed the people of the Earth would eventually be threatened by their inability to raise enough food to feed the population. In the novel, the eponymous character devises the contraceptive techniques (Malthusian belt) that are practiced by women of the World State.
- Reuben Rabinovitch, the Russian-Jewish character on whom the effects of sleep-learning, hypnopædia, are first observed.
- John Henry Newman, 19th century Catholic theologian and educator, believed university education the critical element in advancing post-industrial Western civilization. Mustapha Mond and The Savage discuss a passage from one of Newman's books.
Sources of names and references
The limited number of names that the World State assigned to its bottle-grown citizens can be traced to political and cultural figures who contributed to the bureaucratic, economic, and technological systems of Huxley's age, and presumably those systems in Brave New World.