Brave New World By Aldous Huxley Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

Summary

This chapter opens on an elevator where Lenina sees Bernard. She wants to talk with him about their planned trip to New Mexico, but he seems hesitant. In fact, Bernard wants to express his feelings to her, but when he tries, Lenina fails to notice. She's late for a date with Henry Foster.


As Lenina and Henry take off in their helicopter for the date, their trip offers a panoramic view of London and its suburbs. It unfolds as a miniature version of this futuristic world — from Charing-T Tower to Hounslow Feely Studios to the Obstacle Golf Course.

The second half of the chapter returns to Bernard, who feels inadequate. Although an Alpha Plus, Bernard worries over his short stature (due, apparently, to a mistake during his decanting as a test-tube embryo). Because of this, he feels like a social "outsider": "I am I, and wish I wasn't."

Bernard flies to Propaganda House to meet his friend, Helmholtz Watson, who writes state propaganda as an Emotional Engineer. Despite his overpowering stature and success with women, Watson, too, feels "all alone," because he has "too much ability." As a result, he senses a kinship with Bernard — the knowledge they share that they are "individuals."

Analysis

Here Huxley offers a contrast of two important and very different characters: Bernard, the Alpha-Plus psychologist; and Lenina, the Beta technician.

As an Alpha Plus, at the top of society's strict caste system, Bernard should be enjoying every benefit of his society especially reserved for the elite — including relative freedom. The other Alphas — the D.H.C. and Henry Foster, for example — move through the futuristic world with confidence and gusto. Even the unconventional Mustapha Mond seems happy, in his own way. Bernard, however, lives in a state of misery, anxious and angry; short for his caste, he faces ridicule from women, insubordination from inferiors, and exclusion from the cheery intimacy of social life among his equals.

Bernard at once longs for and scorns the joys of his world. Infatuated with Lenina, he dreams of a vacation alone with her but flinches when she mentions it in public. Sexually obsessed, Bernard lingers over Lenina's beauty but is repulsed by the conventional (for this world) attitude she exhibits.

Bernard may be a misfit, but he shows little of the true rebel's conviction and seriousness of purpose. When Bernard seeks the company of Helmholtz Watson, another Alpha who is dissatisfied with life, Huxley offers a new view on his character by contrast. Although popular and socially successful in the ways Bernard is not, Helmholtz nevertheless longs for some meaning in his life and work. Helmholtz's discontent, Huxley stresses, is on a higher plane than Bernard's. In contrast to Helmholtz, Bernard seems merely childish and whiny. In later chapters, Huxley sharpens this distinction between these two unhappy Alphas and constructs a common resolution for them both.

Lenina, on the other hand, appears comfortable in the dystopia. Despite her daring experiment with her long-standing relationship with Henry Foster, she is conventional by the standards of her world — cheery, unthinking, and infantile. In her talk with Bernard, she displays all the unembarrassed enthusiasm for sex that hypnopaedia and social life have taught her since childhood. Still, her choice of Bernard seems somehow rebellious, revealing an underlying, yet not fully recognized, dissatisfaction.

One brief, but significant scene occurs on the roof with the Epsilon elevator operator. In earlier chapters, the Alphas who control the predestination of fetuses and the conditioning of infants maintain that the members of every caste are happy, in their own ways. The sudden yearning expressed by the lowly Epsilon in his longing cry — "Roof! . . . Oh, roof!" — reveals for an instant that conditioning cannot completely remove the human need for air, space, and beauty. There is a similar scene in Fritz Lang's futuristic film Metropolis (1927), in which a woman and children from the underground world suddenly glimpse the richness and beauty of the upper world through opened elevator doors. In both works, the scenes dramatize the unspoken injustice of the social hierarchy by bringing the lowest and the highest face to face, creating the conflict that convention seeks to avoid.

Glossary

parathyroid any of usually four small, oval glands on or near the thyroid gland; they secret a hormone important in the control of the calcium-phosphorus balance of the body.

Charing-T Tower Huxley's re-creation of a London train station, Charing Cross Station.

simian of or like an ape or monkey. Here, used to describe the Epsilon elevator operator.

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