Brave New World By Aldous Huxley Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

Summary

This chapter opens with Lenina and Henry taking off in their helicopter when the Obstacle Golf Course closes. They pass over Burnham Beeches — a satirical allusion to Shakespeare — and then the Slough Crematorium. As they discuss death and "phosphorus recovery" — "we can go on being socially useful even after we're dead" — Lenina reveals her class prejudices, especially against Epsilons.


They fly to Westminster Abbey Cabaret, where they dance the evening away to the Malthusian Blues. Despite the soma they consume, Lenina remembers her contraception in preparation for a night of pneumatic sex.

The second half of the chapter follows Bernard as he flies past the chiming Big Henry — the Fordian version of Big Ben — to the Fordson Community Singery. There he participates — without really believing — in a kind of religious service that includes such rituals as the sign of the T, blessed soma, and solidarity hymns. Under the influence of the sacramental soma, the ceremony dissolves into an "orgy-porgy" of sex.

But while the others find the "calm ecstasy of achieved consummation," Bernard feels only more isolated in his "separateness" — "much more alone, indeed, more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before."

Analysis

In this chapter, Huxley introduces the dystopian combination of religion and sex, featuring a date in a cathedral/cabaret juxtaposed with a spiritual ritual that ends in an orgy.

Henry and Lenina's dinner and dancing evening emphasizes the artificiality of their world. The night is clear and starry, but they are unaware of the stars at all because of the overpowering electric sky-signs that light up London. In this point, Huxley's response to his own era — artificial light already dominating the city night — strongly influences his ideas about the futuristic world.

Inside Westminster Abbey Cabaret — the new use for the historical, venerable site where English kings and queens were once crowned — the domed ceiling offers another sky altogether: a tropical sunset. Perception is also modified by the soma served at dinner so that everyone and everything seems delightful. Even the music is synthetic — a proudly advertised feature of the cabaret. Emotions, music, scenery — all the elements of romance come already engineered by the state.

The evening ends, as conventionally it should, with recreational, non-productive sex. Huxley closes the chapter before describing Henry and Lenina's love-making, but leaves the reader to infer that it will be just as artificial and manipulated as the rest of the evening.

Bernard's "orgy-porgy" Solidarity Service — the biweekly pseudo-religious meeting — parallels in many ways Lenina's date with Henry. Music and soma play important parts in the evening, enhancing mood and eliminating any inhibitions. On their date, Lenina and Henry's soma serves as a kind of after-dinner brandy, while it becomes, in the Solidarity Service, a surrogate for the bread and wine of the Christian Eucharist. In the service, soma and sex represent union with a Greater Being and with each other.

Note especially the cries of the participants when they hear the "feet of the Greater Being" as he approaches. Huxley draws on the tradition of the revival meeting here, and he also underscores the similarity between religious ecstasy and sexual excitement — a point completed when the service turns to orgy.

"Orgy-porgy" — the conventional close of the Solidarity Service — uses group sex as a method of breaking down the perceived differences between people and so increasing social stability. What might once have been the spontaneous expression of sexual feeling — even an act of rebellion — becomes here merely another mandatory state activity.

Just as in Westminster Abbey Cabaret, the music at the Solidarity Service sets the pace, initiates feeling, and manipulates actions. Again, Huxley lets the artificial atmosphere descend to control the characters in the rituals of the dystopia.

Note, too, Lenina and Henry's lip service to the worth of every individual. The belief (hypnopaedia at work) allows upper-caste members of the society to disregard the truth about the deliberately arrested development of the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons that serve them. Epsilons do not mind being Epsilons, Henry and Lenina tell each other, because they know nothing else. Huxley has already offered a brief view of the longing in lower-caste people, with the Epsilon elevator operator in Chapter 4.

Glossary

Westminster Abbey Gothic church (originally a Benedictine abbey) where English monarchs are crowned; it is also a burial place for English monarchs, famous statesmen and writers, etc. Here, the site of the Westminster Abbey cabaret, or nightclub.

orgy-porgy Huxley's term for a ritual sexual orgy, from the children's nursery rhyme, "Georgy-Porgy."

detumescence a decrease in swelling.

diminuendo a decrease in volume.

plagently loudly and with resonance.

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