Brave New World By Aldous Huxley Summary and Analysis Chapter 6

Summary

As this chapter opens, Lenina worries about Bernard's eccentric desire for privacy and his tendency to question basic social assumptions. She thinks him "odd."


In a flashback to their first date, Lenina and Bernard quarrel when he hovers their helicopter over the English Channel so that they can observe the power of Nature. Bernard wants an adult — and emotional — relationship with Lenina, not just the mindless sex that consummates their first date.

In the middle section of the chapter, Bernard submits his travel permit to the D.H.C., who remembers his own holiday many years earlier to the Savage Reservation. The D.H.C. tells Bernard about the young woman he took on his trip and how she disappeared mysteriously during their stay on the Reservation.

Embarrassed by his emotional reverie, the D.H.C. shifts attention by expressing his disappointment in Bernard's odd behavior outside work and threatens to exile him to Iceland. But this threat has a tonic effect on Bernard, who later boasts about it to his friend Helmholtz, who likes Bernard but hates his boasting and self-pity.

In the third section, Bernard and Lenina fly to Sante Fe, where they meet with the Warden of the Reservation. As the Warden leers at Lenina and describes the Reservation — there's no escape, and human birth remains a reality — Bernard suddenly remembers that he left the eau de cologne tap running at home.

When Bernard calls Helmholtz about the tap, Watson gives him some bad news: the D.H.C. intends to exile Bernard to Iceland. Appalled by the news, Bernard's "theoretical courage" evaporates, and Lenina persuades him to take soma to calm himself before they fly off to the Savage Reservation.

Analysis

In Chapter 6, Huxley reveals Bernard's pained recognition of the consequences of his anti-social feelings and actions. The chapter further clarifies Bernard's very shallow attempts to be an individual and makes clear that he lacks the moral courage to suffer for freedom.

Up to now, Bernard has expressed his longing to feel something — anything — strongly. Since passion is dangerous to social stability, the very thought of feeling intensely constitutes blasphemy, as the shocked Lenina points out. All the conventions of this society — soma consumption, regular recreational sex — are designed to prevent strong feelings like rage and prolonged sexual desire from building up in emotional power. So far, Bernard has experimented with passion by avoiding soma and nursing his anger, but in this chapter, he learns about actual, unavoidable strong feelings — first at a distance, then very personally.

The D.H.C.'s shared memories of losing the young woman he was traveling with in the New Mexico reservation represent a dangerous disclosure. In spontaneously confessing his anxiety and remorse over the woman's disappearance, the D.H.C. comes perilously close to admitting that he loved her — a shocking social sin. The D.H.C.'s memory, still powerful enough to give him dreams, is Bernard's first close contact with an authentic emotional experience. But Bernard responds with a characteristically adolescent reaction; instead of responding sympathetically, he cringes and leers, at once fascinated and repulsed by the possibility of a superior's vulnerability.

The chapter also features Bernard's first personal experience of intense feelings, following his discovery that the D.H.C. intends to transfer him to a remote sub-station in Iceland for his lack of conventional "infantile decorum." Suddenly thrown into a genuine crisis, the kind of trial he has been longing for in preference to the soothing soma-induced tranquility of everyday life, Bernard panics, his courage gone without a trace. Like any other citizen of the dystopia, he swallows soma against the harsh realities facing him and, in that gesture, proves his supposed rebellion to be a shallow, cowardly farce.

Note that in introducing the Savage Reservation, Huxley employs the Warden as a kind of guide, like Henry Foster and the D.H.C. in the first two chapters. Like Bernard and Lenina, the reader becomes a tourist, about to enter yet another part of Huxley's fictional world.

Glossary

brachycephalic having a relatively short or broad head.

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