Brave New World

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John (the Savage) Character Analysis

Because of an accident, John is born to a woman from the World State, Linda, who gets stranded in a Savage Reservation. He spends the first twenty years of his life on the Reservation, and though the Reservation natives treat him as an outsider he still picks up their religious and moral values (which are much more similar to our own values today than to those of the World State), and develops a love of Shakespeare. John is eager to see the World State since his mother talks about it as a paradise, but once there he thinks the World State culture is immoral, infantilizing, and degrading to humanity.

John (the Savage) Quotes in Brave New World

The Brave New World quotes below are all either spoken by John (the Savage) or refer to John (the Savage). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Brave New World published in 2006.
Chapter 8 Quotes
"O brave new world," he repeated. "O brave new world that has such people in it. Let's start at once."
Related Characters: John (the Savage) (speaker), Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, Lenina Crowne
Related Symbols: Shakespeare
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

Bernard and Lenina have travelled to the Savage Reservation, where they have witnessed a man be whipped and met John, a white man dressed as a savage. John has told Bernard what he can remember of his life story, and Bernard promises to take John and his mother, Linda, back with him to the World State. When Bernard tells John he is not married to Lenina, John joyfully exclaims, "O brave new world that has such people in it," a line from Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Because he has been raised on the Savage Reservation, John's only knowledge of the outside world comes through the works of Shakespeare, and it is fitting that he quotes from The Tempest, a play that explores the themes of exploration, colonization, and civilization.

John's love for Lenina and excitement at his initial impressions of the World State highlight the superficial appeal of the society depicted in the novel. However, as Bernard points out when he responds that John should wait to see the "brave new world" before he gets too excited, beneath this superficial appeal lies a dystopian reality. Indeed, it will take the perspective of John––an outsider––to expose the "brave new world" for what it really is. 

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Chapter 15 Quotes
"Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side–"Good old Helmholtz!"—also punching—"Men at last!"—and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"
Howling, the Deltas charged with a redoubled fury.
Related Characters: John (the Savage) (speaker), Helmholtz Watson
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

John the Savage's mother, Linda, has died, and the Savage is distraught. At the hospital where he had come to see his mother, the Savage has encountered Delta twins being given soma. Convinced that soma caused his mother's death (his mother, on returning from the reservation, did just basically drug herself into a constant stupor), the Savage shouts at the Deltas not to take the soma, and throws the drug out of the window. This causes a riot, and when Helmholtz arrives, he and the Savage fight off the enraged Deltas, all while gleefully exclaiming that they are finally "free" and "men at last." Once again, the Savage's actions call into question the binary between civilized and uncivilized behavior. While physically attacking others at random would conventionally be considered a wild, animalistic act, in this case it makes the Savage and Helmholtz "men." 

The implication of this is that what truly makes a person human is the possession of free will and individual identity. Although Helmholtz and the Savage are engaging in a riot, at least they are doing so through their own agency, rebelling against the conditioning and expectations of the World State. Similarly, they claim that discarding the soma makes the Deltas "free," meaning free from the paralyzing grip of addiction. However, as the Delta's "redoubled fury" shows, the World State's conditioning is so powerful that not all people embrace this "freedom" with the same enthusiasm as Helmholtz and the Savage. 

Chapter 17 Quotes
"In fact', said Mustapha Mond, 'you're claiming the right to be unhappy.'
'All right then,' said the Savage defiantly, 'I'm claiming the right to be unhappy.'
Related Characters: John (the Savage) (speaker), Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shakespeare
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:

Mustapha Mond has conceded that it is necessary for people to occasionally experience negative emotions, and explained that this is why the World State forces citizens to undergo Violent Passion Surrogate, or V.P.S., once per month. He argues that this is a way to reap the benefits of "fear and rage... without any of the inconveniences." John responds that he wants the inconveniences, and Mond concludes that John is "claiming the right to be unhappy." This exchange contains the key philosophical question raised by the novel. For John, the "right to be unhappy" gives life meaning; while the citizens of the World State are happy, to John it is far better to be unhappy, as long as one retains one's individual identity and freedom.

Although Mustapha Mond's contrasting view is shown to be somewhat appealing and persuasive, this is undermined by Mond's powerful and unique position within society. As a former scientist who has had access to "high art" such as Shakespeare, Mond is able to retain his individual identity and exercise rational thought and choice, all while maintaining power and authority over the masses. While Mond is confident that life under the World State is preferable for everyone, the agitation and dissatisfaction shown by characters such as Bernard and Helmholtz suggests that Mond is perhaps mistaken. The example of John indicates that, given the choice, it seems that most (unconditioned) people would choose "the right to be unhappy" over being controlled and conditioned into happiness. 

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John (the Savage) Character Timeline in Brave New World

The timeline below shows where the character John (the Savage) appears in Brave New World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
...she's overjoyed to see people from the World State. She corroborates the story her son, John, told. (full context)
Chapter 8
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Outside Linda's house, Bernard and John talk. John recalls events in his life in a series of flashbacks: An Indian named... (full context)
Individuality Theme Icon
John tells Bernard he has always been terribly alone. Bernard says he has, too. John tells... (full context)
Individuality Theme Icon
Bernard promises to take John back to the World State if he can get permission. Realizing that Linda will discredit... (full context)
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Individuality Theme Icon
John asks if Bernard is married to Lenina. Bernard bursts out laughing. John is overjoyed, and... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...Fe and contacts Mustapha Mond, who agrees that there would be "scientific interest" in bringing John and Linda back to the World State. (full context)
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Meanwhile, John goes to see Bernard and Lenina. There's no answer, and he's terrified they've left without... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Technology and Control Theme Icon
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...Director publicly scolds Bernard. But Bernard says he has a response: he calls Linda and John into the room. Linda rushes to the Director and hugs and kisses him while saying... (full context)
Chapter 11
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The Director resigns. Meanwhile, all upper-caste London is wild to see John, whom they call the Savage. Because Linda is old, ugly, and a mother, no one... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
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The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Bernard's connection to the Savage makes him popular and important. He takes full advantage, sleeping with many women. He also... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
The Savage tours various World State facilities. Bokanovsky twins terrify him. At Eton, he sees schoolchildren laugh... (full context)
Individuality Theme Icon
One night Bernard asks Lenina to take the Savage to the Feelies (movies where all the senses are involved). Fanny Crowne is impressed—Lenina has... (full context)
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
...man who was de-conditioned in an accident. It contains a lot of gratuitous sex. The Savage is appalled. Lenina doesn't understand why. Lenina tries to invite the Savage to her apartment,... (full context)
Chapter 12
Individuality Theme Icon
At a party Bernard throws so people can meet the Savage, John refuses to leave his room. When it's clear that the Savage won't show, the... (full context)
Individuality Theme Icon
Lenina leaves with the Songster. She thinks the Savage refused to come out because he doesn't like her. (full context)
Individuality Theme Icon
...of his party, Bernard goes back to being his old self: nervous, alone, melancholy. The Savage and Helmholtz accept his apologies (Bernard is a little jealous that they can be so... (full context)
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Helmholtz and the Savage like each other immensely, and Helmholtz is mesmerized by Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, however, makes... (full context)
Chapter 13
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
...V.P.S. treatment (Violent Passion Surrogate). Lenina thinks to herself that she already is too passionate—for John. She wants him, and only him. Fanny is disgusted that Lenina wants only one man,... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
The doorbell rings at the Savage's rooms. It's Lenina. Stunned, he lets her in. She observes he doesn't seem happy to... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
The Savage says he loves her. Lenina is overjoyed. But when he mentions marriage, she doesn't understand... (full context)
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Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
As the Savage mentally steels himself against giving into lust, Lenina begins taking off her clothes. He is... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
John rushes into the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying, where Linda is staying. The nurse... (full context)
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Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Linda is so drugged on soma she barely notices John. As John weeps, the nurse leads a group of Bokanovsky twins into the room. They... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
John returns to Linda, who thinks he's Popé. It's too much for John: he shakes his... (full context)
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Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
John sobs, "God, god, god..." Five twins ask what he's saying, and ask if Linda is... (full context)
Chapter 15
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The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Just as John comes into the hallway, the shift-changes. The hall fills with hundreds of Delta twins who... (full context)
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Individuality Theme Icon
Bernard and Helmholtz get a phone call telling them what the Savage is doing. They hurry to the hospital. They arrive just as the Savage starts dropping... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
...soma vapor into the air to quiet the Deltas. The police take Helmholtz and the Savage into custody. Bernard tries to slip away, but the police take him too. (full context)
Chapter 16
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
Helmholtz, John, and Bernard are brought to Mustapha Mond's study. Helmholtz is cheerful. Bernard is nervous and... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
When John objects to the Bokanovsky Twins and caste system, Mond tells of an experiment in which... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The Savage, alone with Mond, asks if anything else beyond art and science has to be sacrificed... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
...says that God is not compatible with machines, medicine, and universal happiness, to which the Savage responds that it's natural to believe in God. Mond disagrees. He says people were once... (full context)
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Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
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The Savage argues that the infantile citizens of the World State have been degraded from a more... (full context)
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The Savage asks isn't there a value to living dangerously? Mond says yes, it's biologically important. That's... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Helmholtz and Bernard return. Mond is gone. They hear the Savage retching in the bathroom. He tells them that civilization and his own wickedness defiled him... (full context)
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Some days later, the Savage settles away from any city, in an abandoned lighthouse. He brings a few supplies, determined... (full context)
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
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...Deltas passing on a nearby highway see him. The next day reporters show up. The Savage abuses them verbally and physically, and soon is left in peace. But one day the... (full context)
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Lenina steps from a helicopter behind the crowd. The Savage rushes at her, screaming "Strumpet!" He whips her, and himself. The crowd goes into a... (full context)
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The next morning the Savage wakes. He sees that the crowd has gone, but he remembers the orgy of the... (full context)