Brave New World

Brave New World Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Outside Linda's house, Bernard and John talk. Bernard is struggling to make sense of John’s life on the Reservation. John recalls events in his life in a series of flashbacks: An Indian named Popé gives his mother a drug called mescal and then they sleep together. Indian women attack Linda for sleeping with their men, and Linda can't understand what they mean when they say the men are theirs. His mother tells him stories of the glorious Other Place outside the reservation. Linda teaches him to read, using a manual from her work in the Hatcheries. Popé brings him a book, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and John becomes obsessed with the magic of the words. Inspired by Hamlet, he tries to stab Popé, but Popé laughs off the mere scratch. A girl John loved from afar marries an Indian brave. John is forced to stay out of a ceremony to induct boys into adulthood.
The series of flashbacks that John remembers (it's unclear if he recounts all of these to Bernard) shows John in various states of isolation, yearning, sadness, or other extreme emotions. This personal history is what formed John as an individual. The entire World State, by contrast, is designed to ensure its citizens never have such a personal history: instead of loss or sadness that might interfere with their usefulness to the State, World State citizens always get exactly what they want. So their life is always constant and pleasant—no strong memory will interfere with their conditioning.
Themes
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
John concludes his series of flashbacks by telling Bernard that he has been “Alone, always alone.” Bernard finds himself confiding in return that he, too, has always been alone. John tells Bernard about putting himself through trials, such as fasting or standing with arms outstretched for hours on end, in part because he was unhappy. Bernard’s conditioning makes him feel squeamish about any such suffering, so he changes the subject.
As a fellow misfit in his own society, Bernard can sympathize with John's outsider experience—both are “alone” because they are different from those around them—but only to a point. John copes with his isolation through suffering, but even Bernard feels repelled by such overpowering emotions, especially those brought about through self-inflicted suffering.
Themes
Individuality Theme Icon
Bernard asks John if he would like to return to London with him, while secretly strategizing to embarrass the Director, whom he’s realized must be John’s father. He says he will take Linda with them, too, knowing she will inspire such disgust that the Director will be even more embarrassed. At this news, John exultantly quotes Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “O brave new world that has such people in it.” Bernard suggests that maybe John had better wait until he sees what the new world is like.
One of the liabilities of individuals, which the World State seeks to guard against, is that those who don’t conform will sometimes do selfish things—like using others for their own purposes, as Bernard plots to do here with John and Linda. In a similar vein, it’s worth noting that John quotes Shakespeare for one of the first of many times in the book, in a burst of passionate emotion that the World State has largely succeeded in suppressing.
Themes
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
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