Bernard Marx in Brave New World: Character Traits & Quotes

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  • 0:04 Bernard Doesn't Measure Up
  • 0:56 Bernard's Struggles
  • 2:49 Bernard's Contempt for Society
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

When we're introduced to Bernard in ''Brave New World,'' it's easy to feel sorry for him. Despite his Alpha status, he doesn't fit in, and seems to feel out of place. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Bernard fits in more than he even realizes.

Bernard Doesn't Measure Up

Have you ever known someone to criticize something only because he/she didn't get to be a part of it? Bernard is just this sort of sour grapes character in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

In the perfectly structured society of the novel, Bernard just doesn't fit in. On paper, he certainly should. As an Alpha, he's a member of the highest caste, tasked with the most important work. But Bernard is not like the other Alphas. While we get the idea that Alpha men are broad-shouldered, square-jawed, and handsome, Bernard isn't. He's very skinny, and only about as tall as a typical Gamma, a much lower caste.

However, he's crucial to the development of the plot of Brave New World. It's he who introduces John, a man from the Reservation (away from society) and the surprise son of Bernard's boss, to London. John is the character who ends up exposing a lot of the hypocrisy of the society in the book.

Bernard's Struggles

Bernard feels very isolated from the rest of society. Many people actively joke and say that he must have been poisoned with alcohol while a fetus to make him so stunted. Remember that the fetuses of lowest ranking Epsilons and Deltas are poisoned with alcohol, so this is leveled as an insult against Bernard for not only being short, but also for not belonging as an Alpha. Even in a society obsessed with providing happiness, it can still cause pain.

Women laugh at him when he makes advances towards them, and to top it all off, he's been having some real friction at work with this boss. We see evidence early on in the book, as coworkers 'rather pointedly turned their backs on Bernard Marx from the Psychology Bureau: averted themselves from that unsavoury reputation.'

However, don't feel too sorry for Bernard. He puts himself through a lot of this isolation on his own. Because he doesn't fit in, Bernard is constantly looking for something to make him special. Meanwhile, it's those unique aspects about him that continue to distance him from society.

When Lenina, the primary female protagonist, is willing to go to bed with him, Bernard makes her uncomfortable by pausing to watch ocean waves hit the cliffs. As members of society have been conditioned from an early age to fear nature, this is utterly uncomfortable for Lenina. She protests at how horrible of a place it is, begging him to leave the cliffs and fly her back to the safety of civilized London. However, for Bernard, it's proof of him flirting with the boundaries of his conditioning. He wonders 'What would it be like if I could, if I were free - not enslaved by my conditioning.''

That said, Lenina is not shy about following Bernard to the Reservation, a place of questionable civilization. However, one of the major points of conflict occurs when John, a person born at the Reservation but of a World State mother, falls in love with Lenina during their trip there. The fact that Bernard is not jealous shows just how much a part of World State society that he actually is.

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