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Henry Foster in Brave New World

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.

Although a minor character, Henry Foster in Brave New World serves as a counterpoint to Bernard. However, we find that despite being a poster boy for the Alpha way of life, he has some very suppressed second thoughts.

Who Is Henry

In your high school, there were probably popular kids who just seemed to show up and be popular. Maybe they weren't the football captains or the head cheerleaders, but they had all the advantages of popularity without any of the real work. Henry Foster is just such a person.

In the novel Brave New World, Henry Foster is one of the most underdeveloped characters. He is present at the beginning and end, but we don't really learn a great deal about him. Of course, we don't have to. Henry Foster is in many ways a perfect window into the mind of a typical Alpha male in the World State. He is tall, handsome, and is very promiscuous. We can almost get an image of an overly charming pretty boy with a perfect smile, whisking yet another lucky girl off for a trip in his helicopter.

But his character goes much deeper than that. While still underdeveloped, Huxley works an incredible amount of depth into just a few moments with this character. As we'll see in this lesson, Henry is like Bernard (one of the major protagonists) in understanding that he is a product of his conditioning. However, unlike Bernard who broods in negativity, Henry has made the choice to just be happy.

Brave New World cover
Brave New World cover

What Does Henry Represent?

Henry is an Alpha who has made the conscious choice to just go with the flow of the World State, the perfect world built on the happiness of ignorance. In other words, happiness is the most important thing in Henry's life, and he's willing to sacrifice a great deal of what's left to achieve it.

That attention to conditioning carries over into much of what we hear from Henry. He constantly remarks when things are late, and Lenina, a woman often goes out with, says that 'Henry gets cross if I keep him waiting.'

Henry has been going out with Lenina for four months, as opposed to consistently varying the women he sees in accordance with World State conditioning. Regardless, he still takes Lenina to play Obstacle Golf that evening. Because he accepts all that the World State outlines, he is happy to share this woman with other partners, though he apparently likes her company a great deal, and is happy to take joy in the rather lifeless entertainment of Obstacle Golf.

Quotes from Henry

Henry does certainly set up this idea of having made the choice to be happy. We see this most clearly when he takes Lenina on a helicopter ride near the crematorium. As a high-ranking employee at the Department of Hatcheries and Conditioning, he has some level of clearance to the actual truth. Yet he still takes the conditioning in full. He defends the system's effectiveness. When Lenina ponders how dreadful it must be to be the low ranking Epsilon, he tells her, '''Your conditioning would have made you no less thankful that you weren't a Beta or an Alpha.'''

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