John the Savage in Brave New World

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

One of the central characters in Brave New World is John, who is brought to the World State by Bernard. He has a great deal of trouble adapting to life, and it has a tragic ending for him.

Who is John?

Imagine moving from one society to another where everything that you have learned your entire life is suddenly flipped on its head. That's what John in Brave New World does. All of his life he had been raised on the Reservation, a place where people live according to a mash-up of Native American and Christian cultures. However, suddenly he is forced into the society of World State London, where happiness is the ultimate virtue.

So why does he get this odd chance? It turns out that his mother, Linda, was abandoned on the Reservation just before his birth. All of his life, John has heard about how wonderful London was. When given the chance, he jumps at the opportunity to go to London.

Brave New World cover
Brave New World cover

Doesn't fit in

You can't really blame John for wanting to go. After all, he doesn't fit in to the society of the Reservation. Not only was his mother an outsider, but he doesn't have a father and Linda has a reputation for being willing to sleep with married men. This means that everyone hates Linda, and everyone hates John. As a result, John contents himself with reading, especially an old copy of Shakespeare brought to him by one of her mother's lovers.

John expects that a perfect society would look something like the societies of Shakespeare. However, the World State is definitely not such a society. Here people have no regard for love, family, or romance, all things that John has taught himself to value. Just as much as he was an outcast at the Reservation, he makes himself an outcast in London.

Relationships

Along the way John develops several relationships, but three are of special note. First of all is his relationship with Linda. John tries his best to be a good son, but never succeeds in getting more than passing approval from his mother. She rejects the title of mother than John so desperately wants her to have, and in her dying moments calls out for a lover instead of her son.

Second, John falls in love with Lenina. However, Lenina only wants John for sex. As you might imagine, this does not end up well. John attacks Lenina, meaning that she locks herself in the bathroom out of fear for her life. John applies his understanding of the world through Shakespeare and, rather unwittingly, the Reservation. Ironically, he treats Lenina much the same as other men treated his mother on the Reservation.

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