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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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Because this is a Utopian novel of ideas, few of the characters are three-dimensional people who come alive on the page. Most exist to voice ideas in words or to embody them in their behavior. John, Bernard, Helmholtz, and the Controller express ideas through real personalities, but you will enjoy most of the others more if you see them as cartoon characters rather than as full portraits that may seem so poorly drawn that they will disappoint you.


The Director opens the novel by explaining the reproductive system of the brave new world, with genetically engineered babies growing in bottles. He loves to throw "scientific data" at his listeners so quickly that they can't understand them; he is a know-it-all impressed with his own importance. In fact, he knows less and is less important than the Controller, as you see when he is surprised that the Controller dares to talk about two forbidden topics-history and biological parents.

The Director comes alive only when he confesses to Bernard Marx that as a young man he went to a Savage Reservation, taking along a woman who disappeared there. She was pregnant with his baby, as a result of what the Utopia considers an obscene accident. The baby grows up to be John; his return to London leads to the total humiliation of the Director.

The Director's name is Thomas, but you learn this only because Linda, his onetime lover and John's mother, keeps referring to him as Tomakin.


Henry is a scientist in the London Hatchery, an ideal citizen of the world state: efficient and intelligent at work, filling his leisure time with sports and casual sex. He is not an important character but helps Huxley explain the workings of the Hatchery, show Lenina's passionless sex life, and explore the gulf between Bernard and the "normal" citizens of Utopia.


Lenina is young and pretty. She is, like Henry Foster, a happy, shallow citizen, her one idiosyncracy is the fact that she sometimes spends more time than society approves dating one man exclusively.

Like all well-conditioned citizens of the World State, Lenina believes in having sex when she wants it. She can't understand that John avoids sex with her because he loves her and does not want to do something that he thinks- in his old-fashioned, part-Indian, part-Christian, part-Shakespearean way- will dishonor her. She embodies the conflict he feels between body and spirit, between love and lust.

Lenina is more a cartoon character than a real person, but she triggers John's emotional violence and provides the occasion for his suicide when she comes to see him whip himself.

Note: There is a prevalent misconception that Lenina was afflicted with lupus. In fact, this is not the case. She is a worker at the Hatchery, which is constantly bathed in red light. This lighting makes the workers appear to demonstrate the characteristic red markings of someone afflicted with lupus. This appearance is only evident in the red light of the hatchery. Many readers have wrongly interpreted this information to infer that she did in fact have lupus, which is incorrect. The very notion that she would have a disease like lupus is contradictory to the background of the story. Caveat: This subject is subject to interpretation, but that is our position.


Mond is one of the ten people who control the World State. He is good-natured and dedicated to his work, and extremely intelligent; he understands people and ideas that are different, which most Utopians cannot do. He has read such forbidden books as the works of Shakespeare and the Bible, and knows history and philosophy. Indeed, he resembles the Oxford professors that Huxley knew, and his discussion of happiness with the Savage resembles a tutorial between an Oxford don and his most challenging student.

Once a gifted scientist, the Controller made a conscious choice as a young man to become one of the rulers instead of a troublesome dissident. He is one of the few Utopians who can choose, who has free will, and this makes him more rounded and more attractive than most of the characters you'll meet in the book. It also makes him concerned with morality, but he uses his moral force and his sanity for the immoral and insane goals of the Utopia. You may decide that he is the most dangerous person in Brave New World.

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Barron's Booknotes-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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