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Free Study Guide-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley-Free Booknotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 18

Summary

Bernard and Helmholtz come and bid farewell to John the Savage on the eve of their departure to an island, where they hope to find greater individual freedom. John cannot join them, for he has been instructed to remain in London for further experimentation. To prepare himself for his extended stay, John, following an old Indian custom, has taken mustard and warm water, trying to cleanse his system of the "poison" of civilization. In the end, the Savage decides he must disappear into solitude. A detailed description is given of his choice of "hermitage." It is an old, isolated lighthouse with a beautiful view. John feels somewhat guilty for being blessed with such a dwelling, surrounded by great beauty; from time to time he does physical penance to "deserve" it.

Since John's needs are minimal, he lives in austerity, sometimes whipping himself. When an observer sees how he is living, he reports it to the rest of the world. Reporters flood in, only to be physically thrown out by John. He wants no part of the new world and wants to be left alone. He, however, cannot forget Lenina. When memories of her nudity torture him, he inflicts physical self- torture. A cunning photographer, Darwin Bonaparte of the Feely Corporation, manages to capture John's self-inflicted punishment on film. As a result, "The Savage of Surrey" is soon seen all over Western Europe. The publicity results in the rude disruption of John's "rustic solitude;" and the crowd demands a performance from the Savage.


Lenina and Foster come to the lighthouse to try and rescue John. When she tries to reach out to him, the Savage rushes at her in a frenzy. He alternately whips her and then himself. The crowd joins in the performance and beats one another. When the crown finally disperses, the Savage falls asleep in a stupor.

When he wakes up the next day, he recalls what has happened and feels overwhelmed. That evening, when new crowds surge in to see another performance, they do not find the Savage in his garden. Instead, they find his body hanging near the staircase, swinging slowly in first a clockwise and then an anti-clockwise movement.

Notes

This chapter gives the tragic resolution to the plot. Although Bernard and Helmholtz find an alternative to the sterile, scientific life in London, John cannot join them. He has been commanded to stay in London for further experimentation. Refusing to accept this option, John finds a solitary lighthouse surrounded by a beautiful landscape and goes into isolation. Like Rousseau's noble savage, he believes that his return to nature will "civilize" and purify him in the truest sense. Instead, by living alone in the lighthouse, all his primitive instincts--especially those of love, lust, and penance--are tuned to a high pitch. He is also driven by a Calvinistic sense of sin and his misery as a misunderstood dreamer.

To make matters unbearable for John, the world intrudes on his privacy. First the reporters come and photograph him. Then the crowds descend. When Lenina finally arrives with Foster, hoping to rescue John, all of his frustration is taken out on her, as he alternately whips her and then himself. Finally spent with emotion, he falls into a stupor. When he wakes the next morning, he sees no escape. As a result, he commits suicide by hanging himself. In the context of the novel, his death signifies the defeat of the individual and the corresponding triumph of social stability and mediocrity, the defeat of emotion and the corresponding triumph of a cold scientific society, and the defeat of spiritualism at the hands of materialism.

In this last chapter, Huxley also makes a sad commentary on mob behavior. It seems to be in as little control in the new world as in the old. This was first seen earlier in the novel in the hospital scene with the Deltas. Now it is seen when the mob intrudes upon John at the lighthouse. Although the Controller has intelligently argued that the brave new world is a scientific one filled with controls, it is obvious here that things can quickly get out of control, both in the old world (as represented by the Savage) and the new world (represented by the rude crowd of onlookers). Therefore, the novel ends on a very negative note.

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