Brave New World

Inciting Event: The beautiful Lenina makes a date with the restlessly depressed Bernard, who has never quite fit into this perfect society. The first half of the First Act is particularly interesting. It’s all set-up, with an extremely minor character basically narrating important facts about the utopian world of the story. The reader is put in the shoes of the listening students, learning along with them.

Then, in a brilliant series of intercut scenes, we reach the First Act turning point, which swivels the story around to find its first set of main characters—Bernard and Lenina. It shows them functioning (and disfunctioning) in the world being concurrently described by the teachers. Since Bernard and Lenina’s relationship is actually little more than a plot device, it’s their coming together within the story, more than their actual date that signals the start of the main conflict. However, note that Huxley also here sets up Bernard’s visit to America, which is the basis for the main conflict.

First Plot Point: On his date with Lenina, Bernard struggles against his casually profligate conditioning, desiring a more meaningful courtship with Lenina. He takes her to the ocean, but she is overwhelmed by the rawness of nature and refuses to look at it. Bernard gives up and beds her instead.

This isn’t a particularly dramatic plot point, but it is significant for the wishy-washy Bernard as it pushes him back into conformity with social norms, despite his growing discomfort with it.

First Pinch Point: The turning point comes when Bernard and Lenina go to the reservation in America to observe savage man in his natural state. The pinch is relatively subtle, coming in the form of a warning to Bernard that if he doesn’t rid himself of his more radical ideas, he will be fired and banished to Iceland. Bernard also learns the “new clue” about the woman his superior obviously loved (in a “smutty” exclusive manner) and whom he lost during his own visit to the reservation many years ago.

Midpoint: While at the reservation, Benard and Lenina discover the missing woman—now grown fat and pathetic—living among the Indians, along with the son she “pornographically” gave birth to (in contrast to babies who were properly born in a test tube).

This is a radical and beautifully dramatized Moment of Truth—the truth of unconditioned “savage” man in comparison to Bernard and Lenina’s carefully controlled utopian society. It also swings the story around in a dramatically new direction. Up to this point, the plot has focused on Bernard’s bumbling, half-hearted attempts to rebel against his conditioning. After this point, the story is entirely about John, the Savage son, and his earnest conflict with society.

Second Pinch Point: The Savage and his mother have been taken back to London, where the mother sinks into drug-induced lethargy and the Savage becomes the toast of society. He, however, rebels against Bernard’s efforts to take advantage of his celebrity. The Savage is desperately in love with Lenina, but when she proves herself a “strumpet,” he casts her off violently.

Third Plot Point: The Savage watches his mother die, while éclair-eating children look on placidly as part of their “death conditioning.” He finally flips his top and causes a riot in the hospital. He, Bernard, and their friend Helmholtz are arrested.

Climax: Bernard and Helmholtz are banished to the islands, and the Savage goes off to live by himself in a lighthouse. He tries to punish his flesh for having enjoyed the “happiness” of society for even a short while. But society stalks him, videoing him and eventually mobbing him in hope of a spectacle.

Climactic Moment: The Savage accidentally incites and then succumbs to an “orgy-porgy.” He awakes in despair, realizing he has given in to everything he was fighting.

Resolution: The Savage hangs himself. (An argument could be made that this is properly the Climactic Moment, but I think the Savage’s conflict climaxes in the above scene. He is spiritually dead at that moment. His suicide is then just his physical reaction.)

Notes: This is not a book about plot, which is evidenced by its wobbly structure. All the structural points are still visible or at least nodded to (the pinch points being the weakest), but the overall narrative cohesion is all over the place, with first one character, then another taking the narrative burden on his shoulders. It works because this isn’t meant to be a story about plot. It’s meant to be basically a series of vignettes about society and the fall of humanity.

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