John the Savage | Character Analysis in Brave New World

John the Savage | Character Analysis in Brave New World

John Brave New World

Introduction

John the Savage, is the central character in Brave New World. He is the most important figure in the novel, because, as Paul W. Gannon points out, “he acts as a bridge between the two cultures, and having known both ‘ways of life’ he is able to compare them and comment on them. His beliefs and values are a curious mixture of Christian and heathen, of Jesus and Pookong, but, most important, he has a strict moral code. His old-fashioned beliefs about God and right and wrong (his beliefs closely duplicate Christian morality) contrast sharply with the values and beliefs of the citizens of the Brave New World. It is this conflict between the two value systems that ultimately brings about his suicide.” (Huxley’s “Brave New World”, p. 55).

 

Chief Traits of His Character

John the Savage is a typical character endowed with strange qualities that distinguish him from other characters in the novel. According to Stephen Greenblatt, “The Savage has many unheard of qualities and strange habits- he quotes Shakespeare, actually loves his mother, is a romantic, and believes in God. Living on the reservation, he is also disease-ridden, unhappy, filthy, and masochistic. Brought to London by Bernard, the Indian is a sensation among the fun-loving and curious citizens, but unfortunately Savage’s reaction to the Brave New World is not as favourable…. Disgusted and desperate, the Savage flies to a lonely lighthouse, but is hounded un-mercifully-yet without malice-by curiosity seekers and ‘feelie’ makers and is finally driven to suicide.” (Three Modern Satirists, p. 97-98).

The Savage is thus a misfit in the society he has been brought to live in, and his longing to go back to his native place reveals his preference for the old world.

Two Alternatives Before John the Savage

John the Savage, has two alternatives before him, i.e. to live the life as lived in the scientifically managed new world, or to return to the old world of primitive impulses and emotions. As Huxley himself tells us in the ‘Foreword’ to the novel, “The Savage is offered only two alternatives, an insane life in Utopia, or the life of a primitive in an Indian village, a life more human in some respects, but in others hardly less queer and abnormal.” (p. 7). The Savage has to choose between these two ways of life, and he seems to favour the life of sanity in a village, far away from the so-called brave new world.

His Humiliation

John has to suffer much humiliation at the hands of various persons and society as well as because of the situation in which he is placed. According to Keith May, “John … is so completely the antithesis of the scientifically conditioned members of society as to have had inflicted upon him what seems to be almost every category of psycho-pathological experience. Fatherless, he has been brought up by a drunken, sporadically-loving mother who is hated and has been assaulted before his eyes by her neighbours, whose sexual activities have often taken place within his earshot, and who has filled his head with mythologies which conflict with those of the Reservation.” (Aldous Huxley, p. 110). John’s lot arouses pity in the reader’s heart.

John the Savage, a Comic Figure

Despite his strange position and pitiable predicament, the Savage has also been able to evoke laughter among the readers. He is a part of the comedy embodied in the novel. Keith May is of the view that “John becomes a part of the comedy through various later incidents, such as his refusal of Lenina’s advances, and particularly through his Shakespearean diction. The laughter which he sometimes arouses is never unsympathetic. When he replies to question on the telephone by saying, “If I do not usurp myself, I am’. or informs Lenina that she an ‘impudent strumpet’, he is funny but not ludicrous or unlikeable.” (Ibid., p. 111). John may be regarded as an amusing character.

An Implausible Character

John the Savage is an abnormal and implausible character who does not seem to have been taken from real life. Nor are the circumstances of his life normal or plausible. “It is not in the least an artistic error that John should be an implausible character, a concoction of antithesis to the sphere in which he is placed, because any serious attempt to make him realistic would have broken the unity of the novel.” (Ibid.). The situation in which John is placed may also be said to be abnormal or implausible; hence he has to speak and behave in a manner which is hardly in accordance with native character. As Huxley tells us, “For the sake of dramatic effect, the Savage is often permitted to speak more rationally than his upbringing among the practitioners of a religion that is half-fertility cult and half Penitente ferocity would actually warrant. Even his acquaintance with Shakespeare would not in reality justify such utterances. And at the close, of course, he is made to retreat from sanity: his native penitente -ism reasserts its authority and he ends in maniacal sell-torture and despairing suicide.” (“Foreword’, Brave New World, pp. 7-8).

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A Non-Conformist and an Outsider

The Savage does not originally belong to the new world he has been brought into, nor can he grow a liking for it. He remains a pathetic figure of an alien in a strange land, having a nostalgia for his native land. According to Karl and Magalaner, “The only way Huxley could give both absolute and relative meaning to his new world was through the introduction of a non-conformist-specifically, an outsider from the world of the twentieth century.” (Great Twentieth Century English Novels, pp. 277-78). The suicide of the Savage is an extreme form of his protest against the mechanical life in the mass community for which he is unable to grow a liking.

Representative of the Old World

 

With his dislike for the new world, John the Savage seems to prefer the old world from where he has been brought here. Huxley seems to have introduced him for a satirical purpose. Discarding the traditions of the new world, he reads Romeo and Juliet, and feels romantically inclined towards Lenina. He quotes from other plays of Shakespeare, as if he scorned the outcry against the dramatist. He does not miss any opportunity to ridicule the civilized world of the future. For example, when he is shown the Bombay Green Rocket capable of running at a speed of twelve hundred and fifty kilometres an hour, he finds it very nice, but at the same time remarks “Ariel could put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes”, (Brave New World,. 127), and thus deflates the Vanity of people of that world. Huxley’s satire against the brave new world is voiced through the Savage.

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