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Exile in Brave New World Essay


Edward Said states, Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted; however, he also believes that this alienation can be potent, even enriching. In Aldous Huxleys Brave New World exile is portrayed as a consequence which occurs when a person becomes an individual. In the new world order where people are conditioned to be perfect consumers and believe everyone belongs to everyone else, Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson are limited to physical exile for their incomplete conditioning. They do not experience the total exile John the Savage experiences due to his lack of acceptance in both societies for having no conditioning at all. Huxley uses Johns estrangement from the reservations society, his alienation from modern society, and his eventual demise to show that exile is both alienating and enriching.

Johns journey of alienation begins with his estrangement on the reservation; this trial serves to enrich and enhance his mind. While explaining the rain ceremony to Bernard and Lenina, John tells them his parents are from outside the reservation. His heritage causes him to be excluded. He declares, They disliked me for my complexion. Its always been like that. Always (117). Because John is not technically native to the reservation he is rarely allowed to participate in their rituals. He is discriminated against because he looks different. However, John also learns more about the society in which he lives because his segregation allows him to explore things on his own. He explains, The more the boys pointed and sang, the harder [I] read (130). John is able to discover the human condition through Shakespeare. Although isolated John learns and grows by embracing his individuality. John believes he will be more compatible with the new society.

However, this is not the case. Johns exile from modern society is even harsher than his alienation on the reservation. He asks:

Do they read Shakespeare? Certainly not, said the Head Mistress, blushing. Our library, said Dr. Gaffney, contains only books of reference. If our young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies. We dont encourage them to indulge in any solitary amusements. (150)

The conversation between John, the Head Mistress, and Dr. Gaffney highlights Johns alienation because of the new worlds discouragement for Shakespeare. The awkward situation leaves him embarrassed, beginning his isolation from modern society. Johns entire life has been spent in solitude reading Shakespeare. Suddenly immersed in a society in which his behavior is completely taboo, John finds himself even further separated from the community than he was on the reservation. Bernard observes that John may never be able to completely assimilate into this environment, partly on his interest, being focused on what he calls the soul which he persists in regarding as an entity independent of the physical environment (158). John cannot separate his values and indulge in the baser pleasures offered. He constantly worries whether or not his heart or soul will be saved. Even in this new world, he wants to apply the values he learned on the reservation and find his place as well as his soul mate. Thus, his experiences in the new world allow him to realize he can never be happy there.

Many profound changes to Johns character take place after he is exposed to society. Not only is he alienated, but he becomes enriched with the knowledge that he just doesnt belong. Im damned if Ill go on being experimented with. Not for all the Controllers in the world. I shall go away tomorrow tooAnywhere. I dont care. So long as I can be alone. (243) John feels used by Bernard as his tool to get the girls, and he has had enough of the fingers pointed at him and words said behind his back. After all he has been through John is still unable to get away from the mindset that he has to be alone, and chooses to leave the new world in favor of a solitary lighthouse. There, like the men on the reservation, John whips himself daily as people watch him like some sort of spectacle. Eventually John cracks and goes insane for a moment resulting in a blackout; He lay awake for a moment, blinking in owlish incomprehension at the light; then suddenly rememberedeverything (258). The moment of insanity when John attacks Lenina with his whip is his last moment of alienation and enrichment. The alienation is too much for him to handle, while his enrichment causes him to come to a striking realization. John does not belong anywhere in the new world. He has always been an outcast and always will be. The only solution to provide happiness for him is suicide, and that is exactly how his story ends.

Through Johns individuality, Huxley shows how complete control of society will lead to its downfall. He implies humanity cannot survive in such an extreme totalitarianistic environment. Johns death symbolizes the demise of true individuality and freedom. Huxley illustrates that community, identity, stability (3) does not equal happiness.

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