For a couple of chapters, we escape the limitless ecstasy and cacophony of hollow platitudes. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World takes a detour into the world of the “savages.” They act and speak in odd ways, particularly one more than the others. By introducing us to John, Huxley demonstrates how words allow us to see the world more clearly, give words meaning and discover truths.
Equipped with the gift of language, John sees Pope clearly for the first time. Reciting Shakespeare, John describes Pope as a “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain.” (123) He doesn’t fully grasp the meaning of the words, nonetheless he feels as though they ring true. He realizes he had never felt the capacity for such overwhelming hate until he possessed the words to encapsulate his raw and visceral emotions. Being able to finally put his contempt into words gives his world form. “They even made Pope himself more real” (124) he remarks.
Arguable, John is only parroting words, just as civilized people do. John quotes Shakespeare, and Lenina quotes her conditioning, how do they differ? On page 110, the two exchange words.
And, pointing to the bloodstains in the centre of the square, “Do you see that damned spot?” he asked in a voice that trembled with emotion.
“A Gramme is better than a damn.” Said Lenina mechanically from behind her hands.
Foremost, John speaks with gravitas, his voice waivers. He reacts viscerally to the blood. There is a richness to his words, they carry emotion. Additionally, they show his knowledge of Shakespeare as he wittingly quotes Lady Macbeth. A character riddled with guilt, just as John feels for not having taken the lashes. Lenina on the other hand hides behind her hands. She refused to observe, she only responds “mechanically.” Her words rhyme, but ring hollow.
Alone in the moonlight, John discovers that life is finite. Covered in blood, looking over a precipice, he contemplates suicide. “Drop, drop, drop. To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow… He had discovered Time and Death and God.” (127) In his solitude, he looks inward. The drops of blood fall steadily, like a clock. The word drop also invokes the image of him falling. No more tomorrows. Drop or tomorrow, he has to choose. Moreover, his words trail off. He has begun to quote Shakespeare again. More precisely Macbeth famous soliloquy contemplating the passage of time and inevitably of death. Perhaps Shakespeare’s writing held no meaning for John until he sat on that precipice. John’s hardships coupled with Shakespeare’s words helped him make these discoveries about “Time and Death and God.”
Anyone can wield a tool. What is done with that instrument is what matters. Given the same tool we can all create the same objects, but with varying efficacy. Moreover, no two people may wield it in the same fashion. Some are more adept; some wield the it more fiercely. Language is merely a tool. Through John, Huxley demonstrates how language can impact and enrich life.