As I was reading this segment of Brave New World (ch.10-13), I observed some parallels between John’s character and other works of fiction. Whether it’s intentional (like with Shakespearean references) or just connections I made with other works that I personally enjoyed, it’s an interesting way to understand his character more and to possibly allude to what might happen to John.

The first comparison I want to make with John is with the character Othello from the work that shares his namesake, Othello. I’ve read Othello and am pretty familiar with the plot and characters of the story, so I can give a bit of insight in why Huxley may have pointed out this particularity:

“Five minutes later he was back in his room. From its hiding-place he took out his mouse-nibbled volume, turned with religious care its stained and crumbled pages, and began to read Othello. Othello, he remembered, was like the hero of Three Weeks in a Helicopter – a black man.” (p.157)

A quick summary of Othello; Othello is a high ranked officer in the Venetian army and is in love with the daughter of a politically influential figure (her name is Desdemona). Othello is not treated the same way as other officers, since he’s Black (referred to in the work as a “Moore”); and although it’s not strongly emphasized in the plot, his race causes him to be seen as inferior to the other Venetians. Iago, a man who claims to be Othello’s friend but secretly wants to get rid of him, plants seeds of doubt into Othello’s mind throughout the story, causing him to doubt Desdemona’s loyalty and thus leads him to kill her.

I think what Huxley is trying to convey with this reference is that John is like Othello, a man who is out of place in a society that expects differently from him. Othello should not be a high ranked officer in the Venetian society he’s based in, nor should John the Savage be treated with respect as a human being despite being birthed from people in the “Brave New World”. They are both the outliers in a world that expects worse from them, and only through their interactions with societal corruption (Iago to Othello as Bernard to John) do they ultimately break and stop being who they truly want to be/be with, Desdemona/Lenina.

Straying away from old English plays, another reference that I thought of while reading the text was King Kong, the classic film of men venturing to an island, finding a gigantic ape, and bringing it back to society to showcase for all to see. This was the quote that first brought the idea to me:

“It was John, then, they were all after. And as it was only through Bernard, his accredited guardian, that John could be seen, Bernard now found himself, for the first time in his life, treated not merely normally, but as a person of outstanding importance.” (p.144)

Bernard acts just like the film director from King Kong, where he gains all the glory and satisfaction for discovering the “Savage”; he reaps the rewards of bringing something new/exciting for people to see and parades John as though he were a novelty, just to get ahead for himself.

Not only did I see this with Bernard, but with John’s interaction with Lenina (in a dark, reflective way compared to King Kong). “‘No, of course it isn’t necessary. But some kinds of baseness are nobly undergone. I’d like to undergo something nobly. Don’t you see?’” (p.173). John, with his customs of courtship from Malpais and Shakespeare do not translate in “civilized” society; much like with Kong, where he tries to court Ann Darrow (the blonde beauty). Kong does eventually capture the heart of Ann because of Ann’s openness and understanding, whereas Lenina’s one-dimensional obedience to her conditioned worldview prevents her from realizing what John is trying to accomplish, love.

Moreover, the way John acts when Lenina is only lustfully interested in him is very animalistic, which again reminded me of how Kong acts when distraught:

“But instead of also saying ‘Darling!’ and holding out his arms, the Savage retreated in terror, flapping his hands at her as though he were trying to scare away some intruding and dangerous animal. Four backwards steps, and he was brought to bay against the wall…Opening her eyes, she had seen his face – no, not his face, a ferocious stranger’s, pale, distorted, twitching with some insane, inexplicable fury.” (p.176)

Kong and John are both products of “the other” and their concepts do not reflect back into a world that skewed itself as far as it could from nature; the difference being that Kong is literally an animal and John merely a representation of an animal/the natural. Will the gilded beauty of the Savage’s “Brave New World” kill him much like “beauty killed the beast” in King Kong…?