At the Reservation, Lenina watches a community celebration. The pounding of the drums reminds her of Solidarity Services and Ford’s Day celebrations. The images of an eagle and a man on a cross are raised, and a youth walks into the center of a pile of writhing snakes. A man whips him, drawing blood until the youth collapses. Lenina is horrified.
John, a handsome blond youth in Indian dress, surprises Lenina and Bernard by speaking perfect English. He says that he wanted to be the sacrifice, but the town would not let him. He explains that his mother, Linda, came from the Other Place outside the Reservation. During a visit to the Reservation, she fell and suffered an injury, but was rescued by some Indians who found her and brought her to the village, where she has lived ever since. His father, also from the Other Place, was named Tomakin. Bernard realizes that “Tomakin” is actually Thomas, the Director, but says nothing for the moment.
John introduces Lenina and Bernard to his mother, Linda. Wrinkled, overweight, and missing teeth, she disgusts Lenina. Linda explains that John was born because something went wrong with her contraceptives. She could not get an abortion on the Reservation and felt too ashamed to go back to the World State with a baby. Linda explains that, after starting her new life in the Indian village, she followed all her conditioning and slept with any man she pleased, but some women beat her for taking their men to bed.
John tells Bernard that he grew up listening to Linda’s fabulous stories about the Other Place. But he also felt isolated and rejected, partly because his mother slept with so many men and partly because the people of the village never accepted him. Linda took a lover, Popé, who brought her an alcoholic drink called mescal. She began drinking heavily. Meanwhile, despite being forbidden from taking part in the Indian’s rituals, John absorbed the culture around him. Linda taught him to read, at first by drawing on the wall and later using a guide for Beta Embryo-Store Workers that she had happened to bring with her. He asked her questions about the World State, but she could tell him very little about how it worked. One day, Popé brought
Bernard asks John if he would like to go to London with him. He has an ulterior motive that he keeps to himself: he wants to embarrass the Director by exposing him as John’s father. John accepts the proposal, but he insists that Linda be allowed to go with him. Bernard promises to seek permission to take both of them. John quotes a line from
These chapters contain a crucial plot development: the meeting of Bernard and John. John is an outcast who has always dreamed of living in the World State; Bernard is a World State misfit who is looking for some way to fit in. Their meeting sets in motion a chain of events that produces shattering consequences for both of them.
Huxley uses a literary device called a flashback to bring Bernard, and the reader, up to date on John’s background. This device allows Huxley to present a collage of images from John’s childhood that would otherwise fit awkwardly into the overall structure of the narrative. If the narrative had been presented in strict chronological order, John and Linda’s story would have been told first. Coming in the middle of the novel, it has a greater impact because the reader already knows about the vast differences between World State and Reservation culture. Linda’s failure to fit in on the Reservation, and John’s confused upbringing, only make sense within the context that has already been provided.
Linda’s experiences on the Reservation, as described by herself and by John, demonstrate the extent to which the World State citizens are dependent upon “civilization”—that is, on a life that is completely structured by the state. On the Reservation, she is practically helpless: she does not know how to mend clothing, cook, or clean, and the very idea of taking care of a child horrifies her. She turns to mescal as a poor substitute for soma, which until then had been her only method for dealing with unpleasant situations.
John is a cultural hybrid, absorbing both his mother’s culture and that of the Indians on the Reservation. But he is also culturally adrift. The Reservation’s community does not accept him, and Linda’s Other Place is a distant world he only hears about in stories. So he turns to Shakespeare in his isolation and absorbs a third cultural value system.