The Significance of John in Brave New World
In Brave New World, there are three societies: the civilized society of Bernard and Mustapha Mond, the savage society of John and Linda, and the old society, which is not explicitly in the book but is described by the characters. These societies are vastly different. The old society is 20th century Western society
; the civilized society
creates people and conditions them for happiness and stability; and the savage society is very far behind the civilized society technologically, and is very religious. John is a very important character in the novel because he represents the link between all three of these societies.
John's mother was created in the civilized society and lived there until John was accidentally conceived. She had to move to the savage society, and John was born and raised there. John had a connection to civilized society from an early age from hearing stories from his mother. He also came across a book of Shakespeare and by reading it, learned about old society. These however, are just preliminary connections for the bridges that will soon be built.
The adult John comes to civilized society as an experiment by Marx and Mond to see how a "savage" would adapt to civilization. Frankly, he does not adapt very well. He is appalled by the lifestyle and ideas of civilized people, and gets himself into a lot of trouble by denouncing civilization. He loves Lenina very much, but gets very upset at her when she wants to have sex with him. He physically attacks her, and from that point on does not want to have anything to do with her. When his mother dies, he interferes with the "death conditioning" of children by being sad. Finally, his frustrations with the civilized world become too much for him and he decides to take action. He tries to be a sort of a Messiah to a group of Deltas, trying to free them from the effect of soma. He tells them only the truth, but it is not the truth that the Deltas have been conditioned to believe, so to them it is a violent lie and they begin to cause a riot. When the riot is subdued, John is apprehended and taken to have a talk with Mustapha Mond.
This talk with Mustapha Mond is very enlightening for John, and it creates his connection with the old society. Mond tells John many things about civilized society and about old society. Here John learns that truth and beauty were the focus in old society and civilized society is focused on happiness and comfort. He also learns that there is no place for God or transcendence in civilized society. It is probably this that drove him to his self-imposed exile more than anything else.
Against the wishes of Mond, who wanted to continue with his experiment, John decides to leave civilized society. He cannot go back to savage society, and certainly not to old society, so he decides to create a fourth society of his own. He has visions of his own perfect society, his own Utopia: alone, disciplined, independent. He creates this life for himself and his plans go well for a while. He attacks reporters to remain alone; he tortures himself to remain disciplined; and he plants a garden and makes a bow and arrow to remain independent.
The society that John creates for himself is close to being the opposite of civilized society. To clear his mind of the memories and temptations of civilized society, he whips himself and drinks mustard. In a way, he is conditioning himself, but he conditions himself away from the beliefs of civilized society. Civilized people are certainly never alone, and are conditioned to believe that they depend on each other.
John lives in his Utopia for a while, but gradually it begins a downward spiral and falls apart. Reporters found him right away, but he was able to chase them away with violence. He has peace for a while until a feely film is created about him, and the reporters return. There is a big orgy against John's wishes, but he cannot really do anything about because of his forced consumption of soma. When he realizes what he has done, he interprets his actions as the greatest sin he could commit, and the only atonement he can come up with is to kill himself.
John bridged the gap between his savage society, civilized society, and old society. His own society that he creates for himself is vastly different from any of these societies, but like all of the other societies, it fails. In Brave New World
, Utopia truly means "no place."