Wascally Wabbits and Silly Savages

In order to understand the role and significance of the “Savage” in Brave New World, it is important to first understand what Huxley is comparing when he presents to his readers two future savage societies. On one end he presents a savage Indian reservation in New Mexico and on the other a savage Utopian society in London. Huxley is comparing the society from which we regress with the society to which we progress.
The New Mexican society characterizes the society from which most of us strive to regress. In Huxley’s New Mexico, he presents an ugly reality of primitive life. This life clearly lacks the “new world’s” stability, friendliness, and cleanliness. Lenina describes the Indian guide as “hostile, sullenly contemptuous” and “‘Besides,’ she lowered her voice, ‘he smells bad’”. The reservation is dirty, “the piles of rubbish, the dust, the dogs, the flies.” An old man shows what aging does to the human body when it isn’t protected by conditioning and chemicals; he is toothless, wrinkled, thin, and bent. Our society today participates in a constant pursuit to distance itself from these uncivilized characteristics.
On the other hand the London society is the extreme to which most of us strive to progress. Everyone in this Utopian society is happy, hygienic, and economically secure. There is little sickness and no old age, poverty, crime, or war. In today’s society, our idea of progression is to attain this perfection.
From Huxley’s point of view, the “savage”, John (who is really not savage at all) has monumental importance. John is the only one who can compare the two worlds, and it is through him that Huxley shows that his Utopia is a bad one.
The reason John is able to compare the two worlds is his knowledge and understanding of both. He grew up exposed to three cultures, the Indian culture, the Utopian culture through his mothers eyes, and the plays of Shakespeare.
The Indian culture rejected John. He was prohibited from marrying the Indian girl he loved and from being initiated into the tribe. Although denied acceptance into the tribe, John went through the Indian initiation rituals of fasting, dreaming, and suffering on his own. He discovered the beauty of natural order: time, death, and God.
When John went to London with Lenina and Bernard, he again encountered the fact that he did not fit in. Although most of the Utopians showed kindness to him, he knew he was just a spectacle to them. John’s acquired religion from the reservation and old-fashioned morality from Shakespeare contradicted the beliefs of the brave new world. Huxley shows this contradiction of beliefs in John’s struggle over sex with Lenina and his fight with the system after his mother dies.
John used his mother’s stories of the “Other Place”, the lessons in life he obtained while living on the reservation, and the life portrayed in a copy of Shakespeare that survived the systematic wiping out of history by the New World to contrive his own Utopia to be compared with London’s Utopia. John found his Utopia in neither the Indian society nor the brave new world.
It is important that John not fit in either society. That allows John to take a step back and evaluate both worlds without tainted ideas. If John had fit in one of these societies, he would lose his stature as the one character in the book who is not savage, and, therefore, his thoughts and actions would have been condemned by the reader.
Since John did not fit in either society, he chose to commit suicide. In philosophical terms, one must experience pain and misfortune to experience pleasure and prosperity. John realized that his pleasure and prosperity could not be obtained in the Indian society and that his pain and misfortune could not be obtained in the brave new world society.
John’s suicide conveys the message that the London Utopia is a bad one. Huxley wants his readers to correlate John’s death with their own; not a physical death, but a psychological one. Huxley’s Brave New World serves as a warning that our pursuit of a similar Utopia can be detrimental.