Huxley’s Ambiguous conclusions of Brave New World
In his novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley uses acute detail and comprehensive explanation to convey theme and symbolism. His use of explicit interpretation provides readers with a forthright account of emotion, thought, and opinion of not just characters, but of the meaning of the novel as a whole. Huxley’s writing style and tone are representative of the exact and specific world in which the story takes place, the “World State”, where every aspect of citizens’ lives are controlled, down to even the color they wear. Though this style is effective in describing aspects of the state, Huxley pairs it with a certain ambiguity to cast shadow over the denouement of his novel, leaving readers in uncertainty that may be confused with inadequacy. “Just under the crown of the arch dangled a pair of feet . . . Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east…” In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley appropriately concludes his novel with the vague description of John’s suicide, as it provides closure through irony, shows finality using poetic language, and denotes emotion through symbolism.
As Huxley’s novel is composed of distinct detail, his contrasting, ambiguous conclusion incorporates irony to opportunely end the novel by illustrating the view of death in Brave New World. The lack of explicit mention of John’s death contributes to the tone earlier set in the novel that dying is not a big deal, but rather a cause for treats. The use of the phrase “dangled a pair of feet” does not directly state John’s death, but provides enough detail for readers to assume his suicide. This signifies that death is not acknowledged in the new world, that it is, generally speaking, ignored. John’s death is not viewed as significant in the novel because the characters have been conditioned not to associate it with negative emotion, though as readers, we do. This contrast provides an appropriate conclusion because it reestablishes the theme of suffering, or lack thereof in the society. Along with the incomplete reaction to his death is the acknowledgement of the theme of freedom and confinement, as John chooses to leave the new world he is introduced to and found to despise through hanging himself. Suicide is never mentioned throughout the novel, and is very well an idea the citizens of the World State are not even aware of. The irony of the use of suicide and its uncertain and rash nature show John’s hasty escape from the world and its confinement through a rather explicit, yet ambiguous fashion. Huxley’s ironic use of shadowed detail provides contrast as well as closure to the novel, and appropriately concludes Brave New World, because it powerfully incorporates the theme of suffering, as well as freedom and confinement.
Another major theme of the novel, technology and acuteness, is shown in Huxley’s simile of John’s feet as a compass. “Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east…” This comparison may lead readers to the idea of technology, a compass, and acuteness, the ongoing description of his feet using the cardinal directions. Not only does this quotation provide a final innuendo to the World State and all its values and truths, but to John’s conformity, even in death, to a world he despised but could not escape any other way than through suicide. The simile Huxley uses depicts a finality to his novel, not only through John’s demise, but through the final allegiance to technology and the World State. This certitude lends a sense of desperateness and unease to John’s suffering not recognized in the new world, for their conditioned ignorance does not allow them to identify with loneliness. This isolation, reiterated by his death, shows that in the new world, all that is different dies. The ambiguous simile used to describe John’s death provides significant conclusion to Brave New World not only through mention to conformity to the state, but through John’s isolation and his identification with readers rather than citizens of the state, in his finality, his escape from the “brave new world”.
Throughout the novel, Huxley uses rhythm as a symbol for violence; John repeatedly yells “impudent strumpet” at Lenina when she takes her clothes off and he beats her for being a whore. Lenina comments on the rhythmic drums when her and Bernard first arrive at the savage reservation, along with the rhythmic whipping of the savage for salvational religious purposes. Most explicit in the novel is the description of the “orgy-porgy”, during which they “[beat] one another in six-eight time.” Similarly, the use of rhythm to denote violence is also present in the ending, as the repetitiveness of his feet represent the violent, however ambiguous, ending John faced. “. . . the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east…” Although the new world is conditioned not to recognize death as significant nor particularly harsh, the symbolism used in his patterned wording allows readers to capture the emotion of his demise, as it is not passive as suggested by the text, but violent, providing a rightful response not capable by the new world. Huxley appropriately concludes his novel using rhythm as a symbol for violence as it induces emotion not capable to the society and its citizens, but to a careful reader.
Aldous Huxley’s contrasting writing style is precise, well thought out, and symbolic in its structure. His effective writing employs every aspect of his work to emphasize the meaning and theme of Brave New World. Though Huxley’s words may seem vague compared to the rest of the novel, careful reading shows that the novel did not merely end; it concluded. Though ambiguous, the last page of the novel appropriately finished the story and left readers with a reiteration of theme and symbolism from throughout the text. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley accordingly completes his novel with John’s suicide by engaging irony to show contrast, using poetic language to demonstrate entirety, and employing symbolism to create emotion.
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