Thursday, 30 September 2010

Character Connection: John Savage

This is a wonderful meme hosted by Jen at The Introverted Reader. Every week, you share one literary character that you love with your fellow bloggers. You talk about the character, say why you love them and hope that everyone else will love them too.;) Be sure to post the book’s title and author, and be very careful not to give away spoilers while talking about how much you love your characters.


John Savage is my favourite character in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World. I chose to write about him today because he comes from a novel that was banned in Ireland in 1932, “due to alleged references of sexual promiscuity.” (Wikipedia) Since it’s Banned Books Week, this is my two cents.

The novel takes place in a future London, in a world that does not allow emotions and is utterly “civilised”. This world is called the World State. John was not born in this new world and wasn’t raised according to its rules, so he is a definite misfit. He was born and raised in a village on the New Mexico Savage Reservation, the way we are raised now, basically (although that world is made more savage, as it’s been quite a while since the old times), so he came into contact with all normal human emotions, bad and good. He feels, as opposed to the members of the World State, which “treats” people for emotions – emotions are a no-go in the new world.

He is the son of the director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre (where people are “born”, as births are not given anymore, but instead, children come from bottles, basically) and of Linda, a former inhabitant of the World State, now in exile. So, John is a product of a forbidden match that is a hushed matter, and is partly a man of the old world, and a man of the new world, but ironically and sadly, he doesn’t fit anywhere.

He finds knowledge in Shakespeare’s plays, so from very old ways of now 900 years ago. His values are entirely Shakespearian and he can quote the plays by heart. This knowledge enables him to speak out his emotions quite deftly and confront people during verbal altercations, but it also blinds him to the true essence of certain individuals, for example Lenina, whom he likes and is at first a heroine to him, but when he sees who she really is – a typical member of the World State and a sexual woman – she becomes a “strumpet”. Lenina, however, is neither a Shakespearian heroine nor a mere strumpet, so John’s views on the world are rather naive, confused and somehow narrow, despite his extensive knowledge on Shakespeare. He doesn’t fit into the old world because he is above its savagery, but he cannot fit into the new world either because he rejects its very shallow values and open sexuality, so much in conflict with his own ancient, Shakespearian values.

John loves Lenina, but he also feels lust for her, which is quite normal in a person, but John rejects the idea of lust, especially because he connects the notion of lust to the orgies he sees in the World State, so inside John, love and lust cannot see eye to eye.

John is a very Shakespearian “hero”. He is conflicted, tormented and unable to fit anywhere. The contact with the World State, this “brave new world”, crushes him. Eventually, he succumbs and takes some drugs, as well as participates in an orgy, which completely unhinges him, as he betrayed all of his beliefs, values and ideals. Not only that he cannot conform, but he will not conform, which is very noble of him, but also launches the beginning of his disintegration.

The misfit John, completely disappointed with everything, isolates himself, but the World State people see him as a show. They actually go see him and observe what the exotic savage does every day. John is devastated by everything that has happened to him and that he has done, and he only sees one way to atone himself – suicide. His ending is very Shakespearian indeed.

1 comment:

Introverted Jen said...

He does sound like a Shakespearean hero!

But all the talk of no emotions left me thinking of Mr. Spock too. Is that bad, coming from a reader? :-)

I'm glad you fit in the Banned Books theme with Character Connection!