Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932
|Aldous Huxley, Brave New World,
Death of The
Huxley, Brave New World, 1932
Death of Linda:
The Park Lane Hospital for the Dying was a
sixty-story tower of primrose tiles. As the Savage stepped out of
his taxicopter a convoy of gaily-coloured aerial hearses rose
whirring from the roof and darted away across the Park, westwards,
bound for the Slough Crematorium. At the lift gates the presiding
porter gave him the information he required, and he dropped down to
Ward 81 (a Galloping Senility ward, the porter explained) on the
It was a large room bright with sunshine and yellow
paint, and containing twenty beds, all occupied. Linda was dying in
company–in company and with all the modern conveniences. The air was
continuously alive with gay synthetic melodies. At the foot of every
bed, confronting its moribund occupant, was a television box.
Television was left on, a running tap, from morning till night.
Every quarter of an hour the prevailing perfume of the room was
automatically changed. "We try," explained the nurse, who had taken
charge of the Savage at the door, "we try to create a thoroughly
pleasant atmosphere here–something between a first-class hotel and a
feely-palace, if you take my meaning."
"Where is she?" asked the Savage, ignoring these
The nurse was offended. "You are in a hurry," she
"Is there any hope?" he asked.
"You mean, of her not dying?" (He nodded.) "No, of
course there isn't. When somebody's sent here, there's no …"
Startled by the expression of distress on his pale face, she
suddenly broke off. "Why, whatever is the matter?" she asked. She
was not accustomed to this kind of thing in visitors. (Not that
there were many visitors anyhow: or any reason why there should be
many visitors.) "You're not feeling ill, are you?"
He shook his head. "She's my mother," he said in a
scarcely audible voice.
The nurse glanced at him with startled, horrified
eyes; then quickly looked away. From throat to temple she was all
one hot blush.
"Take me to her," said the Savage, making an effort
to speak in an ordinary tone.
Still blushing, she led the way down the ward. Faces
still fresh and unwithered (for senility galloped so hard that it
had no time to age the cheeks–only the heart and brain) turned as
they passed. Their progress was followed by the blank, incurious
eyes of second infancy. The Savage shuddered as he looked.
Linda was lying in the last of the long row of beds,
next to the wall. Propped up on pillows, she was watching the
Semi-finals of the South American Riemann-Surface Tennis
Championship, which were being played in silent and diminished
reproduction on the screen of the television box at the foot of the
bed. Hither and thither across their square of illuminated glass the
little figures noiselessly darted, like fish in an aquarium–the
silent but agitated inhabitants of another world.
Linda looked on, vaguely and uncomprehendingly
smiling. Her pale, bloated face wore an expression of imbecile
happiness. Every now and then her eyelids closed, and for a few
seconds she seemed to be dozing. Then with a little start she would
wake up again–wake up to the aquarium antics of the Tennis
Champions, to the Super-Vox-Wurlitzeriana rendering of "Hug me till
you drug me, honey," to the warm draught of verbena that came
blowing through the ventilator above her head–would wake to these
things, or rather to a dream of which these things, transformed and
embellished by the
her blood, were the marvellous constituents, and smile once more her
broken and discoloured smile of infantile contentment.
"Well, I must go," said the nurse. "I've got my
batch of children coming. Besides, there's Number 3." She pointed up
the ward. "Might go off any minute now. Well, make yourself
comfortable." She walked briskly away.
The Savage sat down beside the bed.
"Linda," he whispered, taking her hand.
At the sound of her name, she turned. Her vague eyes
brightened with recognition. She squeezed his hand, she smiled, her
lips moved; then quite suddenly her head fell forward. She was
asleep. He sat watching her–seeking through the tired flesh, seeking
and finding that young, bright face which had stooped over his
childhood in Malpais, remembering (and he closed his eyes) her
voice, her movements, all the events of their life together. "Streptocock-Gee
to Banbury T …" How beautiful her singing had been! And those
childish rhymes, how magically strange and mysterious!
A, B, C, vitamin D:
The fat's in the liver, the cod's in the sea.
He felt the hot tears welling up behind his eyelids
as he recalled the words and Linda's voice as she repeated them. And
then the reading lessons: The tot is in the pot, the cat is on the
mat; and the Elementary Instructions for Beta Workers in the Embryo
Store. And long evenings by the fire or, in summertime, on the roof
of the little house, when she told him those stories about the Other
Place, outside the Reservation: that beautiful, beautiful Other
Place, whose memory, as of a heaven, a paradise of goodness and
loveliness, he still kept whole and intact, undefiled by contact
with the reality of this real London, these actual civilized men and
A sudden noise of shrill voices made him open his
eyes and, after hastily brushing away the tears, look round. What
seemed an interminable stream of identical eight-year-old male twins
was pouring into the room. Twin after twin, twin after twin, they
came–a nightmare. Their faces, their repeated face–for there was
only one between the lot of them–puggishly stared, all nostrils and
pale goggling eyes. Their uniform was khaki. All their mouths hung
open. Squealing and chattering they entered. In a moment, it seemed,
the ward was maggoty with them. They swarmed between the beds,
clambered over, crawled under, peeped into the television boxes,
made faces at the patients.
Linda astonished and rather alarmed them. A group
stood clustered at the foot of her bed, staring with the frightened
and stupid curiosity of animals suddenly confronted by the unknown.
"Oh, look, look!" They spoke in low, scared voices.
"Whatever is the matter with her? Why is she so fat?"
They had never seen a face like hers before–had
never seen a face that was not youthful and taut-skinned, a body
that had ceased to be slim and upright. All these moribund
sexagenarians had the appearance of childish girls. At forty-four,
Linda seemed, by contrast, a monster of flaccid and distorted
"Isn't she awful?" came the whispered comments.
"Look at her teeth!"
Suddenly from under the bed a pug-faced twin popped
up between John's chair and the wall, and began peering into Linda's
"I say …" he began; but the sentence ended
prematurely in a squeal. The Savage had seized him by the collar,
lifted him clear over the chair and, with a smart box on the ears,
sent him howling away.
His yells brought the Head Nurse hurrying to the
"What have you been doing to him?" she demanded
fiercely. "I won't have you striking the children."
"Well then, keep them away from this bed." The
Savage's voice was trembling with indignation. "What are these
filthy little brats doing here at all? It's disgraceful!"
"Disgraceful? But what do you mean? They're being
death-conditioned. And I tell you," she warned him truculently, "if
I have any more of your interference with their conditioning, I'll
send for the porters and have you thrown out."
The Savage rose to his feet and took a couple of
steps towards her. His movements and the expression on his face were
so menacing that the nurse fell back in terror. With a great effort
he checked himself and, without speaking, turned away and sat down
again by the bed.
Reassured, but with a dignity that was a trifle
shrill and uncertain, "I've warned you," said the nurse, "I've
warned you," said the nurse, "so mind." Still, she led the too
inquisitive twins away and made them join in the game of
hunt-the-zipper, which had been organized by one of her colleagues
at the other end of the room.
"Run along now and have your cup of caffeine
solution, dear," she said to the other nurse. The exercise of
authority restored her confidence, made her feel better. "Now
children!" she called.
Linda had stirred uneasily, had opened her eyes for
a moment, looked vaguely around, and then once more dropped off to
sleep. Sitting beside her, the Savage tried hard to recapture his
mood of a few minutes before. "A, B, C, vitamin D," he repeated to
himself, as though the words were a spell that would restore the
dead past to life. But the spell was ineffective. Obstinately the
beautiful memories refused to rise; there was only a hateful
resurrection of jealousies and uglinesses and miseries. Popé with
the blood trickling down from his cut shoulder; and Linda hideously
asleep, and the flies buzzing round the spilt mescal on the floor
beside the bed; and the boys calling those names as she passed. …
Ah, no, no! He shut his eyes, he shook his head in strenuous denial
of these memories. "A, B, C, vitamin D …" He tried to think of those
times when he sat on her knees and she put her arms about him and
sang, over and over again, rocking him, rocking him to sleep. "A, B,
C, vitamin D, vitamin D, vitamin D …"
The Super-Vox-Wurlitzeriana had risen to a sobbing
crescendo; and suddenly the verbena gave place, in the
scent-circulating system, to an intense patchouli. Linda stirred,
woke up, stared for a few seconds bewilderly at the Semi-finalists,
then, lifting her face, sniffed once or twice at the newly perfumed
air and suddenly smiled–a smile of childish ecstasy.
"Popé!" she murmured, and closed her eyes. "Oh, I do
so like it, I do …" She sighed and let herself sink back into the
"But, Linda!" The Savage spoke imploringly, "Don't
you know me?" He had tried so hard, had done his very best; why
wouldn't she allow him to forget? He squeezed her limp hand almost
with violence, as though he would force her to come back from this
dream of ignoble pleasures, from these base and hateful
memories–back into the present, back into reality: the appalling
present, the awful reality–but sublime, but significant, but
desperately important precisely because of the imminence of that
which made them so fearful. "Don't you know me, Linda?"
He felt the faint answering pressure of her hand.
The tears started into his eyes. He bent over her and kissed her.
Her lips moved. "Popé!" she whispered again, and it
was as though he had had a pailful of ordure thrown in his face.
Anger suddenly boiled up in him. Balked for the
second time, the passion of his grief had found another outlet, was
transformed into a passion of agonized rage.
"But I'm John!" he shouted. "I'm John!" And in his
furious misery he actually caught her by the shoulder and shook her.
Linda's eyes fluttered open; she saw him, knew
him–"John!"–but situated the real face, the real and violent hands,
in an imaginary world–among the inward and private equivalents of
patchouli and the Super-Wurlitzer, among the transfigured memories
and the strangely transposed sensations that constituted the
universe of her dream. She knew him for John, her son, but fancied
him an intruder into that paradisal Malpais where she had been
with Popé. He was angry because she liked Popé, he was shaking her
because Popé was there in the bed–as though there were something
wrong, as though all civilized people didn't do the same. "Every one
belongs to every …" Her voice suddenly died into an almost inaudible
breathless croaking. Her mouth fell open: she made a desperate
effort to fill her lungs with air. But it was as though she had
forgotten how to breathe. She tried to cry out–but no sound came;
only the terror of her staring eyes revealed what she was suffering.
Her hands went to her throat, then clawed at the air–the air she
could no longer breathe, the air that, for her, had ceased to exist.
The Savage was on his feet, bent over her. "What is
it, Linda? What is it?" His voice was imploring; it was as though he
were begging to be reassured.
The look she gave him was charged with an
unspeakable terror–with terror and, it seemed to him, reproach.
She tried to raise herself in bed, but fell back on
to the pillows. Her face was horribly distorted, her lips blue.
The Savage turned and ran up the ward.
"Quick, quick!" he shouted. "Quick!"
Standing in the centre of a ring of zipper-hunting
twins, the Head Nurse looked round. The first moment's astonishment
gave place almost instantly to disapproval. "Don't shout! Think of
the little ones," she said, frowning. "You might decondition … But
what are you doing?" He had broken through the ring. "Be careful!" A
child was yelling.
"Quick, quick!" He caught her by the sleeve, dragged
her after him. "Quick! Something's happened. I've killed her."
By the time they were back at the end of the ward
Linda was dead.
The Savage stood for a moment in frozen silence,
then fell on his knees beside the bed and, covering his face with
his hands, sobbed uncontrollably.
The nurse stood irresolute, looking now at the
kneeling figure by the bed (the scandalous exhibition!) and now
(poor children!) at the twins who had stopped their hunting of the
zipper and were staring from the other end of the ward, staring with
all their eyes and nostrils at the shocking scene that was being
enacted round Bed 20.
Should she speak to him? try to bring him back to a
sense of decency? remind him of where he was? of what fatal mischief
he might do to these poor innocents?
Undoing all their wholesome death-conditioning with
this disgusting outcry–as though death were something terrible, as
though any one mattered as much as all that! It might give them the
most disastrous ideas about the subject, might upset them into
reacting in the entirely wrong, the utterly anti-social way.
She stepped forward, she touched him on the
shoulder. "Can't you behave?" she said in a low, angry voice. But,
looking around, she saw that half a dozen twins were already on
their feet and advancing down the ward. The circle was
disintegrating. In another moment … No, the risk was too great; the
whole Group might be put back six or seven months in its
conditioning. She hurried back towards her menaced charges.
"Now, who wants a chocolate éclair?" she asked in a
loud, cheerful tone.
"Me!" yelled the entire Bokanovsky Group in chorus.
Bed 20 was completely forgotten.
"Oh, God, God, God …" the Savage kept repeating to
himself. In the chaos of grief and remorse that filled his mind it
was the one articulate word. "God!" he whispered it aloud. "God …"
saying?" said a voice, very near, distinct and shrill through the
warblings of the Super-Wurlitzer.
The Savage violently started and, uncovering his
face, looked round. Five khaki twins, each with the stump of a long
éclair in his right hand, and their identical faces variously
smeared with liquid chocolate, were standing in a row, puggily
goggling at him.
They met his eyes and simultaneously grinned. One of
them pointed with his éclair butt.
"Is she dead?" he asked.
The Savage stared at them for a moment in silence.
Then in silence he rose to his feet, in silence slowly walked
towards the door.
"Is she dead?" repeated the inquisitive twin
trotting at his side.
The Savage looked down at him and still without
speaking pushed him away. The twin fell on the floor and at once
began to howl. The Savage did not even look round.
Huxley, Brave New World, 1932
Death of The Savage:
With a whoop of delighted excitement the line broke;
there was a convergent stampede towards that magnetic centre of
attraction. Pain was a fascinating horror.
lechery, fry!" Frenzied, the Savage slashed again.
Hungrily they gathered round, pushing and scrambling
like swine about the trough.
"Oh, the flesh!" The Savage ground his teeth. This
time it was on his shoulders that the whip descended. "Kill it, kill
Drawn by the fascination of the horror of pain and,
from within, impelled by that habit of cooperation, that desire for
unanimity and atonement, which their conditioning had so
ineradicably implanted in them, they began to mime the frenzy of his
gestures, striking at one another as the Savage struck at his own
rebellious flesh, or at that plump incarnation of turpitude writhing
in the heather at his feet.
"Kill it, kill it, kill it …" The Savage went on
Then suddenly somebody started singing "Orgy-porgy"
and, in a moment, they had all caught up the refrain and, singing,
had begun to dance. Orgy-porgy, round and round and round, beating
one another in six-eight time. Orgy-porgy …
It was after midnight when the last of the
helicopters took its flight. Stupefied by soma, and exhausted by a
long-drawn frenzy of sensuality, the Savage lay sleeping in the
heather. The sun was already high when he awoke. He lay for a
moment, blinking in owlish incomprehension at the light; then
"Oh, my God, my God!" He covered his eyes with his
evening the swarm of helicopters that came buzzing across the Hog's
Back was a dark cloud ten kilometres long. The description of last
night's orgy of atonement had been in all the papers.
"Savage!" called the first arrivals, as they
alighted from their machine. "Mr. Savage!"
There was no answer.
The door of the lighthouse was ajar. They pushed it
open and walked into a shuttered twilight. Through an archway on the
further side of the room they could see the bottom of the staircase
that led up to the higher floors. 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. …