It took me a while to finish Brave New World. To be fair, I did move halfway across the country mid-book. I’m cutting myself some slack.
Anyways, the ending to the book is very interesting. And I have several thoughts as to what it could mean. Honestly, though, I have yet to grasp the deeper meaning of the ending.
The ending revolves around a character introduced halfway through the book: the savage John. The two characters that start the book off are exiled to an island where they are free to be individuals. A rather kind punishment for a couple of characters that threatened the fabric of society. It surprised me. I thought they’d be executed. But the ending few chapters is about the savage Benard found in Malpais.
The savage is a man of civilized descent who was raised in the area known as Malpais. Malpais is analogous to a modern day Indian reservation. Malpais is self-governed and abides by ancient traditions. Unfortunately, since he is of civilized descent he is not accepted into society. His civilized mother is considered the town whore. Her modern promiscuity is not appreciated in the traditional Malpais. The Savage is often ostracized.
He is then taken out of Malpais to London, and is exposed to modernity. As you can guess it doesn’t go well. He doesn’t fit in there either. He also influences two characters, Benard and Helmholtz, to rebel against society.
The three are then brought into the main controller’s office. It is several great quotes and is a great exposition on society and humanity. The chapters where they are in the room with the controller is the reason to read the book. It’s enlightening.
The Savage then chooses a life of self-exile. He lives in a rural area in a lighthouse. Attempts to live off the land, and often self-flagellates. However, society finds him and he becomes an attraction. People often come to take pictures and taunt him. The second to last scene is the savage with a crowd of people taunting him to whip himself. He does and then the crowd goes wild. All the people then clash into a violent orgy. The savage then wakes up the following morning and hangs himself.
The first thing that I think is how the savage doesn’t fit in anywhere. He’s too modern to fit into Malpais. But he’s too savage to fit into modern London. He’s an outsider in both worlds. It makes sense that he would try to escape. When he can’t, he kills himself.
When the savage starts self-flagellating the crowd begins chanting “orgy-porgy.” This is reminiscent of a scene earlier in the book. Helmholtz and the savage discuss Shakespeare, and Bernard would interrupt with “orgy-porgy.” It’s the same pattern of old world traditions interrupted by modern conditioning. I have no idea what this suggests. Lust is interrupting? Is it baseness tainting tradition?
I am also not certain there was an orgy. I googled it. All the sources claim it was an orgy. “orgy-porgy” is also what they say during orgies, but the book never says it’s an orgy. They all start striking each other. Mimicking the savage’s self-flagellation. The book describes what happens as “Stupefied by soma and exhausted by a long drawn frenzy of sensuality, the Savage lay sleeping in the heather.” The first time I read it, I thought they all just beat the tar out of each other. It was only after research that I thought it might be an orgy.
The final orgy/beating scene is reminiscent of the ritual in Malpais. Where the drums beat as a sacrifice is beaten. While in Malpais, the Savage says, “Why wouldn’t they let me be the sacrifice?” To this end, he finally becomes a sacrifice.
The final paragraph describes the savage’s feet as “two unhurried compass needles.” He was pulled in two directions.