John and The Elements of Anti-Heroism in Brave New World, a Novel by Aldous Huxley

A large amount of literature follows the same general patterns of plot patterns and characterization. When beginning to study literature, most are taught the five elements of a plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Similarly, characters are placed into categories of archetypes, ranging from the hero and the mother figure to the villain and the scapegoat. For some works, categorizing characters into these archetypes is simple. Ursula is the villain of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, while Ariel is the hero.

These categories become less clear when characters become real and show true human qualities.

For this reason, the anti-hero archetype becomes evident. The anti-hero, unlike the hero who departs on a quest and saves the day with no shortcomings in his morality, combines the goodness of the hero with the flaws of the villain to create an accurate portrayal of human nature while still being the character that readers look upon to save the day.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, there is no clear hero or anti-hero.

Even the main protagonist of the novel switches during the story – Bernard Marx’s importance fades as John the Savage becomes the vital character. By creating protagonists of humanity in its purest form – or at least the purest form allowed by the World State – Huxley creates the perfect anti-hero in John the Savage.

Bernard Marx could potentially be the anti-hero of Brave New World, but the shift in protagonists pushes Bernard to the side as readers become attached to John.

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Readers initially find themselves drawn to Bernard due to his inability to fit in. Bernard is seen as the underdog due to exclusion based on “his diminutive size” (Connelly 28). His shorter stature leads to individuality, as he often finds “himself looking on the level, instead of downward, into a Delta’s face” thus defying the typicality of the caste system (Huxley 64).

His individuality within the uniform society leads to his humanity in the anti-hero archetype. Bernard spends much of his time as the protagonist fighting himself. On one hand, he desperately yearns to be accepted in the World State as the Alpha Plus he is meant to be, but he also desires to “rebel and nourish his self-identity” (Connelly 29). This inner conflict demonstrates his position as a troubled protagonist that has already gained the favor of the readers.

In the broadest terms of a hero, Hemholtz Watson could have easily changed to fit the description. Hemholtz was an Alpha Plus, yet he excelled beyond the standard Alpha Plus. He was more intelligent, more attractive, and just better in general. He is well liked by the other characters. His superhuman description grants him some archetypal heroism. In order to be the hero, Hemholtz Watson would have needed to stand up to Mustapha Mond and challenge the World State. Because of his heroic potential, Hemholtz has the best chance of creating a revolution and sparking a change.

John is as human as a character can be. Out of the major characters of Brave New World, John is the only one who would be considered truly and completely human through the eyes of modern readers, and this is because of the lack of science surrounding his birth. Within the major characters – John the Savage, Lenina Crowne, Mustapha Mond, Bernard Marx, and Hemholtz Watson – John is the only person with a natural birth. In this alone, John is the only character that readers can relate to.

With the introduction of John, readers lose all interest in Bernard Marx. The qualities that drew readers the Bernard are intensified in John, who is an outsider in his home at the reservation as well as in the so-called civilization of the World State. The sympathy that Bernard drew is immediately refocused to John, who then takes over as the protagonist of Brave New World.

The protagonist of a story is not always the hero of a story. As we saw with Bernard Marx, humanity can get in the way of true literary heroism, creating an anti-hero. John is not victorious in his cause. Although he proves himself to be a highly intelligent individual with potential heroic capabilities, John is not able to defeat the villain and save the day as literary heroes ought to do. Suicide abruptly ends his quest.

John’s heroism stems from his debate with Mustapha Mond, in which he demonstrates that his lack of civilization has no effect on his intellectual capabilities. John the Savage goes against arguably the most intelligent man in London, and many will say that John won the discussion by bringing humanity into the equation. Mustapha argues that the world’s stability is perfect as the citizens are “safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age” (Huxley 220). John argues with contemporary morality: “I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want sin” (240). In claiming the right to be unhappy, John is claiming the right to humanity as contemporary readers see it. John is claiming the right to “have free will, choices, initiative, and spiritual freedom” (Izzo).

John is a rebel in the World State, but his rebellion is easily destroyed. John could very easily become a martyr to the rebellion cause. He could be the Rue to another rebel’s Katniss (perhaps Bernard could regain the status of protagonist and even become the hero to the World State), but Huxley does not grant a view into the future of the World State.

Aldous Huxley presents complex characters that do not fit traditionally into archetypal roles. Through the humanity of John the Savage, readers are left with the closest thing to a hero as they can find, but the heroism is in the form of an anti-hero. Through the morality and pure humanity of John, readers find the character to root for despite flaws in morality, and the so-called hero fails his mission.

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John and The Elements of Anti-Heroism in Brave New World, a Novel by Aldous Huxley. (2023, Feb 18). Retrieved from

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