The children annoy John, making it impossible for him to speak with his dying mother. When Linda wakes from a soma dream and mistakes her son for Pope, John’s misery turns to fury. At the moment of death, Linda’s terrified eyes seem a reproach to her son. John leaves the hospital angry and distraught.
The chapter offers a detailed description of the conventional manner of dying in the dystopia, while dramatizing John’s very different expectations at the deathbed of his mother, Linda.
In the early chapters, Henry Foster, the D.H.C., and Mustapha Mond present the facts of death in the dystopia as well as the social theories behind the practices. Everyone remains young-looking through chemical treatments, until at sixty death comes in the form of “galloping senility,” a rapid deterioration of mental and then physical powers. Death is characteristically antiseptic, cheery, and meaningless, underscoring the social belief that the end of any one individual matters very little. The ward in which Linda lies dying in a soma trance, then, is strictly conventional by dystopian standards.
But John brings a different consciousness to Linda’s death, formed by life and death in Malpais, and Shakespeare’s emotional death scenes. Bothered by cheery nurses and curious Delta children, John tries to summon up his childhood memories of his mother, so as to rekindle his love for her and to experience the meaning of his loss. Although the setting distracts John and the children infuriate him, he still has hope of forging a union with his mother that will live beyond her death.
With Linda’s whisper, “Pope,” however, John realizes that they are still apart, separated by soma and sexual dreaming. To the end, Linda remains the well-conditioned Fordian rather than John’s mother. Indeed, her last words are not “my son,” or “I love you,” but the broken-off hypnopaedic suggestion for recreational sex: “Every one belongs to every . . . .”
Note Linda’s last look, described in Huxley’s phrase as “charged with terror” — the sudden realization of her mortality. To John, the look seems to reproach him; in fact, he believes that he has killed her. John’s guilt about his mother’s death will re-emerge in later chapters, finally driving him to violence and isolation — an end that Huxley hints at in the conclusion of this chapter, when John pushes away a curious child roughly enough to force him to the floor.
caffeine solution Huxley’s phrase for a tea-like drink in the brave new world.