Lenina soon discovers that she has forgotten her soma, so she must experience the Indian village of Malpais as an unmedicated reality. In quick succession, she and Bernard witness old age in the figure of an ancient Indian, Indian mothers nursing their babies, and a hedonistic ritual dance that fuses Christian and Indian religion. This wild dance ends with a coyote-masked shaman whipping a young man until he collapses — a blood sacrifice to bring the rain and make the corn grow.
After this bloody spectacle, Bernard and Lenina meet a straw-haired, blue-eyed young man dressed — incongruously, it seems — as an Indian. Strangely, too, the young man speaks like a character from Shakespeare and tells them that his mother — Linda — comes from the “Other Place.” When he also mentions that his father was named “Tomakin,” Bernard connects this young man with the D.H.C.’s visit to the Reservation.
The young savage introduces them to Linda — a “very stout blonde squaw,” who tells Lenina and Bernard her strange story of being abducted by the Indians. She has spent much of her life on the Reservation, she explains, where she gave birth to her son, John, the young savage.
In this chapter, Huxley opens another part of his dystopian world — the Savage Reservation — contrasting it implicitly and explicitly with the world of London, where the rest of the novel is set.
In one sense, Malpais represents the opposite of the rest of the dystopia, an “uncivilized” place against which the reader — as well as tourists Bernard and Lenina — can gauge the imagined progress of the “civilized” world. Here, on the Savage Reservation, age changes people unchecked by chemicals and hormones; women give birth and breastfeed their babies; and the natural process of decay produces sights and smells that appall the sensitive Lenina. In fact, “Civilization is Sterilization” underscores most of Lenina’s experience in the Reservation. Fordian London is so clean that birth and old age have been swept away entirely, like germ-producing bacteria. But in Malpais, the pains of birth and death exist and endure unconquered — still the essential facts of human life.
Lenina faces these facts most dramatically in her meeting with Linda, who seems her mirror-double, the woman she might have been under different circumstances. (Note, for example, the similarity between the names “Lenina” and “Linda.”) Linda’s unspeakable fate — to become a mother and to grow old — is nothing less than a horror, an obscenity, really, to a Fordian mind. As an object of blasphemy and revulsion, Linda represents enormous power, one that Bernard will use in a later chapter to regain his position, just as he will use Linda’s son, John, to improve his social standing.
The reader should note Huxley’s careful description of the flagellation ritual, a religious ceremony to ensure a good food crop. Lenina finds the incessant drumming very familiar — just like a lower-caste community sing — and her recognition draws attention to the underlying similarities between civilized and uncivilized worlds. In both worlds, music can suspend inhibition and drive people to unity and to action (recall, for example, Bernard’s Solidarity Service). Whether dressed in rough wool or shiny viscose, Huxley reveals, people are still people, open and vulnerable to powerful suggestion. Communities of all sorts — whether in Malpais or in London — use similar methods to enforce conformity and so promote social stability.
Note especially the introduction of John, the outsider born on the reservation who emerges as a contrast to Bernard in rebellious thought. Huxley dramatizes the conflict that will develop between John and the expectations of the “Other Place” in his first exchange with Lenina, a bizarre trading of Shakespearean verse and hypnopaedic suggestion. From this chapter onward, John and his struggle become the focus of the novel.
treble high-pitched or shrill.
Octoroon a person who has one black great-grandparent.
Good-morrow old-fashioned greeting, used in Shakespeare’s time, to mean “good day.”
mescal a colorless alcoholic liquor of Mexico made from pulque or other fermented agave juice.
peyote a small, spineless cactus of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, with rounded stems whose buttonlike tops are chewed, specifically in religious ceremonies by Mexican Indians, for their hallucinogenic effects.