Brave New World Quotes – The Most Important Lines Explained

May 10, 2024

brave new world quotes

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a classic of dystopian literature. As a cultural touchstone, you’ve no doubt seen references to it in popular culture. It’s been adapted to no less than four TV movies, three radio broadcasts, and at least one theater production. (As a humorous aside, recall that Sandra Bullock’s character in Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes – is named Lenina Huxley after the main character in Brave New World.) If you already know the basic plot of the book, this article will give you specific quotes from Brave New World to help you understand and analyze some of the important moments in the text. (if it’s been a while since you’ve read it, here’s a chapter-by-chapter summary of Brave New World.)

All my quotes come from Project Gutenberg’s Brave New World

“O, brave new world, that has such people in it.” 

This is, by far, the most important quote of Huxley’s text. It provides both the title of the book and links the text to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. (If you’re interested, here’s a summary of The Tempest.) John recites these lines three times – once when Bernard offers to take him back to London, once when he sees numberless twins working in a factory, and then again after his mother’s death. Before we look at how this quote functions in Huxely’s novel, it’s worth taking a look at its original context.

Huxley’s Brave New World and Shakespeare’s The Tempest

In The Tempest, a magician named Prospero (formerly the Duke of Milan) lives on an island with his daughter Miranda. He escaped to this island 12 years previous as a result of his being deposed by his brother Antonio. When a boat carrying Antonio sails near the island, Prospero raises a terrible storm and transports Antonio and his son Ferdinand to the island to exact his revenge. Upon meeting Ferdinand and Antonio in Act 5, scene 1, Miranda declares, “O brave new world, that has such people in’t.” 

John and Miranda

The resonance between Miranda and John are clear. Like Miranda, John is naive and assumes the best about this “brave new world” and its inhabitants. More troubling is the fact that both Miranda and John are completely dependent on a guardian whose interests may not align with those of his charge. Prospero aims to marry off Miranda to reclaim his political power. Bernard uses John’s celebrity to get girls and hobnob with the alpha-plus elites he’s always (up to this point) disdained. We must not forget that when Miranda makes her declaration, Prospero replies, “’Tis new to thee.” Prospero, like Bernard, knows that his charge speaks from naive ignorance. 

Now that we know a bit about the original context, let’s look more closely at the quote in Brave New World. Though John first says the line when he’s talking to Bernard about going to London, his thoughts are actually on Lenina – “an angel in bottle-green viscose, lustrous with youth…benevolently smiling.” John then briefly panics, thinking that Bernard and Lenina might be married. When Bernard assures him that they are not, John repeats the line in full. 

Brave New World Quotes (Continued)

In this moment, the connection between John and Miranda is clearest. Like Miranda, John is struck by the beauty of the inhabitants of this “brave new world.” Bernard’s response to John is similar to Prospero’s response to Miranda. To John’s naive pronouncement, Bernard asks, “‘And, anyhow, hadn’t you better wait till you actually see the new world?’” While this quote certainly establishes John as a Shakspeare-reading savage (Shakespeare being banned in the World State), it also establishes his Miranda-like naivete and his dependence on his own Prospero (Bernard)

O, brave new world??? (barf!) 

The second time John marvels at this “brave new world” is markedly different. John is touring a factory that is staffed by several lower-caste Bokanovsky groups (effectively large groups of twins). At this moment, “by some malice of his memory,” John thinks of Miranda’s words. Then, to the surprise of everyone, John begins “violently retching, behind a clump of laurels, as though the solid earth had been a helicopter in an air pocket.”

There are at least two levels of significance to this moment. First and foremost, the repetition of this line illustrates John’s disillusionment with the new world. By repeating the same line with different affect (and reaction), the text shows the reader how John’s opinion of the new world has changed during his very brief time in London. Secondly, this moment shows John becoming aware of his own previous interpretation. John’s violent physical reaction is certainly due to his revulsion to the Bokanovsky twins. However, John is also reacting to a previous, naive version of himself. In other words, John looks back “by some malice of his memory” to a previous version of himself interpreting Shakespeare. Quite simply, John is reading himself reading. 

O, brave new world!!! (revolution!)

John utters this line for the last time after the death of Linda, his mother. John has exited the Park Lane Hospital for the dying and walks inadvertently into a crowd of Deltas waiting for their daily soma ration. Having just seen his mother die, John isn’t in a good place. As he looks at the identical faces of 160-odd Deltas, Miranda’s words “mocked him derisively.” But then something changes. Standing in the crowd of Deltas, Shakespeare’s words transmute into something aspirational. 

“‘O brave new world, O brave new world…’ In his mind, the singing words seemed to change their tone. They had mocked him through his misery and remorse, mocked him with how hideous a note of cynical derision! Fiendishly laughing, they had insisted on the low squalor, the nauseous ugliness of the nightmare. Now, suddenly, they trumpeted a call to arms. ‘O brave new world!’ Miranda was proclaiming the possibility of loveliness, the possibility of transforming even the nightmare into something fine and noble. ‘O brave new world!’ It was a challenge, a command.”

Suddenly, the quote has new power. When John was in the factory, the words were an ironic comment on the monstrosity of the economic caste system. Now they have a talismanic power that motivates John to action. 

“O, brave new world, that has such people in it.” (redux) 

There are certainly other important quotes in Huxley’s Brave New World (which I’ll discuss below), but this thrice-repeated invocation is crucial to understanding John’s transformation into a self-conscious being. When he first says it on the reservation, he is a passive receptor of received ideas about the “brave new world.” When he says it a second time, he is disgusted with his former naivete. However, when he says it for the final time, he has become capable of asserting novel meaning into the world. 

Is John a Miranda or a Caliban?

It’s clear that Shakespeare’s The Tempest allows John to assert his agency in Huxley’s text. Throughout the book, John is identified with Miranda, the source of “O brave new world.” However, near the end of the book, John begins to be identified with Caliban, the “savage” inhabitant of the island who Prospero dominates and enslaves. 

After the soma riot, John, Heimholtz, and Bernard are taken into custody and brought to Mustapha Mond to face judgment. When Mustapha asks John whether he likes civilization, John says no, though he does like “All that music in the air, for instance…’”. Mustapha then shocks John by quoting The Tempest back to him, saying “‘Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about my ears, and sometimes voices.’” The content of this quote is less important than the source. Up to this point, John has exclusively been aligned with Miranda. In a significant turn of events, the line that Mond quotes is spoken by Caliban, Prospero’s slave. 

Brave New World Quotes (Continued)

What is important here is that, for the first time, Huxley’s text aligns John with someone besides Miranda. The line Mond quotes is spoken by Caliban as the latter is describing the island to his co-conspirators (they’re plotting to kill Prospero). In some ways this change of identification makes sense – like Caliban, John chafes at the restrictions of his new masters. (After all, he was just arrested throwing boxes of soma out the window.) 

At the same time, this new identification suggests an ambiguous fate for John. Caliban is the “savage” that lived on the island with his mother before the arrival of Prospero and Miranda. Therefore, it makes sense for John to be cast in that role. What is puzzling is that in The Tempest, Prospero returns to Milan and leaves the island to Caliban – a very different fate than awaits John. 

Other Quotes

“‘Was and will make me ill,’ she quoted, ‘I take a gramme and only am.’”

This is just one of the many hypnopædic lessons that Lenina recites during the book, but it’s particularly important because it shows how the World State understands time. (Recall that hypnopædic sayings are the snippets of moral instruction that are played thousands of times while children sleep. Others include: “The more stitches the less riches;” “Ending is better than mending; ending is better…;” and “A gramme [of soma] is better than a damn.”)

Brave New World Quotes (Continued)

This particular lesson situates the individual in an eternal present (from which there is no escape). There can be no past or future in the World State. To admit the existence of time would necessitate a consideration of moral and ethical consequences. The citizens of the World State must be corralled into constant “nowness” so that there can be neither striving nor disappointment. (We see this same relationship to time when Mustapha Mond declares “‘You all remember…that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford’s: History is bunk.’”)

“‘I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.’”

This quote from Lenina Crowne encapsulates the ideology of the World State. Behind the World State’s definition of “freedom” lies a circumscribed understanding of what it means to be human. For Lenina and the other citizens of the World State, “freedom” means avoiding doubt, pain, and any form of struggle. For John, freedom means something very different. In the last lines of his conversation with Mustapha Mond, John declares, “‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” For John, true freedom is the right to experience the whole range of human emotions – including the right to be unhappy. 

Brave New World Quotes –  Wrapping Up

Huxley’s Brave New World presents an oft-prescient take on state oppression. In contrast to Orwell’s 1984, Huxley presents a world that has pacified its citizens by rendering their lives completely and utterly “happy.” In a world increasingly obsessed with social media and the internet, it’s a vision that asks us what we’re willing to trade for stability. 

If you’ve found this analysis interesting, I’d encourage you to take a look at my analysis of other texts – 1984, Hamlet, and The Great Gatsby. And if you think that literature and creative writing might be something you’d like to study at university, check out the best colleges for English and the best colleges for Creative Writing.