Brave New World Chapter 13 Summary

As chapter 13 begins, Henry Foster is asking Lenina on a date, but she puts him off. She just shakes her head no. He tries to find out what is bothering her. After a while she becomes frustrated with him, telling him to "shut up."

What is really bothering her is the lack of attention she is getting from John. Fanny suggests that Lenina should make the first move toward John. Lenina is not sure that will work. John is not like any other man she has ever been with. He has a different way of looking at how people should interact. But, Fanny is insistent, so Lenina takes a 1/2 gramme of soma, puts on a cute little sailor outfit and presents herself at Bernard's apartment. John is hoping Helmholtz will stop by so he can talk to him about his feelings towards Lenina. He doesn't know how to approach her. The Society way of conducting relationships is so foreign to him. He hears a knock at the door and rushes to answer thinking it is Helmholtz. He is stunned to see it is Lenina. She thinks that he is not happy to see her. He assures her the opposite is true. He tells her how much he admires her and of how perfect she is. He tells her of how he wants to prove his worthiness to her.

All this time she is sitting on the couch leaning closer and closer to him, waiting for him to kiss her. Instead he stands up suddenly leaving her just sitting there, embarrassed at the position he has left her in. She is becoming annoyed and a little angry at all this talk and lack of action. He tells of how on the Reservation a man shows a woman his worthiness by bringing her a mountain lion skin. This is a way to propose marriage to her. Lenina is completely confused by all this talk of marriage and mountain lions. She keeps telling him there are no mountain lions in London. If not a mountain lion skin, then there must be something he can do as a noble gesture to show her he is worthy of her. All she wants is to have sex with him. He wants to have a committed long-term relationship with her. When he finally blurts out that he loves her, she is thrilled.

Then he tells her that he wants to marry her, she is shocked and appalled. She tells him that is a "horrible idea." He starts to recite Shakespeare to her and then she is really confused. She has absolutely no idea of what he is talking about. He tries to explain how the people on the Reservation and the characters in Shakespeare's plays all get married. How they spend the rest of their lives loving just one person. It is all beyond her capability to comprehend. She just wants to know if he reciprocates the feelings she has for him. He confesses that he loves her above all else. This is all she needs to hear.

This is where it all goes awry for Lenina. She starts to undress for John, thinking that they were going to go to bed together. John is horrified as she begins to take her clothes off. The more animated she becomes the more horrified and appalled he becomes. Finally as she has him pinned against a wall he can take no more. He rips her hands away from his shoulders and calls her a whore. He in fact calls her an "impudent strumpet." He tells her to leave the room before he kills her. She rushes from the room in terror, to take refuge in the bathroom. She is shaking in the bathroom while he is pacing in the living room, in turns quoting Shakespeare and calling her a strumpet. Finally Lenina gathers herself together enough to ask him to give her her clothes. Which he does through the ventilator at the top of the bathroom door.

While this is all happening John receives a phone call. As we only are given John's side of the conversation we have to infer that his mother is ill and has been taken to a hospital.

Having heard the door slam Lenina thinks maybe it is safe for her to come out of the bathroom. Slowly she emerges all the while listening and looking for John. She finally makes a run for the front door and rushes for the elevator. She does not feel safe until she is on her way down the elevator.

This chapter shows how different cultures show affection. It also highlights the different expectations of different societies. While Lenina has a great deal of affection for John, all she really wants is a casual relationship. This is what her conditioning has taught her to expect from relationships. While John, by observing the Indians and reading Shakespeare, has the expectation of marriage. Not only does he expect to marry but, he also expects to have to prove himself worthy of the woman he loves. When these two different expectations collide it can only lead to disaster. Also the phone call about John's mother foreshadows what is to come in the next chapter.

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