John represents the most important and most complex character of Brave New World, a stark contrast to Bernard, the would-be rebel. Bernard’s dissatisfaction with his society expresses itself most characteristically in sullen resentment and imagined heroism, but John lives out his ideals, however unwisely. In turning aside Lenina’s advances, John rejects the society’s values. He acts boldly in calling the Deltas to rebellion and in throwing out the soma. Finally, he faces the powerful Mustapha Mond deliberately and intelligently and sets out on his own to create a life for himself, which ends in tragedy.
If anyone, John should be the character to challenge and to bring down the Brave New World that is stifling humanity. In the end, John cannot change the society, because he is blocked within and without. Mustapha Mond makes clear the power of the World State to resist any unstablizing force. But John is also held back by his own destructive tendencies toward violence and self-loathing.
Although John despises conditioning, Huxley reveals that John has been conditioned, too. Because of the terrible conditions of his life in Malpais, John associates sex with humiliation and pain and character with suffering, and this destructive view gains further power in John’s response to the poetry of Shakespeare.
John’s conditioning limits his ability to act freely, making him a deeply flawed potential hero. His death is the result of his own imperfect understanding as well as the inhuman forces of the brave new world.