The chapter ends with a phone call for John with the news that his mother is dying.
In this chapter, Lenina determines to approach John for sex directly, rather than continuing to wait for him to take her. In her attempted seduction, Lenina uncovers a disturbingly violent side to John.
So far in London, John has appeared quaint, innocent, and — with the exception of his refusal to join Bernard’s party — agreeable. Lenina, who is eager for sex with “the Savage” experiences frustration but interprets John’s indifference as simple shyness, which she can overcome by taking a firm hand with him. The possibility that John’s sexual restraint is the expression of his own deeply held values and beliefs never occurs to her.
Lenina’s frustration recalls the incident in Chapter 3 when a student remembers having to wait a month before a young woman would have sex with him. The emotional intensity was “horrible,” just like Lenina’s longing, but the passion ended with sexual relief. In taking the sensible Fanny’s advice to force the issue with John — and thus get her anti-social feelings over with — Lenina expects the same relief. Conditioned to think of sex as recreational and relationships as fluid and changing, Lenina does not recognize that her curiosity, attraction, and regard for John is, in fact, a serious infatuation that may become love.
The resulting seduction scene is a farce, with neither Lenina nor John knowing what the other is really thinking or feeling. Lenina’s plan is straightforward — a direct invitation, undressing, a few lines of a love song, and sex will most certainly follow. But John’s view of romance takes a more complex form. Both the traditions of Malpais and the poetry of Shakespeare demand a period of trials, an enforced labor, that will earn the lover the right to marry his beloved.
But trials, labor, and marriage have no meaning in the dystopia. In continuing her sexual approach, Lenina unknowingly steps outside the boundaries that John’s education have set down for a worthy women. In John’s eyes, if Lenina is not a prize to be won through suffering, then she must be a whore — a “strumpet” to be scorned.
John’s early experience has taught him to associate sex with violence, and his conditioning suddenly takes over as his romantic vision of Lenina disappears. As he shakes her violently, slaps and threatens to kill her, he mutters Shakespeare’s most passionate verses about unfaithful women, the “drums and music” of the fierce poetry goading him on in his fury. Again, Huxley underlines the relationship of music with the disappearance of inhibition and the expression of strong emotion. John’s outburst here looks forward to his later violent passions after leaving London — especially the “atonement” that ends in his death.
strumpet a prostitute.
fitchew a polecat or weasel. John’s quotation of Shakespeare refers to the popular tradition of the fitchew’s enthusiasm for mating.
civet a yellowish, fatty substance with a musklike scent, secreted by a gland near the genitals of the civet cat and used in making some perfumes. Here, John quotes Shakespeare’s sarcastic use of the term to mean a sweet scent. Pure civet is foul-smelling.
usurp to take or assume by force or without right.