January 16, 2004

The Plight of the Young Savage

In Aldous Huxley's novel, "Brave New World", John (the young "Savage") was confronted with the degraded condition his mother, Linda. After reading the scene, I was struck by some similarities to events in my own life... (see the URL above, from my family history site)

Linda was once a member of the proper, modern society, but became pregnant and abandoned by a high-level city Administrator during a holiday to a distant New Mexico Reservation years earlier. She bore her son on the reservation and eventually integrated herself into that lifestyle.

John and Linda come back to the city when John was a young man, and John experienced and confronted its (to him) peculiar ways, while his Mother, who had a much more difficult time reconciling herself with the now unfamiliar lifestyle, succumbed to heavy drug use and escapist entertainment.

When John caught up with Linda again, she had been institutionalized in the "Park Lane Hospital for the Dying", a vast palliative care facility where the inhabitants passed comfortably into senility and death while placated by heavy drug-induced dementia and pleasant television broadcasts.

Having lived much of her life in the "savage" lands, an Indian reservation in New Mexico, far away from the great modern city of London, Linda has had a much more difficult and less healthy lifestyle than the city dwellers, and appeared to have aged beyond her years. Once she was clean and perfect, genetically engineered into her caste, and conditioned for a particular role in her society, but now she is forty-ish and fat, and her wrinkles and missing teeth seem to make her look like a monster in the eyes of the city dwellers, to whom youth and cleanliness are assumed to be the norm.

John finds his mother in a bed far at the end of the ward, half unconscious in her "soma coma" - soma is the drug of choice in Huxley's brave new world. Linda barely acknowledges John's presence, but eventually is shaken out of her stupor and has a brief moment of clarity, recognizing her son's face and calling him by name, before choking and suffocating to death. John is furious at not being able to reach her, and blames the society's dependence on soma which prevented them and his own mother from seeing the truth of their condition.

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