Brave New World begins in what is called the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre. Henry Foster, an assistant to the Director, is leading a group of boys on a tour. Henry teaches the boys about the Bokanovsky and Podsnap processes which make it possible for the Hatchery to produce thousands of nearly identical human embryos.
We learn that during the gestation period, the embryos are placed in bottles which flow down a conveyor belt as in a factory whereby they are sorted into five categories: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Epsilon. From these designations the various castes of society will be made. The Alpha are to become the leaders and thinkers of what is called the World State.
Each descending caste is to be less intelligent and able to think on their own. Epsilons, as the lowest caste, are oxygen starved and treated with chemicals to ensure that they will be suited only to menial tasks. As the boys continue their tour, another worker, Lenina Crowne, explains how she vaccinates some for the embryos to make them ready for tropical climates.
The boys are then taken to a Nursery. Here they observe a group of Delta infants being re-programmed to dislike books and flowers. The Director explains that this type of conditioning makes them well disposed to being docile consumers.
Further on, the Director explains to the boys about the method for teaching the morals of the world. This is called the “hypnopaedic” method, or sleep-teaching, in which older children are exposed to a whispering voice while the nap which explains the moral lessons on “Elementary Class Consciousness.” The Director then shows the boys hundreds of naked children as they play games with names like “Centrifugal Bumble-puppy,” and also engage in sexual play.
The boys are then introduced to one of ten of the principle world leaders, Mustapha Mond, who proceeds to explain the history of the World State. He focuses particularly on the State’s efforts to strip the world of strong emotions and desires, and to undo strong personal relationships.
While all of this is progressing, Lenina talks with Fanny Crowne while they are in the bathroom. Lenina confides on Fanny about her relationship with Henry Foster. Fanny gently scolds Lenina on the fact that she and Henry had been seeing each other for nearly four months. Lenina also confesses that she is oddly attracted the strange and slightly funny-looking Bernard Marx. Meanwhile, in another part of the Hatchery, Bernard becomes enraged when he overhears a conversation between Henry and the Assistant Predestinator in which they discuss “having” Lenina as if to suggest a sexual encounter.
Later in the day we find Lenina and Bernard discussing a trip they tentatively planned to the Savage Reservation. She tells him she would be happy to go with him. Bernard is slightly embarrassed but nonetheless happy about this. He later takes a helicopter to meet a friend, Helmholtz Watson. They discuss their dissatisfaction with their jobs and the World State. Helmholtz feels he is too small for the caste he has been born into, and Bernard feels he is too intelligent to write hypnopaedic phrases.
After a few days, Bernard requests permission from the Director to visit the Reservation. At this the Director recounts something of a cautionary tale about his own visit to the Reservation twenty years ago. He tells Bernard that he visited the Reservation with woman. She disappeared in a storm and was never found. But he gives Bernard the permit to visit.
Soon after, Bernard and Lenina visit the Reservation. They obtain another permit from the Warden. Before going in, Bernard makes a call to Helmholtz and finds out some ominous news. Helmholtz explains that the Director is unsatisfied with what he perceives as Bernard’s unsocial behavior and he is planning to send Bernard into exile to Iceland when he returns. Bernard is upset and he is angry, but he continues on with his trip to the Reservation.
Bernard and Lenina are shocked at what they see on the Reservation. The residents show signs of age which are totally unknown in the World State. They witness a young man being whipped as part of a religious ritual and they find this horrifying.
They meet a young man named John who has been isolated from the rest of the village. As John tells them about his life they find out that he is the son of a woman named Linda who had been rescued by the villagers about twenty years ago. Bernard makes the connection that this woman is almost certainly the woman mentioned by the Director. John goes on the explain that Linda had been ostracized for her willingness to have sex with the men in the village.
It is because of this that John had been raised in such isolation. John tells them that he learned to read from two books, The Chemical and Bacteriological Conditioning of the Embryoand The Complete Works of Shakespeare. He found these books after they were given to Linda as a gift from a man named Pope who was one of her lovers. John makes it known that he is anxious to see the “other place,” or the “brave new world” outside the Reservation which he learned about from his mother. With this, Bernard invites John to return with him to the World State. John agrees but only on condition that Linda be allowed to come with him.
Lenina, on the other hand, is utterly disgusted by the Reservation and takes enough Soma to sedate herself for hours. Bernard then flies to Santa Fe where he gets in touch with Mustapha to ask permission to bring John and Linda back to the World State. Shortly after this, John breaks into the house where Lenina is sleeping off her Soma. He contemplates sexually assaulting her but does not follow through with the impulse.
Finally, Bernard, Lenina, John, and Linda all fly back to the World State. The Director is waiting to exile Bernard in front of his Alpha coworkers in order to humiliate him. John is able to beat him to the punch as he introduces John and Linda, which potentially reveals the prior indiscretions of the Director. That he is a “father” brings shame on the Director and compels him to resign and sets Bernard free.
John, it turns out, becomes popular in London. His strange life and his experiences on the Reservation are curiosities to those who life in the World State. At the same time, John is increasingly troubled by what he sees in the World State. The factories and schools are upsetting to him. He has increasing desire for Lenina yet his feelings are more than lust and this confuses him. Lenina is just as confused because John does not seem to want to have sex with her.
Along the way, Bernard becomes noted as the discoverer and the guardian of the “Savage.” He uses this fame to his advantage and seduces multiple women and hostes lavish parties. He hosts celebrities who are simply using him just to meet John. On one particular night, John refuses to see the guests which include the Arch-Community Songster and this destroys Bernard’s flimsy social status.
Soon after this, Bernard introduces John to Helmholtz and the two are quickly taking a liking to each other. John is foreign to Helmholtz and displays things that Helmholtz finds funny. For example, John reads passages from Romeo and Juliet which describe love, marriage, and parents. Helmholtz thinks this is hilarious and almost disgusting since these ideas are foreign and even ridiculous to World State Culture.
Lenina becomes obsessed with John. She begins to refuse invitations from others to do things, including Henry. She takes soma and visits John at Bernard’s apartment with the intention of seducing him. John responds to her with rage. He curses and attacks her. Lenina hides in the bathroom. This is interrupted as John gets a phone call informing him that Linda, who has been in a soma-induced stupor, is dying.
John visits her at the Hospital for the Dying and arrives in time to see her die. As she dies, a group of lower-caste boys who are present to be given their “death-conditioning” look on and openly wonder why she is so unattractive. This sends John into a rage. He runs into a group of “Delta clones” who are taking their soma ration. John tries to tell them that they should fight against this. He throws their soma out the window witch incites a riot. When Bernard and Helmholtz get word of the riot they rush to the scene to help John. The police calm the disturbance with soma vapor and John, Helmholtz, and Bernard are taken into custody. They are taken to Mustapha Mond.
As Mond tries to explain the value of the World State’s sense of order, John argues with him. He explains that the World State has sacrificed humanity for the sake of order. Mond explains that the World State sees stability and safety as more important that humanity, and that art, science, and religion are threats to this stability. John tells him that in the absence of these things, life is not worth living. Bernard becomes hysterical as he learns that he and Helmholtz will be exiled to distant islands and he is dragged from the room. Helmholtz accepts this news, he takes it as a blessing. All the while, John and Mond continues to debate the ethics of the World State.
After refusing the invitation to join Bernard and Helmholtz in exile at the island, John retires to a lighthouse in the country. He spends his days tending his gardens and, in an attempt to purify himself, he flagellates himself. Eventually citizens of the World State discover where he is and track him down. Reporters from the World State try to film him flagellating himself.
People begin flooding John’s peaceful retreat. Lenina finally finds him and tries to win him over. John becomes mad with it all. He screams “Kill it” while whipping himself. The entire scene descends into an orgy. After it is all over, John wakes and realizes what has happened. Overwhelmed with grief and despair and the hopelessness of the World State, John commits suicide.