Author: Aldous Huxley
Chapter: Introduction to Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley's writings express the disillusionment of the 1920s, the cynicism of the 1930s, and the questioning of the 1940s. Huxley was the product of the times, and his novels and essays are the expressions of his beliefs and concerns. Huxley's first two important novels, Antic Hay (1923) and Point Counter Point (1928), like T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, express the despair and disillusionment of the period following World War I. By the time he wrote Brave New World (1932), he despaired of man's ability to save himself from himself. But thinking that he had found a possible solution to the dilemma of man, Huxley became interested in the teachings of Eastern mystics. His novel After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939) is a vehicle for many of his ideas; his collection of essays The Perennial Philosophy (1946) is a kind of anthology and commentary drawn from the writings of the mystics. Alexander Henderson (Aldous Huxley, London, 1935) was probably right when he said, "Huxley is primarily a light philosophical essayist using the novel form to present the more superficial modes of contemporary thought and feeling."
Aldous Huxley was born on July 26, 1894, at Godalming, county of Surrey, England. His father was Leonard Huxley, a prominent literary man, and his grandfather was T. H. Huxley, a biologist who led the battle on behalf of the Darwinian evolutionary hypothesis. His mother was a niece of Matthew Arnold, the English poet, essayist, and critic. His family background seems to have prepared him for a variety of interests - everything from anthropology to zoology and from versification to mysticism. His brother Julian is a leading biologist, and Aldous at one time intended to follow a scientific career.
Having been educated at a preparatory school and at Eton, Huxley intended to become a doctor. But having contracted keratitis (an eye disease resulting in near blindness) he was forced to abandon this idea. He learned to read Braille; after two years he had recovered sufficiently so he could read with a magnifying glass. He then attended Balliol College, Oxford, studied English literature and philology, and took his degree in 1915.
It is interesting to note that Huxley considered the onset of eye trouble the most important single event in his life. This enforced isolation acted as a stimulant rather than a depressant - now more than he ever wanted to "see," know, and understand everything. And he did not want to "see" only what was apparent, but also what was implied. The following comment of Huxley seems to summarize this point of view, "My ambition and pleasure are to understand, not to act."
But it would be wrong to think that Huxley cut himself off from society in order to meditate and write. He and his wife (Maria Nys) traveled extensively and entertained frequently. They spent several years in Italy, had a cottage in France, visited India and Central America, and finally settled in California. He was at home with many of the leading authors and critics of his day - Siegfried Sassoon, Wyndham Lewis, the Sitwells, and Robert Graves. He worked with John Middleton Murry on the staff of the Athenaeum magazine, and his friendship with D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda has been widely publicized. Some of the tremendous influence that his studies, his travels, and his friendships had on his work will be alluded to later.
Huxley published several volumes of poetry between 1916 and 1920, when he published Limbo, a collection of stories. In 1921 appeared his first novel, Crome Yellow, which established his reputation. At the same time he was writing articles, reviews, and essays for many periodicals. From the beginning of his literary career we can see his interest in fact and fiction - in poetry and prose. This compulsion to communicate - this desire to express his ideas and convictions on a variety of subjects and in a variety of ways - manifested itself until his death in 1963.
Huxley As Essayist
Huxley was a far greater essayist than he was novelist. Because he wanted to "say something," to make his ideas known, to influence others, his novels often suffer because they are too didactic. Whole sections of his novels could be published as essays since he often makes particular characters spokesmen for his ideas. It was only in the essay that he was free to say without embellishment what he thought and why he thought it. Many of the themes and ideas Huxley develops and expands in his novels were also expressed in his essays.
In his collection of essays Do What You Will (Doubleday, 1929), Huxley urges us to emulate the Greeks, to live a life which considers and accepts both the physical and spiritual elements of man, and to regard all manifestations of life as divine. At one point he says, "Man is multifarious, inconsistent, self-contradictory; the Greeks accepted the fact and lived multifariously, inconsistently, and contradictorily." In his novel Point Counter Point, the most admirable character and the spokesman for Huxley's ideas is Mark Rampion. In chapter nine, when speaking of the Greeks, he says, "They were civilized, they knew how to live harmoniously and completely, with their whole being. . . . We're all barbarians."
In another collection of essays, Ends and Means (Harper, 1937), he discusses the work of the Marquis de Sade, a French novelist and libertine: "de Sade's philosophy was meaningless carried to its logical conclusion. Life was without significance. . . . Sensations and animal pleasures alone possessed reality and were alone worth living for." In his novel After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Huxley creates a character who lives by this philosophy and shows where this philosophy ultimately leads. The character, Jo Stoyte, wishes to find the secret of longevity so he will be able to continue his pursuit of the sensual life; when he discovers that the price of longevity is the loss of humanity, he indicates his willingness to revert to an animal state in order to retain the animal pleasures.
In another essay from the same collection Huxley discusses the change in values which resulted in the state achieving the highest value and significance to the detriment of the individual. "By the end of the twenties a reaction had begun to set in. . . . The universe as a whole still remained meaningless, but certain of its parts, such as the nation, the state, the class, the party, were endowed with significance and the highest value." His concern with this transfer of value from the individual to the state resulted in his brilliant satire, Brave New World. In Huxley's Utopia the individual exists for the state, not the state for the individual. A little further on he discusses the role science plays in our lives and questions the ultimate value of scientific advances. Since the theme of Brave New World is "the advancement of science as it affects human individuals," we can immediately see Huxley's concern with the use and misuse of science: "We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early success of science, but in a rather grisly morning after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimportant or actually deteriorated ends."
In another collection of essays, The Perennial Philosophy (Harper, 1945), Huxley is concerned with the meaning of existence - with the ultimate end of man. He says, "The last end of man, the ultimate reason for human existence, is unitive knowledge of the divine Ground [a spiritual Absolute - a God - without-form] - the knowledge that can come only to those who are prepared to `die to self' and so make room, as it were, for God." In his novel Eyeless in Gaza, Huxley recounts the spiritual pilgrimage of Anthony Beavis towards this end. As he meditates upon his life and his experience, Anthony suddenly understands the meaning and purpose of life, "And now at last it was clear, now by some kind of immediate experience he knew that the point was in the paradox, in the fact that unity was the beginning and unity was the end. . . . Unity with all being." Again Huxley states the same belief and the same idea in a novel and in an essay.
We might also look to the essays for specific comments which will help us to better understand Huxley as a novelist. Two quotations from "Vulgarity in Literature" (in Music at Night, Doubleday, Doran, 1931) are especially important. "Literature is also philosophy, is also science." A little further on he says, "I think it not only permissible, but necessary, that literature should take cognizance of physiology and should investigate the still obscure relations between the mind and its body."
Huxley As A Novelist
The four novels discussed at length in this study guide illustrate many of Huxley's strengths and weaknesses as a novelist. The exuberance of his ideas, his use of wit and satire, the acuteness of his observations of mankind and its foibles, his juxtaposition of fact and fiction - these are his strengths. The shallowness of his characters, his overriding concern with teaching a lesson or pointing up a moral, the imposition at times of an overelaborate framework for the novel, the use of characters and situations which preclude "the illusion of reality" - these are his weaknesses. We can see certain of these strengths and weaknesses in each of the four novels.
Brave New World is Huxley's most popular novel, though not necessarily his most important novel. The reader is "swept along" by Huxley's vision of a Utopian future based on science and technology: he is dumbstruck by Huxley's clever juxtaposition of fact (scientific data) and fiction (future life on earth). The novel is logically developed - Huxley "begins at the beginning" with a detailed account of life in the new World State. But before long we realize that Huxley is not content simply to present a satire of present a future life and let the reader draw his own moral from the story. Instead Huxley allows his preaching to obtrude upon the fantasy he has created, and his characters soon become important only as spokesmen for particular ideas and beliefs.
In Point Counter Point Huxley has created a fantastic array of characters, but none is fully developed; each represents a particular point of view the author wishes to satirize. But there is much wit and humor in the novel and a variety of plots and counterplots which maintain reader interest. The elaborate musical analogy which is woven through the novel is at times distracting but does illustrate Huxley's considerable talent as a storyteller. And the two-angled view of life - the juxtaposition of the physical and the emotional, the esthetic and the scientific, etc. - contributes to the interest and the importance of the novel.
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan combines a highly sensational plot and outlandish characters in a wild and preposterous picture of the Hollywood scene. The caricatures of educators, starlets, doctors, and idealists provide some hilarious situations and some wry commentary on the temporary scene. But Huxley is not content to write a comedy - he creates Mr. Propter as a spokesman for his own ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately Propter is too good to be true, and his intrusions upon the scene tend to inhibit rather than enhance the value of the novel.
Eyeless in Gaza has been hailed not only as Huxley's most significant novel but also as one of the most important novels of the 1930s. In this novel Huxley uses flashbacks to recount one man's search for a meaning in life. The lack of a logical time sequence - the novel shifts backwards and forwards in time - is often distracting but is an attempt to show the unity of life and the unity and diversity of being. Huxley wished to show that an individual - his beliefs, ideas, and ideals - are the result of many influences. In this novel he recounts many of the influences that have molded Anthony Beavis. Perhaps this novel is most successful because it is in many ways a chronicle of Huxley's own search for a meaning in life.
Although Huxley wrote some ten novels, the four briefly discussed here are representative of the strengths and weaknesses of all of them. It is a pity that Huxley was not more concerned with the writing of fiction and less concerned with the expression of personal opinion. Huxley "rigged" his plots and "produced" his characters in order to convey some idea or express some concern - to him plot and characters were valuable only as "purveyors of truth."
The Novels As Autobiography
Because the novelist in some ways has to write about what he thinks, what he believes, and what he knows, every novel in some way may be considered autobiographical. Huxley is no exception. The people he knew, the places he visited, the books he read, the ideas he considered - all contributed to his development as a novelist, a skeptic, and a moralist, and often influenced what he wrote. Considering them in chronological order - Point Counter Point (1928), Brave New World (1932), Eyeless in Gaza (1936), After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939) - we can see some of the ways these novels reflect Huxley's own life and beliefs.
Huxley was disillusioned by the decadence of society and disgusted by the behavior of his class. Point Counter Point is a sardonic portrayal of the futility of life - each of the characters (with one exception) fails to be a harmonious adult. The one exception is Mark Rampion, who is an idealized version of D. H. Lawrence. (Huxley was much impressed by Lawrence and his beliefs, and they were close friends.) Huxley admitted that in some ways he was Philip Quarles and that the Notebook entries expressed many of his own ideas. Most critics consider that in the novel Denis Burlap is an unflattering caricature of Huxley's former editor, John Middleton Murry. Thus we see how circumstances, friends, and beliefs affected this work.
When he wrote Brave New World Huxley showed the extent to which his disillusionment with society and its values had influenced him. As noted in his preface to the New Harper edition, at the time the book was written he "toyed" with the idea that "human beings are given free will in order to choose between insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other." And we might well consider that John the Savage's rejection of civilization in the World State paralleled D. H. Lawrence's rejection of the civilization he knew. Also, many of the ideas presented during the discussion in the last chapter of this novel echo many of Huxley's own views and concerns about the effect scientific advancement and technology would have on the individual.
Eyeless in Gaza is the picture of a man groping for a way of life that will bring meaning and purpose to his existence - in many ways it is a picture of Huxley and his change of attitude. In the novel Anthony Beavis changes from a self-indulgent, detached philosopher who sneers at life, to a humanistic pacifist who views life through the eyes of a lover. Huxley's own change of attitude was as remarkable - from a pessimist and portrayer of futility to a prophet and philosopher preaching mysticism. Both Anthony Beavis and Aldous Huxley find peace in Eastern mysticism.
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan is an exaggerated picture of the Hollywood Huxley knew when he lived and worked in California. In the person of Mr. Propter, Huxley has created a spokesman for his own ideas about the need for "liberation from personality, liberation from time and craving, liberation into union with God. . . ." At the time he was writing this novel he was much affected by the views of Gerald Heard, a former science commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation and an advocate of scientific humanism. Many of Mr. Propter's remarks seem to be taken directly from Heard's writings.
Huxley produced an amazing number of novels, essays, poems, short stories, articles, and reviews, as well as forewords, introductions, and prefaces for a variety of works ranging from a translation of the Hindu sacred book Bhagavadgita, the Story of God (Harper, 1951) to Birth Control and Catholic Doctrine (Beacon Press, 1959) and from Studies in Hand-Reading (Knopf, 1937) to The Complete Etchings of Goya (Crown Publishers, 1943). These titles indicate not only the wide range of Huxley's interests and abilities but also specific concerns he felt compelled to comment on. A study of all of Huxley's writings during a specific time period would indicate exactly what those particular interests, influences, and concerns were.
The Conflict In Huxley And His Writing
In Texts and Pretexts Aldous Huxley wrote, "The universe is vast, beautiful, and appalling." If any single sentence could be used to summarize Huxley's attitude, philosophy, and point of view, this might well be it. Huxley is aware of the conflicts within society, and within the individual, and he wants to make the reader aware of these conflicts. In his novels he often stresses the contrast and conflict by giving a two-angled vision of his characters and by considering an event in several aspects - emotional, religious, metaphysical, scientific. This multifaceted view of man, this concern with "unity in diversity," can be both a curse and a blessing for the reader.
A recurring theme in Huxley's novels is that of the young lover who is tortured by an irreconcilable conflict between romantic love and physical sexuality. We see this conflict in the love of the Savage for Lenina (Brave New World), Pete's feeling towards Virginia (After Many a Summer), Walter Bidlake and Marjorie Carling's relationship (Point Counter Point), and Brian Foxe's puritanical attitude regarding his fiancee (Eyeless in Gaza). Since love is both spiritual and physical, involving both the mind and body, a dualism exists and persists.
Huxley has been subjected to much adverse criticism because of his fascination with the human body and its physical functions. His novels are filled with references to the bowels, the viscera, body odor, sickness, and disease at the same time that he is concerned with the mind and the spirit. Huxley wanted his reader to see that man is both body and spirit. He makes reference to the influence of the physical on the mental, the influence of the physiological condition of man on the psychological. As part of this "two-angled view" he often will consider both aspects of the same event. For instance, in Point Counter Point when Lord Edward hears the music of Bach, Huxley describes the process whereby the vibrations stimulate the auditory nerves, at the same time recounting the hearer's pleasure when he recognizes the melody.
Huxley discussed his "two-angled vision" in an interview with Ross Parmenter (Saturday Review, March 19, 1938). He said, "I try to get a stereoscopic vision, to show my characters from two angles simultaneously. Either I try to show them both as they feel themselves to be; or else I try to give two rather similar characters who throw light on each other. . . ." Huxley was not especially successful in using this technique with two different characters because too often his characters can be labeled as "good guys" or "bad guys." Huxley's characters are too often "black" or "white" - only a few are "gray." Huxley is most successful when he uses the "two-angled" vision to show an individual in conflict with himself. Several good examples of the individual in conflict with himself occur in Brave New World.
The incongruous quality of life - its oneness and simultaneous diversity - is the basic emotional conception of Huxley's philosophy. The following comment concerning Philip Quarles (Huxley's alter ego in Point Counter Point) might well summarize the dualism often alluded to in Huxley's novels: ". . . he felt convinced that the proudly conscious intellect ought to humble itself a little and admit the claims of the heart, aye and the bowels, the loins, the bones and skin and muscles, to a fair share of life."
Section: Brave New World
Since its publication in 1932, Brave New World and its author have been the subject of much commentary and much criticism. Many people consider this Huxley's most important work: many others think it is his only work. This novel has been praised and condemned, vilified and glorified, a source of controversy, a subject for sermons, and required reading for many high school students and college undergraduates. This novel has had twenty-seven printings in the United States alone and will probably have twenty-seven more. A third generation is presently reading and discussing Brave New World. We might well ask, "What accounts for the continuing popularity of this novel?" Why does this work continue to attract attention and comment?" The answer lies in Huxley's skill as a writer - a writer of science fiction, a writer of social commentary, a writer with prophetic vision, a writer with a tremendous breadth and depth of interests and ideas, a writer of satire.
Brave New World is a masterpiece of science fiction. Huxley has imaginatively employed scientific facts and theories to produce a classic of its kind. This novel is in the tradition of Jules Verne, the French novelist who wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, and H. G. Wells, the English novelist who wrote War of the Worlds. Few writers of science fiction have equaled Huxley's ability to make the unbelievable seem believable and to make the improbable seem probable. His own interest in science, its use and misuse, its peril and its promise, contributed to the accuracy of his presentation and to the horror of his envisioned Utopia.
Huxley qualifies as a social commentator by reason of his diversified interest, his acquaintance with the great, the near-great, and the not-so-great. His comments are always perceptive, sometime biased, but never dull. He sees little chance of mankind saving itself; he sees mankind inexorably moving toward self-destruction. He sees himself as a voice crying in the wilderness - but crying to no avail, for the deaf refuse to hear.
The prophetic elements in Brave New World contribute much to its continuing popularity because year by year we see more and more of Huxley's fantasy becoming reality. Huxley himself later commented that we are moving in the direction of this Utopia much more rapidly than anyone could have imagined. At the time the novel was written only a comparatively few research scientists were concerned with conditioning, the importance of heredity and environment, and the effect of chemical imbalance on physical and mental development. Today, governments, educational institutions, and industries are exploiting the results of research in these areas.
The breadth and depth of Huxley's interests and ideas prompted one critic to refer to him as one of the most prodigiously learned writers of all time. In addition to his ten novels, Huxley wrote poetry, drama, essays, biography, and history. His interests and capabilities embrace art, religion, philosophy, music, history, politics, psychology - and this novel expresses Huxley's concern with the importance of each of these areas.
Huxley's satire expresses his profound pessimism. In Brave New World the only choice is between insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other. In an early essay "Revolutions," he expresses this same pessimistic idea: "Now that not only work, but also leisure has been completely mechanized; now that, with every fresh elaboration of the social organization, the individual finds himself yet further degraded from manhood towards the mere embodiment of a social function; now that ready-made, creation-saving amusements are spreading an ever intenser boredom through ever wider spheres - existence has become pointless and intolerable. Quite how pointless and intolerable the great masses of materially - civilized humanity have not yet consciously realized." In Brave New World Huxley helps humanity to this realization.
An Historical Perspective
Some of the ideas and aspects of life in the World State of Brave New World are contained in several of Huxley's earlier works. In chapter five of Crome Yellow, which was published in 1922, Mr. Scogan speaks of a scientific Utopia: "... An impersonal generation will take the place of Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear. . . ." By the time Huxley started to write Brave New World, the tremendous political, economic, and philosophical changes taking place in Europe and America contributed to his disillusionment.
On the international political scene we have the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the dictatorship of Mussolini in Italy, and the Nazi Party movement in Germany. Huxley had always been concerned about threats to man's freedom and independence. He realized that communism and fascism place the state above the individual and demand total allegiance to a cause. Recognizing the danger, he demonstrated the end result of this tendency in his fantasy.
At the same time there were tremendous economic changes in and between individual countries - more and bigger factories, more manufactured goods, the advent of mass-produced automobiles. Big business used and misused the individual - man became important as a producer and a consumer. Industry exploited the individual by molding him according to its image and likeness. Huxley goes one step further in his novel - man's chief importance is his ability to produce and consume manufactured goods.
With more and more people moving to the cities we see a change in attitude and point of view. As "one of the crowd" the individual is not responsible for himself or for anybody else - having lost his individuality he has also lost his respect for individuality. Huxley carries this loss of individuality one step further in his projection of scores of identical twins performing identical tasks.
Huxley was concerned when he saw these things happening because he saw them as very real threats to man's freedom and independence. His bitter satire results from his conviction that although man is able to do something about these threats to his freedom and individuality, he is unwilling to make the effort "to turn the tide." In the latter part of Brave New World Huxley discusses this shift in emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness.
Some Definitions And Allusions
A number of references, names, and allusions in Brave New World could be missed by the casual reader. Huxley draws upon his own extensive background in history, economics, and science and often assumes the reader is immediately aware of the significance of a particular word. Some of the more important of these words and concepts are discussed below.
Conditioning is defined as the training of an individual to respond to a stimulus in a particular way. The great Russian scientist Pavlov conducted experiments to determine how this conditioning takes place. Further experimentation has proven that individuals can be conditioned to respond in a predetermined way. In Brave New World individuals are conditioned to think, act, feel, believe, and respond the way the government wants them to.
Predestination is the act of deciding an individual's fate or destiny for him. Both the Old and New Testaments contain allusions to God as the Predestinator, but since the World State has eliminated God, predestination is now the function of a government bureau. In the World State each individual has been predestined according to the needs of society.
Thomas R. Malthus (the Malthusian belt) was an English political economist who propounded a doctrine on the theory of population. He believed that unless famine or was diminished the population, in time the means of life would be inadequate. In the World State mandatory birth-control measures are used to regulate the growth of population.
Ford was the most important figure in the formation of the World State. In a Christian society the life, work, and teachings of Christ are the source of inspiration and truth; in Huxley's Utopia the life, work, and teachings of Ford are the sources of inspiration and truth. Even time is reckoned according to Ford.
A.F. 632 is the year when these events take place. Since Huxley had projected his fantasy six hundred years into the future, by our reckoning the year would be approximately 2532 A.D.
Decanting is the name given to the completion of the artificial and mechanical stimulation of the embryo resulting in what we would call birth - an independent existence. Huxley details this process to emphasize the tremendous advancement of scientific knowledge and practice and to show the complete control of the individual from the time of conception.
Theme Of Brave New World
In his foreword to the New Harper edition of Brave New World, Huxley states its theme as "the advancement of science as it affects human individuals." Within the last ten years we have seen tremendous advances in science and technology. In any single ten-year period since 1900 the advances in science and technology have overshadowed the advancement made during any previous hundred-year period. Huxley realized that these advances which were almost universally hailed as progress were fraught with danger. Man had built higher than he could climb; man had unleashed power he was unable to control.
Brave New World is Huxley's warning; it is his attempt to make man realize that since knowledge is power, he who controls and uses knowledge wields the power. Science and technology should be the servants of man - man should not be adapted and enslaved to them. Brave New World is a description of our lives as they could be in the none too distant future, if the present obsessions persist for standardization according to the sciences - eugenics and psychology, as well as economics and mechanics.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter One
The novel opens with the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning taking a group of students on a tour of the "Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre."
We notice that the World State's motto is "Community, Identity, Stability." A World State would necessitate a single political ideology and a single point of view. This singleness of purpose emphasizes the need for conformity in social, political, and personal matters. The first part of the book discusses in detail how this stable society was established and is maintained.
Since babies in the Brave New World are "artificially" produced, the tour begins in the "Fertilizing Room." The students are shown the incubators where the male and female reproductive cells are kept. The year is A.F. 632.
Huxley introduces us to several startling ideas at this point which he will develop in more detail as the story progresses. We learn that babies are artificially produced in a laboratory, and that the people have a new way of reckoning time.
The Director explains the process whereby a single human egg reproduces up to ninety-six identical twins. These individuals are mentally and physically identical and thus contribute to social stability.
We begin now to understand better the motto of the World State: "Community, Identity, Stability." The World State controls every aspect of the person's life, including his conception.
Mr. Foster, one of the workers at the Centre, joins the tour. They enter the "Bottling Room" to continue observing the mechanical process being used to produce babies. The fertilized eggs are placed in bottles, labeled, and sent into the Social Predestination Room." The Director and Mr. Foster explain that a World Government bureau, the Predestinators, determines the number of each type of individual desired. Mr. Foster explains that the entire process from fertilization to maturity takes two hundred and sixty-seven days.
Scientific knowledge is used extensively in this section. The Bottling Room process artificially reproduces much of the maturation process which normally takes place in the mother's womb. The two hundred and sixty-seven days is, of course, the normal gestation period.
Mr. Foster explains how the fetus (the child still in the womb) is predestined and conditioned according to the caste and adult life that has been selected for him. On the highest level are the Alphas, who will hold leadership positions, and at the lowest level are the Epsilons, who will do the simplest jobs in the World State. This conditioning begins at the time of fertilization and continues until decanting (birth). Conditioning prepares the yet unborn child for the kind of job he will do as an adult.
Society in the World State is determined by the government. The society consists of five main groups or castes: Alphas (leadership positions), Betas (positions demanding high intelligence), Gammas and Deltas (positions demanding some intelligence), and Epsilons (positions demanding no intelligence). Illustrations of the five types occur throughout the book.
The conditioning that takes place from the time of fertilization through the individual's formative years guarantees, in most cases, the individual's complete acceptance of every aspect of life in the World State. Since an individual, any individual, is conditioned by hereditary and environmental factors, if these factors are controlled, the individual may be controlled. And if an individual is conditioned to think, to act, and to react in a particular way to a particular stimulus, then free will has been abolished.
A government office in the World State determines the number and kind of individual needed in various positions and in various parts of the world. The Hatchery and Conditioning Centre is then given an order for a certain number of individuals with particular characteristics, abilities, and beliefs. In the words of the Director: "All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny."
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Two
The Director and his students go to the "Infant Nurseries - Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms." Here the conditioning continues. At this time eight-month-old babies belonging to the Delta caste are being conditioned to hate books and flowers. The babies are frightened by loud noises and electrical shocks when they attempt to touch these objects; thereafter they will refuse to touch these objects.
The importance of conditioning is a scientific fact first proved by Pavlov, a Russian scientist; hence the reference to him in designating this area.
The Director explains that babies in the lower castes are conditioned to hate books and flowers because of the economic policy of the World State. In order to keep the factories busy and maintain a high level of employment, all classes are compelled to consume as many of the products of industry as possible - reading and nature study would not help the economy. One of the slogans based on their economic system is "The More Stitches, The Less Riches."
The Director tells the students that the principle of sleep-teaching dates from Ford's lifetime. This principle was later used to teach children the values they should hold. The group visits a dormitory where sleep-teaching is taking place, the two lessons for the day being Elementary Sex and Elementary Class Consciousness. These lessons teach the children to be happy in the group chosen for them. They learn that each group has its own color clothes and its own duties.
The conditioning that takes place influences the individual throughout his life. Since values can be taught, in Brave New World the values established by the World State are impressed upon the children. Many of these values are taught as slogans: "Ending is better than mending - A gramme (of soma) is better than a damn - Civilization is sterilization."
At the end of chapter two, one of the first uses of "Ford" instead of "Lord," or "God," or "Christ" occurs. Society in Brave New World is State-centered rather than God-centered. Since Ford has had, and continues to have, the greatest influence on their society, he is invoked as a supernatural being would be and is looked to as a source of inspiration and wisdom. We will see further reference to this substitution of Ford for God later in the book.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Three
Going outside, the Director and his students watch six or seven hundred naked little boys and girls at play. Many of the children are playing simple sex games. The Director explains that at one time this sexual play had been regarded as abnormal and immoral.
This chapter contains considerable reference to sexual activity. We find that what the World State considers to be normal, we consider to be abnormal and immoral. Since Huxley makes many references to sexual activity, some explanation may be of value.
This Brave New World, through the advancement of science, has affected every aspect of the human individual's life. In some instances man's beliefs and values have been completely reversed or eliminated. Man is no longer responsible for himself - the state is his master. Man is simply "a cog in the wheel." Therefore, the individual uses sex as he would use a telephone, a spoon, a car - because it is needed at the particular moment. The individual must not "fall in love," marry, and raise children because this would demand allegiance to others, and the individual's allegiance is to the state only. The sexual license encouraged by the World State also eliminates emotional tension which may engender creative or destructive impulses. By removing tension and anxiety, the World State can better control its citizens.
The students find it difficult to believe that erotic play between children was once considered abnormal and immoral. A stranger arrives - it is the Resident Controller for Western Europe.
The rest of this chapter places characters in a variety of situations, and we are introduced to a number of new characters: (1) Mustapha Mond is the Resident Controller, one of ten World Controllers; (2) Bernard Marx is from the Psychology Bureau and does not seem to belong in the Brave New World; (3) Lenina Crowne, Fanny Crowne, Henry Foster, and the Assistant Predestinator work at the Centre.
Although Huxley has written this section to indicate that a number of things are occurring at the same time, it will be easier to discuss each conversation separately: the first conversation involving the Director, the Controller, and the students; the second involving Lenina Crowne and Fanny; the third involving the Assistant Director, Henry Foster, and Bernard Marx.
Notice Huxley's choice of names for his characters - Ford, Marx, Lenina, Benito Hoover. These have been chosen because of their connotations at the time the novel was written and their connotations today. Ford calls to mind Henry Ford, whose utilization of the mass-production technique has had a tremendous influence on social, political, and economic life. Marx is an obvious reference to Karl Marx, a German Socialist, whose greatest and best - known work, Das Kapital, expresses his belief that the fundamental factor in the development of society is the method of production and exchange. Lenina is a variation of Lenin - Nikolai Lenin, the Russian Socialist, who had a tremendous influence in the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the present-day Russia. Benito Hoover combines the names of two men who wielded tremendous power at the time Huxley was writing Brave New World-Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, and Herbert Hoover, the American President. Huxley's choice of names for his characters is significant because of his concern with the ways people are controlled - politically, economically, and socially.
The Controller recalls a saying of Ford that history is bunk. He speaks of "mother," "home," "family," "romance," and "love," and the students find such ideas and situations repugnant. He insists that stability is the most important thing for society and discusses the importance of conditioning. The Controller outlines the rise of Ford and the World State. Scientific progress has led to the abolition of old age, to innumerable distractions for everyone, to "no leisure from pleasure," to the elimination of thinking and worrying.
The importance of conditioning is shown throughout this section - the students find the idea of "normal family life" repulsive and the idea of motherhood embarrassing. They have been conditioned to consider their way of life superior, and they do.
The historical account of the rise of Ford and the World State provides the reader with some insight into how this society came about. Note Huxley's use of the inequalities of a democratic social system to show some reasons why this new society came about - poor housing, poverty, sickness.
Henry and the Assistant Director discuss the merits of Lenina Crowne as a sex partner. Bernard is upset by their conversation because of his own interest in Lenina. Henry and the Assistant Director advise Bernard to take Soma.
Although this is the shortest of the three conversations, it reveals much about Bernard Marx. Conditioning has not made him accept life as it is. He is not satisfied with his life and often refuses to take Soma, a drug which produces a feeling of happiness and well-being.
Lenina and Fanny discuss the men in their lives. Fanny is concerned because Lenina has been going out with only one man - Henry Foster. (Everyone expects a young woman to have sexual relations with many men because "everyone belongs to everyone else.") Lenina tells Fanny that Bernard Marx has invited her to visit the Savage Reservation with him, but Fanny is concerned because Bernard has the reputation of being odd (he does not conform).
The comments on the World State view of love are especially applicable to this conversation. Because the state considers any close relationship between two people could lessen the power and stability of the state, Fanny is concerned about Lenina's relationship with Henry. The state expects her to be "available" for anyone who wants her sexually; the state considers a person abnormal if he is not promiscuous.
While these conversations are taking place, the work of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre continues - the work of the World State goes forward.
Huxley's juxtaposition of past, present, and future in this chapter emphasizes the enormous control the World State exercises over the individual and every facet of his existence. The Controller discusses and explains the need for control and the methods of control; at the same time we see the results of this conditioning (control) in the thoughts, actions, and reactions of the other characters. And not content with simply explaining and illustrating, Huxley keeps referring to the continuing operations at the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre - producing tomorrow's citizens of the World State.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Four
On the way to the helicopter roof Lenina meets Bernard and tells him she wants to visit the Savage Reservation in New Mexico with him. He is embarrassed to discuss the trip with her in public. She leaves to meet Henry Foster and they fly to the Obstacle Golf Course.
This chapter makes reference to various castes in the World State: Henry and Bernard are Alphas; the lift (elevator) operator is an Epsilon - Minus; the Beta-Minus group is playing tennis; the Deltas are holding a gymnastic display and community sing; the Gamma girls are waiting for the tramcars. Each group has its own work and its own recreation.
Bernard, somewhat upset by his encounter with Lenina, rushes to his plane. He feels guilty and alone - he feels inadequate because he is shorter and thinner than others in the Alpha caste. Physically and emotionally he considers himself a misfit.
Huxley draws our attention to Bernard Marx because he does not look and act as a member of his caste should. He is short and slight when he should be tall and robust; he feels guilt and depression while others are happy; he is modest and unassuming rather than boastful and self-confident.
Bernard flies to Propaganda House to pick up Helmholtz Watson, a lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering (Department of Writing). As on other occasions, Bernard and Helmholtz discuss their individualism and their desire to find some meaning in life.
Helmholtz is introduced at this point to indicate that the conditioning process is not always entirely successful. Although Bernard and Helmholtz are very different physically, psychologically, and emotionally, both are dissatisfied with life in the World State. What causes this dissatisfaction, they do not know, but somehow they sense that their existence is meaningless. Because they do not feel, act, and react in exactly the same way as others in their peer group do, both of them are being observed by their respective superiors.
Bernard is considered odd not only because he is physically smaller than the other members of the Alpha caste, but also because he likes to spend time by himself, and he does not like to participate in sport activities. (In the World State one should always be with others, always busy, never alone.) When discussing Bernard, reference is often made to the rumor that alcohol was accidentally put in his blood - surrogate - and this supposedly accounts for his oddness. Because individuals are decanted according to specification, any deviation would seem to be the result of some mistake, some chemical imbalance.
Helmholtz is suspect because he is too able, too intelligent, too successful. Because he is outstanding physically and mentally, because he is a good committeeman and a highly successful lover, he is an individual whose talent sets him apart - and the World State does not want extraordinary individuals; it wants "cogs in a wheel."
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Five
On the way back from the golf course, Lenina and Henry fly by a crematorium. They discuss the social usefulness of all the castes and the fact that everybody is "happy." Landing on the roof of Henry's apartment house, they go down for dinner. Later, they spend the night in Henry's room, Lenina having taken the proper precautions to prevent pregnancy.
As at other points in the book, the necessity of doing things according to schedule and in a prescribed manner is stressed: the golf course and night club close at specified times; Lenina takes the contraceptive precautions specified by the regulations.
Every other Thursday Bernard has to attend a "Solidarity Service" at the Fordson Community Singery. He arrives a little late and takes a place in the group. Twelve men and women take alternate seats around the table. Soma tablets and liquid are taken as communion. As the Soma begins to take effect, individuals jump to their feet and shout as if in religious ecstasy. Although he feels nothing, Bernard acts his part. They all dance around the table shouting "orgy-porgy" in a kind of frenzy and then fall on the couches exhausted. Indiscriminate sexual relations conclude the "service."
The Solidarity Service takes the place of religious services and provides emotional release for the participants. But Bernard feels nothing - no rapture, no peace, no solidarity. He remains alone and unsatisfied.
Huxley's substitution of the Solidarity Service for the expected religious service re-emphasizes the extent to which the World State controls the people. The religious impulse in man has manifested itself through the ages; the World State recognizes this impulse and makes use of it. The Solidarity Service is a parody of and substitute for the Christian Communion Service; Soma is used to induce a "religious" feeling. Karl Marx called religion the opium of the people; in Huxley's Brave New World Soma is substituted for religion.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Six
Lenina at first questions whether or not she should visit the Savage Reservation with Bernard Marx. She remembers his odd views - his dissatisfaction with his life, his desire to be different.
Bernard receives a permit to visit the Savage Reservation. The Director, who must sign the permit, tells Bernard of his visit there some twenty years before. He recalls that the girl who had accompanied him on the trip disappeared, and he had to return to London without her. While in the office, the Director reprimands Bernard for his odd behavior and warns him that conformrty is necessary.
The Director's account of his visit to the Savage Reservation becomes very important later in the book. In discussing Bernard's odd behavior, the Director uses an interesting term - "infantile decorum." People in the World State were expected to satisfy every desire without thinking - they were to be like infants, completely dependent on the state.
Bernard and Lenina arrive at the Reservation. The Warden attempts to impress them with statistics and tells them there is no escape from the Reservation for the sixty thousand Indians and half-breeds. Since the Savages have not been conditioned, they still preserve their old beliefs and customs (religion, marriage, natural birth, family life).
Again we see the reversal in the values held by the World State. The Savages are considered uncivilized because they believe in marriage and morality as their ancestors had.
Bernard calls Helmholtz and finds that the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning intends to replace Bernard and have him sent to Iceland because of his odd views and lack of conformity. Bernard and Lenina are given permission to enter the Reservation and are flown to the guesthouse.
In this chapter Huxley is preparing us for the contrast between life on the Reservation and life in the "civilized" part of the World State. Lenina recalls "truths" she has been taught - "A gramme in time saves nine" or "Progress is lovely" - and Bernard mockingly makes reference to the number of times this was repeated during conditioning to assure her acceptance of a particular idea. The Savages have not been conditioned; consequently they do not hold the same "truths." Their beliefs are based on tradition and what the Controller referred to as "old-fashioned" ideas about morality and right and wrong.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Seven
An Indian guide takes Bernard and Lenina to see the Savages dancing. Lenina is disgusted by the Savages - seeing evidence of old age, disease, and dirt horrifies her.
The things that horrified Lenina are the things that are not characteristic of the world she knows. The World State has abolished disease, marriage, motherhood, and old age everywhere except on the Reservations. (The government did not consider it worthwhile to "civilize" certain ethnic groups and certain remote areas of the World State.)
The drums, the singing, and the performance remind Lenina of the Solidarity Services. The dance continues, with the leader of the dancers throwing snakes to the others. The ceremony ends with the whipping of a young man. Lenina shudders at the sight of blood. Suddenly a young white man appears.
Lenina is distressed by the sufferings of the young man because she was conditioned to consider blood and violence disgusting, not because she feels sorry for him. The young man (John) tells Lenina and Bernard that his mother (Linda) came to the Reservation from the Other Place (London) with a man who was his father. The man was Tomakin, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning.
Bernard recalls the Director's story and realizes that knowledge of this affair with Linda could result in the Director's disgrace.
Lenina and Bernard meet Linda, who is a fat, ugly blonde. She is pleased to see them and recounts with horror that she, a Beta, had had a baby. She tearfully describes her life on the Reservation and speaks fondly of her life in the Other Place.
Huxley stresses the difficulty Linda had in adjusting to life on the Reservation since she had been conditioned to act and think only one way. She considers John "mad" because he accepts the Savage's values rather than hers.
Life on the Reservation contrasts violently with life in the Other Place. Here pain, suffering, disease, filth, and old age still exist - in the Other Place science has succeeded in abolishing anything which interferes with or impairs the physical well-being of the citizenry. We have already noted the contrast and conflict regarding morality.
Note that both ways of life are based on ignorance - an ignorance based on superstition or an ignorance fostered by the state. Huxley does not consider either way of life attractive or desirable because he believes that life should be conscious existence - a life based on reflection and study and an acceptance of one's own being.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Eight
Bernard finds the life that John, Linda, and the Savages lead unbelievable, and he asks John to explain it as far back as he can remember.
Although Bernard is considered odd because he does not conform blindly to life in the World State, he has known no other life.
John tells Bernard of the many men who visited Linda, the women who beat her because of her sexual activities, Linda's stories of life in the Other Place, his learning to read, and his life among the Savages.
The account of Linda's and John's life among the Savages underlines the differences between the two cultures. Linda, having been decanted and conditioned as a "Beta," had one set of values; the Savages, having maintained the "old ways," had a different set. John accepted the values, ideas, and ideals of the Savages.
Having received a superior education because of her caste, Linda was able to teach John how to read. And one of the books John acquired from Pope, one of Linda's male friends, was The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. His close reading of Shakespeare provided him with many ideas and beliefs and helped him develop a strong code of moral conduct.
Bernard tells John he will try to obtain permission for him and his mother to come to the Other Place (London). John is thrilled with the idea and, like Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest, exclaims, "O brave new world that has such people in it."
Huxley selects this quotation from The Tempest because of the parallel in the lives of Miranda and John: both are anxious to embrace a way of life that neither knows or understands.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Nine
After the horrifying events of their first day at the Reservation, Lenina takes a large dose of Soma and sleeps. Bernard contacts Mustapha Mond, the World Controller, and receives permission to bring Linda and John to London. John enters Lenina's room and finds her asleep, but he is too modest to touch her.
Bernard realizes that the return of John and Linda to London will assure his position and prevent his transfer to Iceland.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Ten
Bernard returns to London with Linda and John. The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, wishing to humiliate Bernard because of the unorthodoxy of his behavior, publicly announces his banishment to Iceland. Linda enters and exclaims that the Director is John's father; the crowd roars with laughter, forcing the Director to rush from the room.
Bernard realized that the presence of John and Linda in London would prevent any untoward action being taken because of his lack of conformity. The Director had hoped to use Bernard as an example of the consequences of nonconformity and had decided to make a public announcement. The arrival, of Linda and John (a physical manifestation of the Director's own unorthodoxy) saves Bernard.
This chapter opens with a rather detailed description of the work of the Hatching and Conditioning Centre - fertilization, predestination, decanting, conditioning. Then, in conversation with Mr. Foster concerning Bernard Marx, the Director says, "Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself." Thus our attention is again called to the necessity of conformity - the individual is not important, but the group is. Bernard's "crime" is his desire to do what he wanted to do instead of what they wanted him to do.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Eleven
Bernard becomes a celebrity and John a curiosity; Linda is content to take an extended Soma-holiday. Bernard takes the "Savage" to see many aspects of the Brave New World. At this point Lenina is attracted to John, but he ignores her.
A change takes place in Bernard in his new role as celebrity - he enjoys the attention he now receives. John is unimpressed by what he sees and still maintains his "old-fashioned" ideas and values; although attracted to Lenina, he considers such impulses immoral and represses them.
These tours which Bernard and John take provide descriptions of other aspects of life in the World State - specifically, the factory system and the educational system. Remembering that science has developed a method of producing up to ninety - six identical twins from a single egg, we see these identical automatons performing identical tasks. The upper-caste students (Alphas and Betas, each produced from a single egg) are not really educated - they are indoctrinated. In both situations individuality is nonexistent - each is but a member of a particular group.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Twelve
Bernard invites many important personages to meet John, but John then refuses to attend. Having thus lost the friendship of these people, he turns again to John and Helmholtz.
Bernard realizes that his popularity is based on the curiosity others have about the Savage. He realizes that John and Helmholtz are his only "real" friends. At this point we find John reading Shakespeare to them - making them aware of new ideas, new beliefs, and new values which they find difficult if not impossible to accept.
This chapter emphasizes the difference in character of Bernard and Helmholtz, and their differences in point of view and attitude. Bernard's dissatisfaction with the life he is leading seems to stem from his not being accepted (alcohol in his blood - surrogate), while Helmholtz's dissatisfaction seems to stem from his belief that life must have some meaning beyond the purely physical.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Thirteen
Lenina and John have "fallen in love," but she finds his desire to marry repulsive; she makes advances to him, and he locks himself in another room. The telephone rings, and John rushes from the apartment.
We see again the conflict between the two value systems - between the life on the Reservation and the life in the World State. Lenina and John are attracted to each other, but Lenina expects to have sexual relations with "no strings attached"; John considers sexual relations outside of marriage immoral and disgusting.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Fourteen
John arrives at the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying, where Linda has been sent. He sits by her bed, remembering his early life at her side, and weeps at her death.
The nurses at the hospital are mystified by John's reaction to Linda's dying; they cannot understand his being upset. Since close personal ties are forbidden and all were conditioned to accept death impersonally, they consider John's reaction indecent and disgraceful.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Fifteen
Saddened and enraged by Linda's death, John realizes that the government of the World State has made the people the way they are, and that they are being controlled; he warns those around him. Bernard and Helmholtz arrive, the police are called, and the three are taken away.
John recalls the words of Miranda in The Tempest, "O brave new world!" Having observed life in the World State, these words mocked him; now he hears them as a challenge to do something. He tries to warn those around him, but they refuse to listen - they do not want to change. Conditioning has made them unwilling or unable to desire freedom or to do anything to obtain it.
The difference in the reactions of Bernard and Helmholtz when they see the Savage pleading with the people to change emphasizes the differences noted earlier. Helmholtz sympathizes with John's comments on freedom and his desire to make others aware that the government of the World State has taken away their freedom, and he rushes to aid him. Bernard hesitates - he does not want to become involved.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Sixteen
Bernard, Helmholtz, and John are brought before Mustapha Mond, the World Controller. The Controller explains that since their society is organized for stability and happiness, individuality and free choice must be abolished. Both Bernard and Helmholtz are to be deported because of their unorthodox behavior and belief.
In this chapter Huxley makes known the Controller's ideas and, by inference, includes his own views of how the evolution of a World State is possible. The Controller's reference to the inability or unwillingness of the individual to act intelligently and reasonably, to the loss of individuality, and to the shift in emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness, gives emphasis to many of the comments made by thoughtful men about modern society. Huxley himself has commented on the possible consequences of these shortcomings of society in numerous essays.
Huxley believed that man was unable or unwilling to act intelligently and rationally. He was especially critical of the educated class because he believed they should take the initiative in bringing about needed social and political reform. The Cyprus experiment alluded to by the Controller seems to illustrate this point of view. In this experiment twenty-two thousand Alphas were given the opportunity to manage their own affairs - to use their superior intelligence to establish an ideal society. Within six years civil war broke out. Although given the opportunity to create a democratic Utopia, the Alphas were unable or unwilling to act independently, intelligently, and rationally, and chose, instead, to return to a system of rigid state control.
Note that in this chapter the World Controller addresses himself primarily to the Savage. Although dissatisfied with life in the World State, Bernard and Helmholtz do not know any other way of life nor any other values; only John and the Controller are able to discuss an alternate way of life and system of values. The Savage's questions about the value system of the World State and its inhabitants provide an opportunity for Huxley not only to summarize what has gone before but also to illustrate how the creation of an all-powerful World State is possible.
The Controller explains that even during the time of Ford (1932) there was a shift in emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. The people were willing, even anxious, to bring about this shift. Mass production contributed to this shift since material goods were an important aid to comfort and happiness; when the masses seized political power, it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered. Once the choice had been made, truth and beauty, art and science, were seen as threats to universal happiness since such inquiry can lead to dissatisfaction with the status quo. Most people are happy when they get what they want and never want what they can't get. In the World State of A.F. 632, the government provides what the people want and through conditioning prevents them from wanting what they can't have. Anyone who becomes "too self-consciously individual to fit into community life" is sent to an island lest he "contaminate" the others.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Seventeen
The World Controller and the Savage are left alone and discuss God and philosophy. The Controller again declares that a stable society is possible only if all conflict, internal and external, is abolished - God and modern society are incompatible.
Huxley, through the World Controller, says that modern man has chosen machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness instead of God, has chosen them as substitutes for God and the religious impulse. This reference to God and the religious impulse embraces all the attributes and aspects of a human being that make him noble and fine and heroic; in the words of the Savage, "I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin." Huxley believed that since man was composed of body and soul, flesh and spirit, his life should reflect this dichotomy. Modern man's values often glorify the body and deny the spirit.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Chapter Eighteen
Bernard and Helmholtz are leaving London, but the Controller has forced the Savage to remain in the area. Seeking refuge in an abandoned lighthouse, the Savage attempts to resume his old life. He disciplines himself severely to remove the taint of the Brave New World, but the curious come to watch his strange antics and disturb the solitude he seeks and needs. Finally, in despair, he hangs himself.
The Savage attempted to duplicate his old life and his old ways - working with his hands and disciplining his mind and his body. But he could not remove the horror and corruption within or without - he could not forget Lenina, and he could not find peace and solitude. When he could no longer control his thoughts, when he could no longer be an individual, he killed himself. In the World State the choice is conformity or annihilation.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Character Analyses
Director Of Hatcheries And Conditioning
The Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre is the first character we meet; the novel opens with the Director taking a group of students on a tour of the Centre. Note that the Director (Tomakin) is, with but two exceptions, always referred to as the Director. This emphasis on the "function" of the man is appropriate since his primary concern is the production of automatons to populate the Brave New World.
The Director is an Alpha-plus, and because of the importance of his position we might well assume that he is a very intelligent and capable man. His comments during the tour indicate that he is efficient, very businesslike, somewhat officious, and very much concerned with conformity - "The primal and the ultimate need. Stability." In fact, when the World Controller mentions history (a forbidden subject), the Director is somewhat taken aback; he recalls with some dismay the rumors that old forbidden books were hidden in a safe in the Controller's study.
Perhaps one reason Huxley portrays the Director as very conventional and scrupulously correct is to stress the irony of the Director's unconventional behavior apparent in his previous relationship with Linda. Imagine the horror and confusion he felt when everyone realizes that he is a father (horrible word). Because the Director had disgraced himself by the impropriety of his actions, he resigns. Bernard becomes a kind of hero, and we hear nothing of the Director again.
One of the standard men and women who work at the Hatchery, Henry is proud of his work. He is efficient, intelligent, and, most important, "conventional." Henry does everything he is expected to do and does it well - in every way he is an ideal citizen of the World State. In the bureaucracy of the World State he is the young man "with a future" - he knows what is expected of him and does it. Henry Foster would not be classified as an important character in the novel since he does not initiate or determine action - he is most often seen as Lenina's sometime lover.
Mustapha Mond, A World Controller
As one of the ten World Controllers, Mustapha Mond provides considerable information about the creation and maintenance of the World State. He is an intelligent, capable, good-natured man whose dedication and ability we must admire even if we do not approve. His comments at the beginning of the novel, when he meets the Director and the students provide not only information about his role in the World State but also reveal something of his character.
The World Controller is one of the most important characters because he is the most intelligent and the most knowledgeable - he has read and studied the Bible, Shakespeare, history, philosophy (all forbidden books). As a young Alpha-plus, his own unconventionality necessitated a choice between life on an island (reserved for those who were "too self-consciously individual to fit into community-life") and life in the World State (being "taken on the Controller's Council with the prospect of succeeding in due course to an actual Controllership.") Because the Controller has freedom of choice - a freedom which conditioning normally inhibits or destroys - he is one of the few real individuals we meet in this novel.
In the latter part of the novel the conversation between the Controller and John the Savage is the device Huxley uses to "put across" his own ideas and concerns. When the Controller explains his values and beliefs, his arguments and explanations are clearly and logically presented; his sanity makes the insanity of the Brave New World all the more vivid and frightening. The Controller in many ways represents the intelligent, capable individual who uses his intelligence and capability for unworthy ends.
Because he is different, Bernard is the source of considerable speculation and suspicion. He does not enjoy sports (everyone is expected to); he likes to be alone (others like crowds); he is unhappy (everybody else is happy). Bernard doesn't know why he is dissatisfied, why he is different; many of his associates speculate that alcohol was accidentally put in his blood-surrogate while he was still "in the bottle."
When we first meet Bernard we see him as a rebel, a protestor, "an individual." He wants to stand up for his rights, to battle against the order of things. We later learn that Bernard questions the conformity of life in the World State and the values it teaches, but that his dissatisfaction seems to stem from his not being accepted. When he returns from the Reservation with John and Linda, he becomes a kind of hero, the girls who formerly ignored him become attentive, important personages in the World State curry his favor, and Bernard is happy and enthusiastic about his life in the World State.
Huxley indicates that Bernard's protest is not intellectual or moral, but personal and social; he willingly accepts life in the World State when he is accepted. When the novel ends we find that Bernard's fortunes have changed and he is to be deported to Iceland because of his nonconformity. Bernard protests his innocence, begs the World Controller to reconsider, and finally is carried out still shouting and sobbing.
Young and pretty, Lenina is very popular as a sex partner, but she sometimes finds living the motto "Everybody belongs to everybody else" a little tiring. She is a happy, contented, well-adjusted citizen of the World State; she accepts its teachings and values without question. The only disconcerting element in her life is the frustration brought about by her feelings for John the Savage. Lenina finds John attractive and attempts without success to seduce him. She cannot understand his attitude regarding sex even as he cannot understand hers. Fortunately she, like the others, can escape most frustrations and unhappiness by taking Soma.
Lenina is a fairly important character because she is instrumental in bringing about the suicide of John the Savage, although we cannot in any way blame her. (She is a product of the system, and the system is wrong.) Because she is a beautiful, desirable woman, she personifies for John the conflict between the body and the spirit. In a way she repeats the conflict he felt regarding his mother - he is at one and the same time attracted and repelled by the object of his affections.
Intellectually, socially, and physically the ideal of his Alpha-plus caste, Helmholtz is regarded with some suspicion by his associates because he is too perfect. Like Bernard he questions the conformity of life in the World State and the values it teaches, but, unlike Bernard, his dissatisfaction stems from his feeling that there must be more to life than mere physical existence. Although not as important to the development of the novel as Bernard, Helmholtz is in many ways a more admirable character because, instead of simply talking about what he believed, he acted.
As noted earlier, in this novel Huxley expressed his pessimism regarding man and his ability to save himself; consequently none of the characters is able to bring about change. However, Helmholtz is at least willing to try. When the Savage tries to tell the people they are being controlled, Helmholtz joins forces with the Savage when a melee breaks out. Later he accepts his banishment with considerable aplomb and asks that he be sent to a cold climate since he feels such discomfort might aid his writing.
Having been decanted and conditioned a Beta and then forced by circumstances to spend some twenty years on the Reservation, Linda offers some interesting comments and contrasts. At the Reservation she is not accepted because her values and beliefs are those of the Other Place - when she returns to London, people find her repulsive and ignore her because she is fat, old-looking and unattractive. Having been conditioned a Beta, Linda cannot understand or adapt herself to life on the Reservation. But since the Reservation does not have the ultramodern medical facilities which help retard physical decay, she has grown old even as the Savages do. Her relationship with John is also ambivalent - she is horrified at the idea of being a "mother" and yet she admits that John has been a great comfort to her. Her death during a Soma-induced stupor finally provides release.
John The Savage
A curious mixture of the "old" world and the "new," John does not belong to either. He is not accepted by the Savages on the Reservation because he is "different," and he cannot and will not accept the life and values of the Other Place (London). Like Bernard, Helmholtz, and Linda, he doesn't belong - he is an alien, a misfit, a "mistake."
John is the most important character in the book because he acts as a bridge between the two cultures, and having known both "ways of life" he is able to compare them and comment on them. His beliefs and values are a curious mixture of Christian and heathen, of "Jesus and Pookong," but, most important, he has a strict moral code. His "old fashioned" beliefs about God and right and wrong (his beliefs closely duplicate Christian morality) contrast sharply with the values and beliefs of the citizens of the Brave New World ("God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness"). It is this conflict between the two value systems that ultimately brings about his suicide.
When we are first introduced to John and the Reservation Huxley makes us aware of the moral conflict, but he also makes us aware of the social and emotional conflicts. The social conflict results from his not belonging on the Reservation; his mother was the white she-dog despised by the Savages. The emotional conflict results from the attraction and repulsion he feels towards his mother - he loves her but finds her promiscuity revolting. And, too her stories of the Other Place (London) fill him with wonder and a vague discontent.
The arrival at the Reservation of Bernard and Lenina and the Savage's subsequent arrival in London contribute to the conflict he already feels. John is attracted to Lenina but feels that such lustful feelings are wrong and must be repressed; Lenina is attracted to John and cannot understand the Savage's reticence and unwillingness to show any interest in her. Finally when John protests his love and expresses his desire to marry her, Lenina considers such an entanglement absurd and scoffs at the idea. But John is unable to put her out of his mind. His love for her finally breeds hatred, and when this hate turns inward upon himself, the Savage hangs himself.
Like the others in this novel, the character of the Savage is not believable. (Huxley was not interested in creating characters; he was interested in expressing ideas.) The Savage speaks too intelligently and reasons too well for one whose education consisted of reading a few books and talking to practitioners of a combination fertility - Penitente cult. Huxley himself admitted the inconsistency. But if we accept John simply as a spokesman in another of Huxley's novels of ideas, he is more than satisfactory.
Because Brave New World is both fantasy and satire, Huxley's characters are both fantastic and satirical. They are exaggerated because the year is A.F. 632; they offer a caustic commentary because more often than not they express what we must recognize are twentieth century viewpoints. At this time (1931) Huxley was completely disillusioned with mankind and with its choice of values or lack of values - he saw no hope for man's ultimate salvation of himself. He expresses his pessimism by offering no glimmer of hope in his novel. None of his characters is able to change or to bring about change.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Critical Commentary
Comment On Brave New World
Although Huxley published ten novels, four of them after the appearance of Brave New World, not one of them attained the popularity or provoked the commentary occasioned by this novel. Huxley's title continues to be a catchword-writers and speakers often employ it to express concern or disdain for the direction society has taken, or for its lack of direction. But many readers and critics still consider, as they have for some years, that this novel is simply an above-average example of science fiction or an entertaining fantasy. Too few were willing or able to see that Huxley meant Brave New World to be a warning - a warning that a World State is not only possible but probable if we do not protect the rights of the individual to be an individual: to be unique and free.
In the New York Times (February 7, 1932) review of this novel, the reviewer said, "It is Mr. Huxley's habit to be deadly in earnest. One feels that he is pointing a high moral lesson in satirizing Utopia. Yet it is a little difficult to take alarm . . ." This comment might well be considered typical - it is difficult to take alarm when we think, believe, and feel that Progress Is Our Most Important Product. However, Huxley believed that the Individual, not Progress, was most important. For this reason he tried again and again in numerous ways to warn that progress should not and must not be made at the expense of the individual.
As noted in the Introduction, Huxley wrote essays, poetry, short stories, and biography in addition to his novels. Following the publication of Brave New World, Huxley continued to expand his ideas and to caution his readers in numerous essays and in his novel Ape and Essence. This novel explores still other possibilities of the future, but it was not nearly as successful as a novel nor as an instrument of propaganda. It is in a collection of essays on freedom, Brave New World Revisited, that Huxley most succinctly and lucidly presents his concerns and beliefs.
Brave New World Revisited
Lest we should dismiss Brave New World as a fantasy, a Utopian novel, or a pessimistic view of the modern world, Huxley entitles his collection of essays on freedom, Brave New World Revisited. Huxley was concerned that readers, critics, and commentators could not or would not accept his novel not only as a satire on the life and values of the time (1931) but also as a warning of what the future could hold for mankind. Consequently these comments on the contemporary scene (1958) were dubbed a "revisit" to emphasize that in some ways, in too many ways, the Brave New World is already upon us.
In his introduction to these essays Huxley says, "The subject of freedom and its enemies is enormous, and what I have written is certainly too short to do it full justice, but at least I have touched on many aspects of the problem." In his novel he employs satire to warn mankind; in his essays he employs reason - having used fiction, he turns now to facts and opinions. Huxley includes comments on overpopulation, overorganization, propaganda, and persuasion, and discusses what can and should be done since "without freedom, human beings cannot become fully human."
In Brave New World Huxley opens his novel with a discussion of biology; he begins at the beginning. Consequently, or at least subsequently, his collection of essays begins with a discussion of overpopulation and its consequences. In the World State population was controlled as an aid to social stability; in his first essay Huxley warns that overpopulation can lead to economic insecurity and social unrest which, in turn, foster greater government control. The population explosion poses many problems for mankind - of late, economists, politicians, and social scientists have issued warnings and dire predictions. If this growth remains unchecked, individual freedom may be impossible, for as the population increases, so does the need for organization. The greater the population, the greater the work force, and so also the greater the concentration of political and economic power. Today in the United States one out of ten people work for the government in some capacity, and a comparatively few industries control the country's economy. Huxley warns us that the concentration of power in the hands of the few may lead eventually to the regimentation and exploitation of the many. "Too much organization transforms men and women into automata, suffocates the creative spirit and abolishes the very possibility of freedom." This emphasis on the importance of the group rather than the individual is discussed at length in William Whyte's The Organization Man.
Today newspapers, magazines, radio, and television make possible a wide dissemination of propaganda in an effort to persuade people to support or adopt a particular opinion, attitude, or course of action. This propaganda may be consonant with enlightened self-interest or an appeal to passion; in every case it is an attempt to mold or move the individual in some way. Those who control mass media, who control propaganda, exercise tremendous control over the individual. Today the advertiser and the politician use the mass media to influence opinion, attitude, or course of action; in the future the mass media might be used to control opinion, attitude, or course of action as in Brave New World.
In his discussion of the various forms of persuasion, Huxley includes chemical persuasion, subconscious persuasion, and sleep-teaching. The World State provided Soma to insure happiness; today tranquilizers offer release form tension and emotional stress. Today "subliminal projection" is a subtle from of conditioning since people are subconsciously influenced to act in a predetermined manner. Since an individual is susceptible to suggestion, sleep-teaching was used in the World State to condition an individual according to government specifications. Huxley warns that all three forms of persuasion are effective and have the potential for good or evil.
Huxley does not end his essays on a pessimistic note - at that time he believed we could save ourselves if we wanted to. That is the key. If we are complacent, indifferent, uninterested in our future - he believes the future is not worthwhile. But if we are willing to search for answers and to work out solutions - then the individual and individuality can be saved.
Section: Brave New World
Chapter: Essay Questions And Answers
Question: What is the theme of Brave New World?
Answer: In Huxley's own words, the theme of Brave New World is "the advancement of science as it affects human individuals." In 1931, when he was writing his novel, each advance in science and technology was being hailed not only as evidence of man's progress but also as the hope of man's future. Huxley felt that this unqualified praise of science was wrong, that man's advances in science and technology were fraught with danger, that the misuse of knowledge results in evil, not good. Projecting his novel into the future he offers a picture of the world as it might become if Man becomes subservient to Science rather than Science subservient to Man.
Question: What is the significance of Huxley's title?
Answer: Huxley's title is taken from William Shakespeare's The Tempest (Act V, Scene 1) and occurs in a speech of Miranda: "How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it." Having been exiled on an island with her father, the deposed Duke of Milan, Miranda makes this remark when she sees other human beings for the first time. Ironically these same people had plotted against her and her father, had planned for their ultimate destruction, and had attempted murder but a short while before she sees them for the first time. But she is so overcome by the wonderment of what she is seeing for the first time that she calls "good" that which is potentially or actually evil. Huxley likens those who consider scientific advancement an unsullied good to Miranda - both are mistaken in their assumptions but blissfully happy in their ignorance.
Question: What is the significance of Huxley's use of "Ford" as a substitute for "Christ" or "God"?
Answer: In the Brave New World science and technology have replaced God as a source of value and meaning in life. Because Huxley believed that this shift in emphasis was given great impetus when Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing with his assembly-line technique, the introduction of the Model-T Ford is used as the opening date of the new era. This change in emphasis is symbolized by the changing of the Christian Cross to the Ford T. In the words of the World Controller, "God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness."
Question: In his novels Huxley often uses a spokesman for himself and his ideas. Who is his spokesman in this novel?
Answer: John the Savage and Mustapha Mond, the World Controller, present many of Huxley's ideas and beliefs. Their discussion in chapters 16 and 17 acts as a summary of the book. Mustapha Mond by reason of his position had access to "forbidden books" and was therefore aware of the "old beliefs and ideals." John was acquainted with the works of Shakespeare and the religious practices of the Savages and could therefore question the values of the World State. By these questions and answers, explanations and discussions, Huxley is able to express his fears about, and to offer his commentary on, the contemporary scene.
Question: Why was society in the World State divided into castes?
Answer: Every society needs individuals with different talents and capabilities to perform different functions - teachers and garbage collectors, bankers and elevator operators, lawyers and gardeners, scientists and factory workers. Since a stable society was the aim of the World State, the caste system provided a stabilizing influence. An individual was predestined to serve in a specific capacity according to the particular needs of the time. Since the individual had been decanted and "conditioned" physically and psychologically to perform a specific task, he functioned happily in that capacity. For instance, a Beta was happy because he didn't have to work as hard as an Alpha and because he was smarter than the others; an Epsilon was too ignorant to be unhappy.
Question: What is the significance of the World State's motto: "Community, Identity, Stability"?
Answer: The World State's motto emphasizes the importance of the group and the subsequent unimportance of the individual. Community stresses the importance attached to the individual as a contributor to society - "Everyone belongs to everybody else." Reference is made to the contribution the individual makes even after death - the body is cremated and the phosphorus thus obtained is used as fertilizer. Identity refers to the various classes (castes), their specialized duties, and their distinguishing uniform. A particular character is often spoken of as a Beta or an Alpha as a means of identification. In the lower classes identity was stressed even more since there might well be ninety-six identical twins performing a particular task in a single factory. Stability is the key word in the World State. Decanting and conditioning, the abolition of the family, and conformity in thought and action - all contribute to a stable society.
Question: Why does Huxley have John the Savage commit suicide?
Answer: Huxley had John commit suicide in order to show the hopelessness of life in the Brave New World. Not only was John unable to accept a life founded on conformity and the pleasure principle ("no leisure from pleasure") but there was also a conflict within himself because of his ambivalent feelings towards Lenina - he found her desirable but considered such feelings sinful. Because the World Controller would not allow John to return to the Reservation, he tried to duplicate his "old" life, to be self-sufficient, to avoid being contaminated by life in this Other Place, to forget Lenina. But his hiding place was discovered; he became a curiosity; people came and laughed at his curious ways. One day Lenina came by with Henry; the Savage cursed her and himself. He struck out at her with a whip and then beat himself in an attempt to dispel his lustful feelings. The crowd took up a chant - "Orgy-Porgy." The Savage joined the others in the orgy. In the morning he realized what had happened and committed suicide.