Source: Guardian
Date: 11 October 2008

Digested classics: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

John Crace

Digested classics: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley The Guardian, Saturday October 11 2008 larger | smaller Article history"Welcome to the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre," said the Director to the ring of fresh-faced students gathered round him. "We'll begin at the beginning.

"This is where the ova are fertilised by male gametes. The Alphas and Betas will remain bottled in their incubators while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons are brought out after 36 hours to undergo Bokanovsky's Process. Each embryo will be budded to create 96 identical twins. It's one of the great instruments of social stability as it makes everything more uniform.

"Ah, Mr Foster," he continued, spotting a manager of indeterminate age, but then it was impossible to tell how old someone was in the year After Ford of 632. "Would you care to explain the rest of the process?"

"Oh, thank you sir," Foster replied. "The embryos are monitored along the conveyor belt and are conditioned according to what caste they are going to be. The expectations of the Gamma and Epsilons are lowered by giving them less food and training them to hate flowers and music; it's important they should be fulfilled in their stupidity, so that they can do the really boring jobs without moaning to us Alphas."

"Marvellous," said the Director, stifling a yawn.

"And then, of course, we have to teach them erotic play. In the days when Our Ford was still alive, children used to stay with their mothers and fathers until they were 20 and formed abusive monogamous relationships. And now I'm going off to play a complicated game of Obstacle Golf. Long live Mustapha Mond, Resident Controller for Western Europe. To consume is to live. Old is bad, new is good ..."

"Quite so," the Director interrupted. "If I'd wanted a thesis on the dystopia of eugenics and 1930s American consumerism I'd have asked for an essay. But it's supposed to be a novel, you fool. So lay off the high concept stuff for a bit and introduce a few characters."

"Er ... This is Lenina Crowne."

"You've been going on rather too many dates with Henry Foster," Fanny said to the pneumatic Lenina, "It's a long time to be going out with the same man. And it's not as if Henry hasn't been sleeping with other women. He's very conventional. Why don't you go out with the meaningfully named Bakunin or Trotsky?"

"Good Ford, no," Lenina replied, "but I might take up Bernard Marx's offer of a holiday in the Savage Reservation in New Mexico. He's a bit ugly but nothing that a few grammes of soma can't put right."

Even after some soma, Bernard couldn't let himself enjoy the Orgy-Porgy and the Sexophones of the Solidarity Circle. He felt different to everyone else. Even Epsilons liked the social body; he just wanted to be alone with the pneumatic Lenina.

"If you maintain this kind of attitude you will be sent to Iceland," the Director said. "Try to be more infantile when you get to the Savage Reservation. I went there once with a Beta Minus girl about 25 years ago. She got lost and I never saw her again."

Bernard remembered just what a clunky piece of plotting the Director's last speech had been when he and Lenina came across two Savages on the Malpais Reservation.

"I may be a toothless old crone now but I was once a Beta Minus Beauty," said Linda. "I was left for dead here by my Alpha Plus and gave birth to John."

"To be or not to be, that is the question," John cried. "I am her son who was brought up in the traditional ways of yore. I am of Nature and have drunk deep of the forbidden mystical texts of Shakespeare and the Bible. How I long to be crucified."

"And how your condition speaks to me," Bernard replied. "Allow me to take you back to London."

Bernard looked around the room contentedly. Women wanted to sleep with him now he'd come back with the Savages, got the Director the sack and was a Celebrity. And tonight he would introduce John to the Arch-Community Songster.

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow I'm not coming out," said John, springing into life after bizarrely taking a back seat for 50 pages.

"We all hate you really, loser," the Arch-Community Songster whispered to Bernard.

"Oh John, your mean and moody silences have sent me into raptures of lust," the pneumatic Lenina declared, unzipping her zippicamiknicks. "Take some soma and sleep with me."

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be I love you too but I want some foreplay, you strumpet," he shouted, before rushing to the hospital to watch his mother die of old age.

"So," said Mond eventually. "You'd better go off to the Falkland Islands, Bernard, where you can be on your own-ish. But what shall we do with you, John?"

"Is there no pity sitting in the clouds I would quite like to have a dreary, portentous chat with you about Shakespeare, science and religion before going off to live on my own in a lighthouse in Surrey."

He was tormented by visions of Lenina and flagellated himself ceaselessly. Yet still the tourists came to visit him. "I don't know about you," he cried, "but I've had just about enough of this book". And with that, he hanged himself.

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Critique of Brave New World
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