The bold title of Huxley’s Brave New World derives from an often-quoted speech in The Tempest. Raised by her father on an isolated island and unfamiliar with the world at large, Miranda greets the arrival of a shipwrecked party with awe and delight: “O wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in’t.” The irony and naïveté of Miranda’s sentiment soon become evident as Shakespeare’s play unfolds. Throughout Huxley’s novel, John the Savage invokes the phrase “brave new world” several times. An outcast from a Savage Reservation who resettles in London, John initially regards the World State he encounters for the first time with the same wonder expressed by Miranda in The Tempest. However, since Huxley establishes society’s oppressiveness, vulgarity, and moral emptiness before John reaches civilization,” John’s praise resonates with terrible irony and underscores Huxley’s intent to critique the values and practices of the future state envisioned in his novel.
One of the most influential and prolific literary minds of the mid-twentieth century, Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) strived to explore the meaning and possibilities of life from a variety of genres and perspectives. Biting satire of English upper-class society characterizes his early work but gives way to more thoughtful critiques of man’s disillusionment (and Huxley’s own disillusionment with man) in works such as Point Counter Point and Brave New World. Huxley’s late works take on a deeply religious, philosophical tone and focus on avenues to spiritual transcendence. His belief in mankind’s capacity for transcendence and his own quest to constantly reinvent himself as a writer inform the deeply disturbing imagery and tone of Brave New World. In its emphasis on the eradication of the self for the sake of the social body, the World State contradicts Huxley’s desire to “achieve self-transcendence while yet remaining a committed social being.”
Huxley wrote Brave New World in part as a reaction against the proliferation of utopian novels by writers like H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw that lauded socialism as the solution to mankind’s social, political, and economic problems. He took a much darker view of society’s future, a view described today as “dystopian.” In literature, a dystopian society is a society of the future that appears ideal but ultimately proves to be flawed or corrupt. Though not universal to the genre of dystopian literature, themes such as the dehumanization and oppression of individuals, the corruption of totalitarian governments, and the effects of war or environmental cataclysms frequently characterize dystopian works. Writers often employ this genre to raise real-world concerns about society, the environment, politics, religion, and technology. In all of these aspects, Brave New World stands as one of the most powerful novels in dystopian literature.
Brave New World is set in London in AD 2540 following a war that decimated the world’s population. The surviving governments have unified as the World State, and in the name of social and economic stability, ten World Controllers now exercise absolute power over every aspect of citizens’ lives. To ensure plentiful resources and an orderly society, population is limited, and natural reproduction is outlawed. New members of society are created, or “decanted,” in hatcheries, assigned to social castes, and reared in conditioning centers to fulfill predetermined roles. All children, regardless of caste, are subjected to social conditioning via hypnotic messages played during their sleep; these messages ensure their happiness and contentment but at the cost of their free will and individuality. To ensure a thriving economy, the government conditions all citizens to value consumption, travel, and expensive leisure activities. Should citizens ever feel less-than-happy or feel an inexplicable need for solitude, they can achieve solace through consumption of a drug called “soma,” which the World State provides.
Like all dystopian fiction, Huxley’s novel deals with contemporary social issues. Published in 1932, Brave New World addresses the issues of the early twentieth century—industrialization, mass production, political and social shifts, and world war. The World State is built upon the principles of Henry Ford’s assembly line (mass production, popular consumption, homogeneity, and predictability), and the citizens of the World State revere Ford as a deity. Additionally, many of the characters’ names derive from widely recognized political figures of Huxley’s time, among them Leon Trotsky, Benito Mussolini, Herbert Hoover, Vladimir Lenin, and Karl Marx. Besides warning against the proliferation of mass production and consumerism, the novel also raises serious and troubling concerns about rapidly advancing developments in the applications of technology in human reproduction.
In addition to expressing social and political concerns, Huxley particularly addresses the fear of losing our individual identity in the brave new world of the future. Throughout the novel, Huxley’s unnamed, omniscient narrator speaks as a rational voice commenting on the World State and its dictatorial control of human life as the means of creating perfect happiness and social stability. Is there a price too high to pay in exchange for living in an “ideal” world? Huxley raises the question indirectly throughout Brave New World and answers it definitively with the shocking suicide that abruptly concludes the novel. Living without the unique identity that makes us who we are—and without the struggles that make us fully human—makes life in any world at all meaningless and unbearable.
By the end of the unit the student will be able to:
1. Explain the origins of the World State and its philosophies about social stability.
2. Describe several specific steps taken by the World State to maintain social order.
3. Describe the citizens’ attitudes toward sexuality and love and explain why they are conditioned to hold these views.
4. Identify the different castes of the society and their social roles.
5. Describe how Bernard initially does not conform to the expectations for his caste and explain how his view of social conformity changes over the course of the story.
6. Contrast Bernard’s and Helmholtz’s personalities and their attitudes toward social conformity.
7. Explain why John’s relationship with Lenina fails, despite their mutual attraction.
8. Contrast Mustapha Mond’s attitude toward the World State and its means of social control with those of the Director of Hatcheries and John Savage.
9. Identify and explain the traits of the World State society that make it a dystopia.
This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.
Student Lesson Guide
- The Lesson Guide is organized to study the parts of the novel in chapters. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
- Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading the chapters and to acquaint them generally with their content.
- Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.
(The entire section is 469 words.)
1. Discuss the reasons why Bernard and Helmholtz do not fit into the World State society; then contrast how each man views his isolation and responds to it.
2. Discuss how men and women view and interact with one another in the World State. Using specific evidence from the novel to support your claims, argue whether or not women are empowered by the sexual liberation and reproductive technology of the World State.
3. Describe several specific steps taken by the World State to maintain social order, and argue the sacrifice the people must make in each case.
4. In literature, a tragic hero has one major flaw which evokes pity, sympathy, empathy,...
(The entire section is 694 words.)
abjectly: in a humble or servile manner
bouillon: a clear soup, a broth
burgeoned: grew, expanded rapidly
caste: a system of rigid social stratification sanctioned by custom, law, or religion
conditioning: a process involving the formation, strengthening, or weakening of an association
between a stimulus and a response
decanted: poured out; transferred; unloaded as if by pouring
deferential: showing respect
excised: removed, cut out
freemartin: a sterile female calf twinborn with a male; a female human intentionally made sterile in utero (in context)
ingenuous: showing innocent or childlike simplicity...
(The entire section is 1377 words.)
apoplectic: overcome with extreme anger or indignation
aseptically: in a manner to prevent infection
curtly: rudely, brusquely
gratuitous: having no return benefit or compensation
inculcate: to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or warnings
indefatigably: tirelessly, inexhaustibly
indissolubly: in a manner incapable of being undone or broken
Pavlovian: being or expressing a conditioned or predictable reaction; related to any conditioned reflex response such as that used by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov who famously trained a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell by associating the bell with feeding
quartos: books made up of sheets...
(The entire section is 876 words.)
axiomatic: taken for granted; self-evident
boscage: a growth of trees or shrubs
bunk: slang nonsense
conscription: the compulsory enrollment of persons in an activity
discarnate: having no physical body
evocation: imaginative re-creation
furtive: sneaky, stealthy
incongruous: not harmonious or compatible; disagreeing
incredulity: unwillingness to accept what is offered as true, skepticism
maudlin: overly sentimental
midden: a garbage heap
patronizing: condescending, haughty
pneumatic: having a well-proportioned female figure, especially a full bust
rabble: a disorganized or disorderly...
(The entire section is 1896 words.)
asceticism: the practice of strict self-denial as a measure of personal and spiritual discipline
cordiality: sincere kindness, warmth, friendliness
hypocritically: done with intent to pretend to be what one is not or to believe what one does not
imperiously: commandingly; in a domineering manner
manifest: readily perceived; easily understood
simian: relating to or resembling monkeys
1. What makes Bernard uncomfortable about the way Lenina talks about their plans to visit New Mexico? How does she respond to his discomfort?
Lenina’s forwardness and the sexually suggestive tone of her...
(The entire section is 623 words.)
atonement: reparation for an offense or injury; penance
consummation: conclusion; grand finale
galvanic: having an electric effect; intensely exciting
genial: marked by sympathy and friendliness
imminence: the quality of being about to happen
incandescence: striking brightness or radiance
liturgical: of or relating to a rite prescribed for public worship
plangently: in a loudly reverberating manner
pullulation: a swarm
satiety: the quality or state of being gratified to or beyond capacity
supine: lying on the back with the face upward
1. According to Henry Foster, in...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
archness: deliberate and forced playfulness
cajolery: coaxing with flattery
fulminated: strongly denounced or condemned
indecorous: conflicting with accepted standards of conduct; improper
inexorably: relentlessly; in a manner of being unstoppable
malignant: aggressively malicious, hateful
obstinately: unyieldingly; selfishly or stubbornly resisting change in spite of reason or persuasion
solecism: something deviating from the proper or accepted order; a breach of decorum
unabashed: unapologetic; unashamed
voluptuous: suggestive of or promising sensual pleasure
(The entire section is 751 words.)
diadem: a crown
goiter: a prominent swelling on the front of the neck
incarnadine: red; having the pinkish color of flesh
indefatigable: incapable of being tired out
indignant: feeling anger because of something unjust
innocuous: harmless; not likely to give offense
multitudinous: populous; existing in innumerable elements or aspects
precipitous: very steep
1. How does Lenina try to cope with the strangeness of the sights she sees at the reservation? What does her coping strategy suggest about her character?
Lenina reassures herself by comparing things she sees on the...
(The entire section is 821 words.)
kiva: a large chamber, often wholly or partly underground, used for religious ceremonies in a Pueblo Indian village
1. Who is Popé? Why does John, Linda’s son, hate him?
Popé is one of the men who visits John’s mother to sleep with her, and he brings the mescal that makes her drunk. On one occasion, he hurt John to get him out of the room so that he could have Linda.
2. What makes Linda both love and hate her son?
Linda loves John because he is all she has on the reservation. However, because of her conditioning, she hates having given birth to him; she...
(The entire section is 604 words.)
emphatically: with emphasis; forcefully, insistently
profane: to treat something sacred with abuse or contempt
vestal: chaste; pure
1. What does Lenina do to recover from the “day of queerness and horror” she experienced at the reservation?
She swallows six tablets of soma, effectively knocking herself out for eighteen hours.
2. How does Bernard put in place a plan to bring John and Linda back to civilization?
Bernard leaves Lenina to her “soma holiday” and travels to Santa Fé, where he makes a series of calls to the World Controller’s...
(The entire section is 394 words.)
aeons: immeasurably long periods of time
blithe: happy, lighthearted
coquettishly: flirtatiously, teasingly
eminence: high station, rank, or reputation
heinous: abominable, totally despicable
ignominy: public disgrace, dishonor
jaunty: easy and sprightly in manner, smartly trim and neat, as clothing
obliquity: deviation from morality or sound thinking
portentously: with ominous significance
recapitulated: summarized; reprised
scatological: characterized by obscenity or by a preoccupation with obscenity, especially related to excrement
subverter: one who overthrows or undermines
unorthodoxy: that which does not...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
accredited: officially recognized as meeting the essential requirements
cadged: obtained by imposing on another’s generosity or friendship
carping: judgmental, overly critical
demurred: made an objection, especially on the grounds of moral or ethical considerations
vitrified: converted into glass
1. Why are the citizens of London interested in meeting John but not Linda?
Whereas John’s addressing the Director as “my father” is seen by society as a good joke, Linda’s accusation that the Director made her a mother is considered “an obscenity.” Furthermore, society does not view...
(The entire section is 709 words.)
collation: a light meal
magnanimity: the quality of being generous in forgiving insult or injury
mollified: pacified; softened in emotion or temper
sepulchral: pertaining to a tomb or burial
unwonted: not customary or usual; rare
wheedled: attempted to persuade a person by flattery
1. What does John do to humiliate Bernard before the Arch-Community Songster of Canterbury and the other guests at his party? How do Bernard’s guests respond?
Bernard has invited the Arch-Community Songster of Canterbury and others to meet John, but John refuses to come out of his rooms and yells...
(The entire section is 714 words.)
abstemious: sparing or moderate in eating and drinking; characterized by abstinence
adage: a traditional saying expressing a common experience
averted: turned away
elation: extreme joy; exhilaration
impudent: marked by cocky boldness
ingratiating: intended to gain favor, flattering
parleying: speaking with another
usurp: to take the place of something by force, to supplant
1. What advice does Fanny give Lenina about her passion for John?
Fanny finds it ridiculous that Lenina is pining over John and advises her to distract herself with other men and soma or to “just go...
(The entire section is 335 words.)
constituents: essential parts, components
embellished: made beautiful with decoration
flaccid: lacking youthful firmness; lacking vigor
irresolute: uncertain how to act or proceed
moribund: approaching death
truculently: scathingly harsh; aggressively self-assertive
1. What has happened to Linda, and where has she been taken?
Linda has ingested too much soma, and she has been taken to the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying.
2. Explain why the patients in the hospital cause John to “shudder” when he looks at them....
(The entire section is 170 words.)
ardour: fervent, zealous emotion
carapace: a bony shield covering the back or part of the back of an animal
derision: the use of ridicule or scorn to show contempt
peremptorily: authoritatively; in a manner demanding compliance
1. To what does John compare the twins who interrupted his grieving over Linda’s death?
John compares the twins to maggots that “had swarmed defilingly over the mysteries of Linda’s death.”
2. How does the meaning of “O brave new world” change for John as he contemplates the sight of the soma distribution?...
(The entire section is 440 words.)
approbation: an act of approving formally or officially
chary: cautious about danger or taking risks
paroxysm: a sudden violent outburst of emotion
platitude: a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful
scullion: a kitchen helper
sedulously: in a manner that is diligent in application or pursuit
1. According to Mustapha Mond, why does the World State prohibit the reading of Shakespeare?
Mond explains to John that the World State prohibits people from reading Shakespeare...
(The entire section is 826 words.)
avowed: declared openly and without shame
neurasthenia: a psychological disorder marked by fatigue, lack of motivation, and feelings of inadequacy
superfluous: extra; unnecessary
1. When John asks why Mustapha Mond does not share his knowledge of God with the World State, how does Mond reply? What makes religion “superfluous” in the World State?
Mond says that the citizens of the World State would not be able to understand his books about religion and the Bible because “they’re about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now.” Mond reasons that religion is superfluous because, according...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
coccyx: a small bone that forms the terminus of the spinal column in humans and tailless apes
hermitage: a secluded private residence or retreat
strumpet: a prostitute
1. Why does John drink mustard and warm water, causing himself to vomit?
John tells Bernard and Helmholtz that civilization has poisoned and defiled him; he purifies himself in the manner of the Indians.
2. Why does Mustapha Mond deny John’s request to be sent away with Bernard and Helmholtz? How does John respond?
Mond claims he wants to keep John around to “go on with the...
(The entire section is 648 words.)
1. What is the World State’s motto?
A. Community, Identity, Stability
B. Ford’s in his flivver.
C. Everyone is everyone’s.
D. Hug me till you drug me.
E. Life, Liberty, Happiness
2. What is Bokanovsky’s Process?
A. A process by which children are socially conditioned.
B. A process by which women are made sterile.
C. A process that forces a human embryo to divide and produce dozens of twins.
D. A process that speeds up the development process of...
(The entire section is 1167 words.)
1. Discuss the reasons Bernard and Helmholtz do not fit into the World State society. Explain and contrast how they view their isolation, and describe how their isolation influences each man’s actions. Ultimately, how does each man’s response to isolation reveal the nature of his character?
Although they are both Alphas with a high degree of responsibility to the World State, neither Bernard Marx nor Helmholtz Watson fits in, and both feel discontented. However, Helmholtz’s isolation is self-imposed, while Bernard’s isolation is largely imposed on him by others. Helmholtz ultimately rejects his social position completely because he believes he should expect more from himself. Bernard, on the other...
(The entire section is 3844 words.)