What is Bernard Marx's position in society and how do his physical attributes contribute to his personality and character? How, and why?

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tinicraw's profile pic

tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Bernard Marx is an interesting character to follow in Huxley's "Brave New World." He is an Alpha-plus, which means that he is highly intelligent and works in the hatchery as one who oversees the conditioning of the youth through the night-time hypnotism. The obstacles that he faces have much to do with his physical defects.

"Bernard's physique was hardly better than that of the average Gamma. He stood eight centimetres short of the standard Alpha height and was slender in proportion. Contact with members of the lower castes always reminded him painfully of this physical inadequacy" (76).

Because he was shorter than other Alphas, he experienced life differently than they did.  For example, he felt that he needed to yell at the Gammas in order to get them to listen to him and obey his orders. This low self-concept of himself affected how he responded to opposition in his life; such as the time when he was almost fired from his job, he quickly retaliated by embarrassing the director in public about Linda and John. He was consistent with his actions because he was always worried about his status in the sytem. He never learns a lesson and improves, he stays the same paranoid little man that he is.

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Bernard Marx is one of the few people within his society who is capable of questioning it, because he is of the most intelligent caste, the Alpha-pluses. Others in his society are genetically engineered to be less intelligent than he and his cohort and are also heavily indoctrinated, or brainwashed, to unthinkingly accept the values of their caste and culture. Lenina, for example, his utterly conventional girlfriend, will quickly fall back on one of the many mottoes conditioned into her if any disturbing thought should for the tiniest micro-second disturb her, or, like others, she will take the drug soma to induce happiness and calm.

Bernard, in contrast, like the rest of his tiny caste of alphas, has the critical thinking skills necessary to lead society. However, because of what's called a test-tube mistake, he is short and slight. Alphas are designed to be tall, reflecting their high social status. The castes become progressively shorter as they go down the line, with Epsilons (the lowest, least intelligent laboring class) the shortest and darkest, reflecting the racism of the time period in which the book was written. Bernard is about the height of a Gamma, the middle caste, making him significantly shorter than his peers. This causes him to be insecure and compounds his sense of being a misfit, leading to his increasing discomfort in a society based on everybody's being comfortable and happy. This gives him a personality that tends to say the wrong thing and ask uncomfortable questions. He upsets Lenina, for instance, by raising questions about how they spend their leisure time. When Mond banishes Marx to a remote island, the implication is that this is less punishment than deliverance for a man so at odds with his culture.

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