What is the pregnancy substitute in Brave New World?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A pregnancy substitute is a set of injections and pills that women are given to simulate the effects of being pregnant.  By that, I mean that they simulate the hormonal effects of pregnancy.  In the book, women are said to need these and are in fact required to have one when they are twenty one years old.  In Chapter 3, we see that Fanny has been told to have one at age 19 and that she should have had one at 17 because she is a brunette with a wide pelvis.

We "see" the ingredients of the substitute in Fanny's locker:

"SYRUP OF CORPUS LUTEUM," Lenina read the names aloud. "OVARIN, GUARANTEED FRESH: NOT TO BE USED AFTER AUGUST 1ST, A.F. 632. MAMMARY GLAND EXTRACT: TO BE TAKEN THREE TIMES DAILY, BEFORE MEALS, WITH A LITTLE WATER. PLACENTIN: 5cc TO BE INJECTED INTRAVENALLY EVERY THIRD DAY …

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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The first mention of a pregnancy substitute occurs in a conversation between Lenina and Fanny. Ladies in the new world were taken through the pregnancy substitute treatment to alleviate issues brought about by unbalanced hormones. The women's ability to get pregnant was suppressed and this may have caused hormonal issues.

The pregnancy substitute was a set of medications that possibly mimicked the hormonal conditions during a pregnancy, and the treatment was compulsory for women at twenty-one. However, Fanny had to start the treatment early because it was advised that individuals sharing her physical features ought to have the treatment at seventeen. At the time, she was nineteen, meaning she was two years late for the treatment, which was also the reason she felt unwell.

“I’ve been feeling rather out of sorts lately,” Fanny explained. “Dr. Wells advised me to have a Pregnancy Substitute.”
“But, my dear, you’re only nineteen. The first Pregnancy Substitute isn’t compulsory till twenty-one.”

The treatment took three months to complete and offered an estimated three to four years of better health. The next mention of the pregnancy substitute is in a conversation between Lenina and Henry. In their conversation, Henry thinks Lenina is unwell.

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the "World State" maintains strict control over every facet of every human's existence, including, and especially, their sexuality and reproductivity. In Chapter Three, Lenina and Fanny, with Mustafa, are discussing their social lives, which invariably involves discussions of sexuality.  Naked in a communal bathroom, the women begin turn their discussion towards their hormonal processes, prompting the following exchange:

“Who are you going out with to-night?” Lenina asked, returning from the vibro-vac like a pearl illuminated from within, pinkly glowing.
“Nobody.”
Lenina raised her eyebrows in astonishment.
“I’ve been feeling rather out of sorts lately,” Fanny explained. “Dr. Wells advised me to have a Pregnancy Substitute.”
“But, my dear, you’re only nineteen. The first Pregnancy Substitute isn’t compulsory till twenty-one.”

Fanny's comment that she is feeling "out of sorts" is interpreted here to suggest she is not feeling sexual, probably related to her menstruation cycle.  The "Pregnancy Substitute," we can infer, is intended by the state to manipulate a woman's hormonal status for the purpose of reinvigorating her libido.  Lenina then proceeds to read the ingredients and procedures associated with this "substitute":

“SYRUP OF CORPUS LUTEUM,” Lenina read the names aloud. “OVARIN,
GUARANTEED FRESH: NOT TO BE USED AFTER AUGUST 1ST, A.F. 632.
MAMMARY GLAND EXTRACT: TO BE TAKEN THREE TIMES DAILY, BEFORE
MEALS, WITH A LITTLE WATER. PLACENTIN: 5cc TO BE INJECTED
INTRAVENALLY EVERY THIRD DAY. Ugh!” Lenina shuddered. “

In Huxley's dystopian universe, the all-seeing, all-knowing government has developed the technological and pharmaceutical means of controlling even the most personal and intrusive human activities.  

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