Download Brave New World Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 1 Summary

Huxley begins this novel in medias res, during a guided tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre that the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning (DHC, or simply Director) is giving a group of students. The Director takes them to the Fertilizing Room, where he gives an in-depth explanation of Bokanovsky's Process—the method by which they fertilize an egg, arrest its development, then force it to bud, creating up to ninety-six embryos, which in turn produce an entire batch of identical twins. This process has been perfected for the purpose of maintaining the social order through total homogenization. If there are only five classes (Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons), and if each class is conditioned so that they accept their lot in life, then the theory is that there will be no more social unrest. Their world motto is "Community, Identity, and Stability." This is achieved through biological mass production. They have Hatcheries like this in Singapore, Mombasa, and, presumably, elsewhere. Every single one of these characters has been produced in a lab.

Chapter 1 Analysis

Satire

This novel is clearly a satire of the modern world, which, in 1931, when the novel was published, was still feeling the aftershocks of World War I and of the devastation that the military-industrial complex wrought on society. Huxley, who found war dehumanizing and thought that science and technology (if implemented incorrectly) posed a threat to modern civilization, wrote the novel as a kind of thought experiment to examine what would happen if world leaders came together and mandated peace. Naturally, he thought, the peace would be artificial, and it would thus have to be maintained through artificial means. Hence, cloning and homogenization.

Symbols

Circle. One of three symbols used in the labelling system for embryos. Circles represent females.

T. One of three symbols used in the labelling system for embryos. The "T" represents male embryos and may stand for "testosterone," the male hormone.

Question Mark. One of three symbols used in the labelling system for embryos. A "?" is used to label embryos as future freemartins (sterile women). Given that the process of sterilizing female embryos involves washing them with testosterone during the development process, the black question mark may be meant to indicate that the resulting embryo is neither male nor female in the traditional sense, but some other gendered class that is somewhere in between. See Themes: Gender for more on this.

Themes

Class.  In this world, it's believed that social strife comes from conflict between the classes. The solution they've come up with is to homogenize the different social classes, biologically engineering, then psychologically conditioning them to accept their lot in life. Thus, the World Controllers have all but eliminated the social classes we're familiar with and instituted a caste system that, though it's entirely new, feels familiar, with the top...

(The entire section is 1,216 words.)