Brave New World Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

Aldous Huxley

Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 2 Summary

When the group finishes touring the Decanting Room, they then proceed to the Infant Nurseries, where they watch an infant group of Deltas all dressed in khaki being conditioned to hate books. This process involves using classic Pavlovian conditioning techniques that involve electrocuting the children and setting off loud, alarming sirens that make them cry and associate the books and the country with pain and suffering. The ultimate goal of this process is to make people averse to books (and, thus, to learning), while simultaneously hating the country and loving country sports, so in their off hours they'll consume transportation and buy sporting equipment, thus stimulating the economy.

Following this demonstration, the Director tells the story of Little Reuben, a little boy who while he was sleeping heard a radio programme of George Bernard Shaw delivering a speech and woke up reciting the words he'd heard, despite not knowing English. This led researchers to explore the concept of hypnopædia (sleep teaching), which they use to instill whatever moral directives their World Controllers see fit, including: "Silence, silence," and "Oh, no, I don't want to play with the Delta children." Thus, sleep teaching is a form of brainwashing used to reinforce their (artificial) social hierarchy. The DHC shouts in triumph, proud of the State for having used the suggestions to shape the mind of every human being on the planet (with, as we later learn, a few exceptions). Unfortunately, the enthusiasm wakes the children, and the tour must pause for a moment.

Chapter 2 Analysis

Allusions

Henry Ford (1863 - 1947). One of the more famous American industrialists and the founder of the Ford Motor Company, an important automobile manufacturer that produced the Model-T, the first truly affordable car—the one that made it possible for individuals to have quick, private transportation. He's the namesake of "Fordism," the system of mass production that inspires the biological engineering used in this novel. This novel takes place in A.F. (After Ford) 632, placing the action of the novel in roughly 2579, depending on when you begin counting.

Model-T. Generally considered the first affordable car to hit the market, the Model-T was developed by the industrialist Henry Ford and mass produced on an assembly line in order to reduce costs. The car was revolutionary for its time and changed the transportation industry forever. Few Model-Ts are left today, and those that are have for the most part been bought up by museums and collectors.

Ivan Pavlov (1849 - 1936). A Russian psychologist famed for his work in classical (as opposed to operant) conditioning. His most famous experiments involved manipulating stimuli and events in order to produce and later to predict the physiological reactions of dogs. His experiments earned him the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine and were widely regarded by the Soviet government, which funded much of his research. Huxley alludes to Pavlov because the conditioning children go through in this world is similar to the classical conditioning that Pavlov developed.

George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950). An Irish playwright perhaps best known for his plays Man and Superman and Pygmalion, which inspired the film My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn. Huxley alludes to him when he relates the fictional story of Little Reuben, a little boy who happened to be exposed to one of Shaw's old radio speeches one night. Huxley writes that in this speech Shaw was talking at length "about his own genius" (a critical description suggesting that Huxley wasn't a big fan of Shaw or his work).

Symbols

Books. Traditionally, books are symbols of education and literacy, the access to which often determines one's class and social status. In this chapter, the psychologists at the hatchery take advantage of the association between books and literacy in order to condition infants against the latter, giving them a permanent aversion to books, education, and intellectual curiosity. In this way, the World Controllers are able to maintain their stranglehold over the minds and imaginations of the people without the general public even really noticing.

Flowers. In general, flowers are symbolic of nature and one's emotions, with particular flowers connoting love, guilt, happiness, and other sentiments. During the conditioning process, psychologists use the emotional connection humans have with flowers against the infants, forcing them to associate nature with pain, suffering, and unhappiness. This is done primarily so that workers will want to stay inside, except when they're consuming transportation and sporting goods.

Themes

Classism. Part of the conditioning process involves being brainwashed to reinforce a fundamentally classist social hierarchy that keeps certain classes down: "Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write." This classism is now so deeply ingrained within this society that no one questions it. Those who've been engineered to be subservient have internalized the classism leveled against them to the point where they simply perpetuate the system without question. Their classism is the foundation of the brave new world, and as such makes the class wars in our modern society seem all the more fraught.

Conditioning. In this chapter, we find that conditioning is not merely biological and that all the psychologists in this brave new world are using morally questionable methods to brainwash the populace. They are torturing, frightening, and manipulating infants into believing what World Controllers want them to think. Their techniques are drawn directly from scientists like Ivan Pavlov, a Soviet researcher who studied classical conditioning. His experiments were conducted on animals, however, and in today's society experimenting on humans like this is not typically permitted.

Education. Huxley's brave new world doesn't have what we would think of as a traditional education system. There are few "schools," and those that exist teach practical skills rather than foster discussion or an exchange of ideas. These characters don't have a philosophical or well rounded education, but rather a moral one, which has been dictated for them by the State. Thus, education, like biology, is tightly controlled.

Torture. What the characters in this novel think of as education or conditioning a reader would generally consider torture. Psychologists and scientists in the Infant Nurseries employ reprehensible tools like aversion therapy, shock treatment, and sleep teaching or hypnopædia in order to brainwash, condition, and control the population. Huxley has the characters employ these techniques so that the reader will question the morality of science and technology in the novel and, consequently, in our modern world.