Brave New World Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

Aldous Huxley

Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 3 Summary

Following the visit to the Infant Nurseries, the Director takes his tour group to the garden, where a group of six or seven hundred children is frolicking, engaging in such activities as Centrifugal Bumble-puppy (a game Huxley invented) and erotic play. The Director explains that before their society was founded, erotic play among children was frowned upon and considered immoral. He insists that this is an essential part of their education and that it's important to normalize sex early so that children and adults won't demonize it. However, instead of allowing people to enjoy their sexual freedom naturally, this erotic play is mandated by the State, making this another example of how the government is trying to police people's bodies.

Here, the narrative in this chapter begins to fragment, alternating between the end of the tour (as the Director explains that all "history is bunk" and introduces the tour group to Mustapha Mond, Resident Controller for Western Europe) and the off-duty lives of two of his employees: Lenina Crowne, whom we met earlier, and Bernard Marx, who has a bad reputation, because he's said to be an introvert. Lenina asks her casual boyfriend, Henry, if he wants to go to the "feelies"—what their society calls the movies that have been augmented with smells and sensations—as Bernard sneers inwardly at Henry and their extroverted society. Meanwhile, Mustapha Mond explains to the tour group that the world before was chaos and that social constructs (motherhood, marriage, monogamy) caused social instability. Instead, everyone belongs to everyone else, as they say, and are supposedly happier for it.

Lenina then talks with her friend Fanny, a nineteen-year-old whose doctor has recommended that she start taking a Pregnancy Substitute, which regulates a woman's cycle and hormone levels so that she won't feel the biological need to have children. Lenina is as surprised by this as Fanny is to hear that Lenina has been dating (they use the word "having") Henry for four months, which is an unusually long time in this world. Lenina then wonders aloud if she should date Bernard, who is at the same time listening to a conversation about how other men would like to "have" Lenina. "At the first opportunity," they say. Bernard finds this disgusting.

Interspersed with these events is Mustapha Mond's speech about how the past was systematically destroyed in order to make way for the brave new world.

Chapter 3 Analysis

Allusions

The Alhambra. One of the more famous architectural feats in Spain, the Alhambra is both a palace and a fortress, which was renovated in the mid-13th century and would later become the site of the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella, the King and Queen of Spain, who were patrons of the famed explorer Christopher Columbus. Today, the Alhambra is a tourist attraction, but in in this brave new world it has become a kind of movie theater where they show the "feelies" to large audiences. Huxley's allusion to the Alhambra makes it clear that the past hasn't been entirely destroyed and that what is left of it has been repurposed.

Babylon. An ancient Mesopotamian city nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates in what's now Iraq. This was once a major city in both the Babylonian and Assyrian empires and was the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Huxley alludes to this in his long list of things from the past that have turned to dust.

Cnossos. Also known as Knossos, this ancient city (generally considered to be Europe's oldest) is now the biggest Bronze Age archeological site and is said to have been the home of King Minos and the Minotaur, which was trapped in the Labyrinth. It's yet another piece of history that means little to nothing in this brave new world.

Gotama. It's unclear to what exactly Huxley is referring here. The word gotama derives from the Sanskrit words for "bright light" and "darkness" and generally refers to someone who can drive away the darkness with their goodness and brilliance. Many people have held the name "Gotama," making this allusion hard to pin down.

Harappa. An archaeological site in Punjab, Pakistan that was once home to a small city in an ancient Indus Valley civilization known as the Harappan culture.

Jesus Christ. In Christian theology, he's considered the son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity. He's said to have been crucified by the Romans after being betrayed by one of his apostles, Judas, who had been paid thirty pieces of silver. Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins. However, no one in this novel believes that, and Christianity has been effectively eradicated.

Job. Considered a prophet in the Christian tradition, Job is the central figure in the Book of Job in the Bible, in which is related the story of how his devotion to God was tested: when Job was accused of only following God because He protected Job, God removed those protections and allowed his devotee to lose everything, including his family. Job's refusal to renounce God even in these hard circumstances proved that he was a true believer.

Jupiter. In this case, Huxley is alluding to the mythological figure of Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods, rather than the planet Jupiter. He's listed alongside figures from ancient mythology and theology, like Job, Jesus, and Odysseus, in Huxley's long paragraph about the past. These figures are listed because of their great power and heroism, which has made them role models for modern culture. They're not, however, models for the brave new world, which makes it seem like a cultureless or hedonistic world.

King Lear. In this context Huxley is alluding to the character of King Lear rather than to the play King Lear, which should be italicized when it's the title of a play. This is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies and is alluded to here as being on a higher plane of thought, which the citizens of this brave new world neither attain nor understand.

Karl Marx (1818 - 1883). A prominent philosopher and economist, Marx is most known for his The Communist Manifesto, in which he wrote that the proletariat should seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie, thus overturning the traditional social hierarchy and making a more egalitarian society. This new world has bastardized Marx's beliefs, turning his dreams of a better world into a tech-driven kind of nightmare where happiness and peace doesn't occur organically but is mass engineered. Marx is a hero in this brave new world, which is why his last name is very common.

The Middle Kingdom. The period of time between the Old and the New Kingdoms of Egypt, corresponding roughly to the years between 2000 BCE and 1700 BCE. The Middle Kingdom was considered a period of reunification for Egypt and saw a flourishing of art and culture within the Kingdom. Like Rome, Athens, Jerusalem, and other ancient cities, the Middle Kingdom has vanished.

Mycenae. In its time, Mycenae was a major center of ancient Greek culture and was a military stronghold that dominated the Southern Peloponnesus for years. Like Thebes, Babylon, Cnossos, and other ancient Mediterranean cities, its early culture no longer exists, and no one but the rich, powerful World Controllers knows about them.

Nine Years' War. A fictional war that Huxley invented to indicate that there was opposition to the new world order. It's not to be confused with the Nine Years' War that took place from 1688 - 1697 and was fought between Louis XIV (the "Sun King") against other European monarchies. Louis XIV had already established that he was the most powerful king in Europe even before the war began, but decided to expand his territory, which incited the war.

Odysseus. The main character of Homer's epic poem The Odyssey and a supporting character in The Iliad. It was Odysseus's idea to build the Trojan Horse, which brought an end to the Trojan War. He's one of the great heroes of ancient Greek literature and is here reduced to merely dust.

Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662). A prominent French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher known for his namesake theorem, triangle, and wager. Pascal was also a writer, and his book Pensées (Thoughts) is still read today. Huxley alludes to it to suggest that even the greatest thinkers have no impact whatsoever on this controlled society.

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616). An English playwright and poet often considered the greatest writer to have ever lived. His many plays included such classics as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo & Juliet, and King Lear, which Huxley alludes to earlier in the chapter. By telling the reader that Shakespeare isn't read or even a person of note in this brave new world, Huxley implies that the art in this world is subpar at best.

Thebes. In this context, Huxley is alluding to the ancient Greek city state rather than to the Egyptian city. It's famed for being the site of many myths, including those of Cadmus and Oedipus, the latter of whom famously married his own mother. Like other cities before it, its history has been forgotten in this novel.

Ur of the Chaldees. In the Hebrew Bible, Ur of the Chaldees, sometimes called Ur Kaśdim, was said to have been the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, who is perhaps best known for nearly killing his son at God's request. Huxley alludes to it to emphasize that ancient cultures, religions, prophets, and thinkers have no place in the brave new world.

Symbols

Clothing. Interspersed amidst the discussion of the past and its destruction is an exchange between Lenina and Fanny concerning their clothes—in particular, accessories, which are made out of things like "morocco-surrogate" and "black patent," which may or may not be the same kind of leather used today. There has also been much talk in this and in previous chapters about the colors that upper and lower castes wear and how clothes are used to differentiate between the classes. These rich, expensive clothes Lenina and Fanny sport symbolize their social status and separate them from the lower classes.

Themes

Fertility. Once again, fertility proves to be a major issue in this novel, as women's bodies are policed by a government that has no regard whatsoever for an individual's rights or identity. In the same way that "every one belongs to every one," everyone belongs to the state and is subject to the choices they make with regards to their citizens' lives and bodies. Fertility poses a threat to their artificial social order, which relies on biological engineering to control the masses. If live births were ever to occur, it would lead to social unrest. We'll see how this happens later in the novel when John is introduced.

Games. Part of the conditioning process involves forcing children to like and play games that Huxley has invented for the purposes of this novel. This games aren't "fun" as such (despite the cute name of Centrifugal Bumble-puppy, it appears to be little more than standing under a tower and catching a ball). Rather, they're designed to maximize consumption, forcing people to buy equipment and go on vacations just to play games that they don't even really like, such as Obstacle Golf. These games are carefully crafted distractions designed to keep the population meek and complacent.

History. As Mustapha Mond, the history we know and learn in school now has been all but erased in this world, leaving nothing in the years before Ford, except vague rumors of how terrible things used to be. There was, however, some resistance in the beginning of their revolution, and there was a war waged between those who wanted to preserve the past and those who wanted to destroy it. In the end, the destroyers won, and all or most of the books, art, museums, and historical records in this world were disposed of in the name of maintaining social order.

Motherhood. Hand in hand with the theme of fertility is the theme of motherhood, which no longer exists as a social construct in this world. Instead, women are taught that their reproductive biology is more or less primitive and that a mother's emotional attachment to her child is dangerous and chaotic, the source of some social unrest. The World Controllers prevent motherhood from existing with a strictly enforced system of medications and supplements that prevent organic reproduction.

Peace. In this chapter, we see that the artificial peace the World Controllers have constructed comes at a high price and that it's predicated on atrocities like the torture of children, the destruction of great works of art, and the policing of individual bodies as if they were the property of the State. Thus, by today's standards, this isn't really "peace" but, rather, a lie, and there's nothing to suggest that the general population would be happy were they not conditioned to believe so.

Sexuality. Children in this world are sexualized early, with "erotic play" taking place beginning at ages six or seven (and perhaps even earlier). This prepares them for a life where the State mandates what some readers would consider "promiscuous" behavior. In today's world, childhood sexuality is a taboo subject and is strictly discouraged in English and in American cultures. Huxley wrote the novel in part to confront these Victorian ideas of sexuality, presenting a world that swung too far in the other direction. This is a common theme in his body of work and recurs in other books.