Places Discussed

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Last Updated on April 1, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 664

Great Britain

In Huxley’s dystopian future, the British Isles are part of Western Europe, one of ten administrative divisions of the world supervised by resident controllers.

Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre

This is the place where new citizens of London, the one-time capital of Britain, are produced. It has four thousand rooms. Life begins in the Fertilizing Room, after which cloned embryos are implanted in artificial wombs in the Bottling Room. Treatments administered in the Social Predestination Room determine the future status of the individuals delivered in the Decanting Room. The building’s upper floors contain the Infant Nurseries and Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms. The center includes pleasant gardens, where children are allowed to play, but their games are carefully designed to supplement their careful education. The hatchery is the core of Huxley’s sarcastic extrapolation of the principles of American automobile pioneer Henry Ford’s assembly-line production system and Frederick Winslow Taylor’s theories of applying scientific management to the organization of entire societies.

Fleet Street

Fleet Street is a real London street on which most British national newspapers were produced at the time Huxley wrote Brave New World. In the year A.F. (“after Ford”) 632 (the twenty-seventh century by regular calendars), the street is dominated by a sixty-six-story building whose lower floors accommodate the Bureau of Propaganda—encompassing Television, Feeling Pictures, and Synthetic Voice and Music as well as the three remaining newspapers—while the eighteen uppermost floors house the College of Emotional Engineering.

Westminster Abbey

One of the two most famous churches in London in the twentieth century, the abbey is situated close to the Houses of Parliament, near the River Thames. In A.F. 632 it has become a cabaret serving a vast apartment complex. The site of the other famous London church, St. Paul’s Cathedral—at the top of Ludgate Hill—is occupied in A.F. 632 by the huge Fordson Community Singery, whose seven thousand rooms are used by Solidarity Groups for fortnightly services.

New Mexico Savage Reservation

This is a fictional Native American reservation west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, encompassing the Malpais Valley. It is one of several set aside for the use of people—including Native Americans—who remain stubbornly dedicated to squalid, inefficient, and chaotic ways of life that have been rendered obsolete by Fordism. Its 560,000 square kilometers are divided into four sub-reservations, each surrounded by an electrified fence.


Eton is a real village north of Windsor in England’s Berkshire region, the site of what is probably England’s most famous preparatory school. The school still exists in A.F. 632; it, the School Community Singery, and the fifty-two-story Lupton’s Tower form three sides of a quadrangle in whose center stands a chrome-steel statue of Our Ford.

Park Lane Hospital for the Dying

Park Lane Hospital is a sixty-story building externally decorated with primrose-colored tiles, overlooking Hyde Park. Visits to such institutions are a routine part of the existential process so that children may become accustomed to the idea of death—against which patients are not encouraged to put up undignified struggles.


Cyprus is a large eastern Mediterranean island. In the novel, it is mentioned as the site of an experiment undertaken in the year A.F. 473, when twenty-two thousand Alphas were allowed to create a society of their own, unsupported by the ranks of mentally inferior Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, who were eight-ninths of the population in Fordist society. When nineteen thousand Alphas died in civil wars caused by their reluctance to do the menial work needed to maintain their society, the survivors petitioned the World Controllers to resume their government over the island.


The lighthouse is a ferroconcrete edifice...

(This entire section contains 664 words.)

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intended for the guidance of air traffic, erected on a hill between the towns of Puttenham and Elstead in the English county of Surrey, south of the Hog’s Back ridge. In this improvised “hermitage” John the Savage tries, unsuccessfully, to isolate himself from the England of A.F. 632.

Shakespeare References

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Aldous Huxley’s title for the novel comes from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.

Prospero, once the Duke of Milan, is deposed by his brother Antonio. Prospero and his two-year-old daughter are abandoned in a small boat at sea. They find an island to live on. Miranda grows up to be a lovely young woman who has no knowledge of the world. Her father uses his power as a magician to create a storm that brings a boat carrying his old enemies to the island so he can punish them for his exile.

Two supernatural characters become Prospero’s slaves on the island: Caliban, the deformed and base son of a dead witch, and Ariel, a spiritual being who had been imprisoned by Caliban’s mother. These are the only other two beings Miranda had known. When Miranda sees the various men who have come to the island, she says, “O Brave New World.” Prospero, who has worldly experience, replies, “Tis new to thee.”

The play is judged to have been written in 1610–1611 and shows the inner nature of human beings revealed in crisis and change.

Throughout the novel, John the Savage is drawn to two plays of Shakespeare’s: Romeo and Juliet and Othello. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of two young lovers. Juliet is a beautiful, virginal fourteen-year-old. Romeo is the handsome teenage son of the Montague family, sworn enemies of the Capulets, Juliet’s family. Romeo sneaks into a Capulet party. When he and Juliet see each other, they instantly fall in love. They secretly marry with the help of Friar Laurence. After spending their wedding night together, Romeo becomes entangled in a feud between the members of both families and kills a Capulet cousin. He is banished from Verona, and Juliet’s parents betroth her to another man, unaware of her secret marriage. Friar Laurence mixes a potion to put Juliet into a death-like sleep so Romeo can come to the family tomb and take her away. Various problems ensue and Romeo does not receive the plan. He comes to the Capulet family tomb to mourn his beloved, takes poison, and dies beside her. Juliet awakens to find her dead husband and kills herself with his dagger. Thus, they become victims of fate and their star-crossed lives.

The other play is Othello, a story of jealousy and betrayal. Othello is a Moorish general who has come up through the ranks in the army of Venice. He elopes with Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian senator. Despite the fact that he is an outsider in his society because of his race and his less-than-noble birth, he and his wife are happy in the beginning. Othello’s aide, Iago, hates and envies the general and feels slighted. He remains in Othello’s service for the express purpose of destroying him. Using various innocent situations, Iago manages to convince Othello that his wife is in an adulterous affair with another officer. Many of Iago’s speeches contain very explicit and degrading sexual language to create rage and jealousy in Othello’s mind. Finally, in a fit of rage, Othello smothers Desdemona in their bed with her pillow. Othello then dies by suicide. There is a constant violation of trust throughout the play which upsets the characters and the society around them. The sacrifice of the major characters restores that balance.

Literary Techniques

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One of the achievements of Brave New World is the skill and inventiveness with which Huxley manages to create the technological trappings of his society. Not only Soma, the “feelies,” and the Hatchery and Conditioning centers which produced the controlled population but also the little inventions like the games, and the names and the deification of Ford and Marx, help establish a fully credible society, one which seems possible based on today’s technology. Also, Huxley’s world feels psychologically right and his characters more roundly portrayed than in run-of-the-mill science fiction. The governmental control exists and is for the most part effective, but it is not foolproof, nor is it absolute. Human traits keep seeping through; atavism is not yet eliminated in the genetically engineered future. Moreover, it is a serious novel much different in tone from his previous ones. Brave New World carries with it a weight of ideas heavier than the novels of social criticism which made Huxley’s reputation in the 1920s. The focus here is a warning for the future, a caution against the possibilities of central political control and unchecked scientific advancement.

The third most important broad theme of Brave New World is that of individualism, for it is the loss of distinctive individual characteristics which makes the society so deadening. One of Huxley’s primary fears about science was that as it made life more tolerable physically, and humans had more food, creature comforts, and things, that they would become more uniform in character—and that the emphasis on what science could “produce,” especially mind-numbing drugs and time-consuming entertainments, could all but obliterate the importance of those elements which produced human differences. In this respect Huxley repeated the cautions, often voiced, of his Victorian forebears who were ambivalent about unchecked scientific growth while applauding such social notions as “Progress” which were spurred on by that same scientific expansion.

Literary Precedents

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Utopian literature has long been a staple of Western writing. Homer, Plato, Dante, Sir Thomas More, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, and H. G. Wells all wrote works which posited and sometimes demolished utopian societies. Huxley’s novel is in many ways the inheritor of a long tradition of such works. Its one radical difference is in his attitude toward the role of science or advanced learning within that society. For Huxley the future was ominous. If science remained uncontrolled and undisciplined by mature social and political wisdom, the danger was that ultimately technological advances would provide the unscrupulous with the easy means of controlling the mass of the population and thereby make totalitarianism an easily feasible means of government.

The second difference is that Huxley’s novel is more successful as a work of literature than many of its predecessors. The prose is more distinguished and the psychological insight more sophisticated than works such as Wells’s Men Like Gods (1923) or Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888) or the writings of C. S. Lewis or Ignatius Donnelley. Huxley remains, for all his intellectual seriousness, still first and foremost a novelist in Brave New World.

In the past few years critics have more aggressively explored the notions of “dystopian” literature, the books (and fictional as well as nonfictional works in other media) which describe negative utopias. Even H. G. Wells, who was largely upbeat about the progress of science, wrote a dystopian novel, The Sleeper Awakes (1899), as did other writers like the Soviet author Eugene Zamiatin, Wells’s Russian editor, whose novel We (1920) came to be viewed as a prescient account of Soviet society under the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin, and more recently Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1986).

The theme of dystopian societies has been widely portrayed on the movie screen, as well, in every form from Charles Chaplin’s seriocomedic Modern Times (1936) through Stanley Kubrick’s sociopathic A Clockwork Orange (1971) to Terry Gilliam's horrific Brazil (1985). Now the film screens are filled with various nightmare visions of the future, often inhabited by cyborgs, robots, and other fantastic creatures bent on replacing human beings. As we near the end of this century, there seems to be no end of opportunity for both utopian and dystopian works in the future.


Key Ideas and Commentary


Historical and Social Context