Assessing Savagery and Civilization: Brave New World subverts commonly held ideas of what is “civilized.” Many brutal aspects of the World State are presented through a veneer of scientific formality, while John’s independence and freedom of thought contributes to his classification as a “savage.”
- For discussion: Compare and contrast the cultures of the World State and the reservation. How does each culture handle birth and death? How do they construct families and educate children? How do they handle individuals who break rules? How do they determine punishments?
- For discussion: The World State has a very distinctive caste system. Do you agree with Mustapha when he suggests that a society of all Alphas would fail? How does this social hierarchy compare to the social hierarchy on the reservation?
- For discussion: Research various definitions of “civilization” and “savagery.” How do the two cultures presented in Brave New World compare to these definitions? Does either word fit either culture perfectly? Why or why not?
Considering the Ethics of Science: Huxley described his novel as dealing less with science and more with science’s effects on humans. Brave New World presents readers with ethical conundrums relating to human nature, sexuality, evolutionary biology, and technological innovation. Huxley presents readers with a vision of life in the World State that is both intriguing and horrifying.
- For discussion: How has the World State used science to develop society? Compare the use of science in the World State to that on the reservation.
- For discussion: Does science liberate people or limit people in the World State? How so?
- For discussion: What benefits does the use of science bring to the World State? Do these benefits justify its use? Why or why not?
- For discussion: Ultimately, does the novel condemn or celebrate science? How do applications of science in the World State compare with governmental applications of science today? How do depictions of science in Brave New World compare with the uses of science today?
Describing Power in the World State: In Brave New World, the government exerts control over nearly every aspect of people’s lives: their genetics, their education, their sexuality, their profession, and even their experiences of death. Over the course of the novel, different characters—John, Bernard, and Helmholtz—all attempt to defy that control and exert authority over their own lives.
- For discussion: How does the World State exert control over its citizens? Who, if anyone, is empowered within the culture of the World State?
- For discussion: What is the role of soma in the World State? Who seems to be the most in need of soma: the Alphas or the Epsilons? Why might that be the case?
- For discussion: How do John, Bernard, and Helmholtz each try to exert power in the World State? Are any of them successful? How?
- For discussion: What roles do human instinct and free will play in the World State? To what extent do they threaten the established power structure?
Interpreting Setting: The settings in Brave New World—London and New Mexico in 2540 CE—are nearly as important as its characters and events in developing themes in the text. The amount of detail that Huxley used in creating the World State generates the eerie verisimilitude of the culture itself as well as disconcerting similarities between civilization in 2540 and in the present day.
- For discussion: Describe, or render artistically, the most impactful setting in Brave New World. What specific details does Huxley provide? Where are you forced to make inferences?
- For discussion: Describe the professional and recreational facilities in the World State. What goes on in the Internal and External Secretions Factory or the Hounslow Feely Studio?
- For discussion: Compare and contrast the World State and New Mexico. What are their similarities and differences? How do these settings act as foils for each other?
- For discussion: How do descriptions of setting alter tone and mood in the...
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