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Chapter 1

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 1 of Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World.

Brave New World | Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

Brave New World opens in the year A.F. 632 with the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre leading a tour of male students through the facility. The Hatchery biologically mass-produces citizens to populate the Western Europe World State. The tour begins in the Fertilizing Room, where eggs donated by women are kept in test tubes until fertilized and divided into five castes—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Henry Foster explains the Bokanovsky, or cell division, process of cloning; he also explains Podsnap's Technique, which reduces the eggs' maturation from 30 years to 2. The group proceeds to the Bottling Room, where each egg is wrapped in a pig's stomach lining and placed in a decanter. A conveyor belt transports the containers to the Social Predestination Room so each embryo's sex—male, female, or freemartin (a sterile female) can be selected. The bottles spend 267 days in the Embryo Store. Alpha and Beta embryos are left to develop with minimal intellectual reduction. The physical and intellectual growth of the three remaining castes is stunted so they will fit their group's predetermined traits as adults. Gamma development is impeded the least, and Epsilon progress is reduced the most. Lenina Crowne shows how she inoculates the fetuses against diseases such as typhoid fever. The tour ends up in the Decanting Room, where the clones start their "independent existence."

Analysis

This chapter reads like a dry science text. Aldous Huxley's purpose is for readers to understand the cold, sterile, and emotionless atmosphere of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. In this world of mass-produced people, the test-tube babies are not considered human. Although they are handled carefully to reduce loss, they are never treated with tender loving care. In fact, all feelings are left out of embryonic development and conditioning.

Other than in the Embryo Store, where the temperature and conditions mirror the warmth and quiet of a womb, the Hatchery temperatures resemble a butcher's meat locker. The austere whiteness accentuates this arctic aura. Henry Foster's enthusiasm for the remarkably high statistics of human mass production and Lenina Crowne's welcoming smile when she sees the Director are the only signs from people that reveal any emotion. The Director remains authoritatively stern. His comment, "Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability," reveals the magnitude of the Hatchery's importance in this dystopian world.

Two themes appear indirectly as the cloning process is detailed. The predestination and conditioning of the embryos hints at the theme of oppressing ideologies, since these processes allow no room for individual thinking. Similarly, the theme of society's effect on individual identity is revealed by the Hatchery's calculated mass-production cloning process.

The conveyor belt looping throughout the massive building represents the first mass-produced product, the Model T Ford, and emphasizes the foundational role of the inventor of mass production, Henry Ford, who has given his name to the modern era. In 1903 this automotive pioneer started the Ford Motor Company, followed five years later by the Model T car. This vehicle, affordable to the majority of people and not just the wealthy, launched the Automobile Age and changed the world forever. Ford didn't stop with that accomplishment. In 1914 he refurbished his Highland Park, Michigan, plant with the assembly line and transformed factory production around the world. The World State reveres Ford. Because of the assembly line:

  • cloning keeps the population booming.
  • people enjoy a multitude of products to buy.
  • people all have jobs to keep the store shelves filled.
  • the World State motto, Community, Identity, Stability, makes sense to the inhabitants.

Documents for Chapter 1

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Questions for Chapter 1

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