Brave New World | Study Guide

Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 2 the Director addresses various conditioning techniques. Babies are brought into one of the Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning rooms to play with rose petals and colorful books. When a blaring siren fills the air, the babies start to howl. They are being conditioned to dislike nature and books. This turns into hatred as they receive a light electrical shock. When the nurses offer them the books again, the babies wail in terror. The Director explains that Delta babies are trained to dislike nature as a place to relax because leisure doesn't keep the assembly lines running. Since the World State promotes using transportation and playing sports, though, the babies are brainwashed to travel to the countryside where large recreational facilities requiring a variety of equipment are located.

He then explains the theory of learning while sleeping, or hypnopaedia. In another room sleeping Beta babies are being taught concepts found in Elementary Class Consciousness lessons. A speaker under each pillow quietly relays information that praises Alpha children who wear gray. The voice continues to repeat that green-clothed Gammas are stupid, to remind them they "don't want to play" with khaki-clad Deltas, and that Epsilons, who wear black, are illiterate.

Analysis

Mind control is the focus of Chapter 2. The World State leaders are loyal adherents of Ivan Pavlov's conditioning techniques. The Russian physiologist is best known for his work with dogs, which made the term Pavlov's response famous. His findings reveal that people react positively or negatively to a specific stimulus depending on the response they associate with a particular motivation. The babies' reaction to the flowers and books before, during, and after the clanging siren is an example of the Pavlovian concept. The World State adapted his practices to their own requirements and named their conditioning rooms after him. Huxley's word choices continue to show the cold and calculated atmosphere that pervades the World State. For example, eight-month-old babies are "unloaded" from carts, and babies are "decanted" not born. Any reference to babies developing inside the mother's womb is considered indecent.

The Director and the students never flinch when babies are tortured by loud sirens and shocked electrically. Neither do they find derogatory descriptions of the Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon children repugnant. Instead they are brainwashed to accept as fact the negative hypnopaedia message they hear while they are sleeping. As a result of this mind control, for the rest of their lives the Alphas and Betas will dislike Gamma green, Delta khaki, and Epsilon black.

The embarrassed behavior of the students when normal childbirth and the word mother or father is mentioned shows how they have been programmed to consider birth and parenthood obscene instead of natural. The Director emphasizes this tenet and reinforces the boys' conditioning when he says, "But then most historical facts are unpleasant." This brainwashing leaves very little room for individual thinking.

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