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Brave New World | Discussion Questions 1 - 10

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How does the author's language and sentence structure in Chapter 1 of Brave New World foreshadow the setting and atmosphere of this futuristic world?

The narrator's introduction to the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre is terse and matter of fact. Succinct statements such as "a harsh thin light, glared through windowpanes" and the "pallid shape of academic gooseflesh" paint word pictures that convey imagery of a cold, sterile place. This place that genetically engineers, predestines, and mass-produces humans has no time or patience for emotions. The tour group of male students is led by the Director of the facility. His monotonous voice, devoid of the usual tour guide animation, is intimidating and humorless. Controlling the product, perfecting any genetic weaknesses, and doing their jobs are the only concerns of the focused employees. The tone and language of this chapter indicates a society in which the reader can expect uncommunicative leaders who demand obedience, foster uniformity, and forbid emotions. Citizens of such a world will not be true individuals.

In Chapter 1 of Brave New World, what part does discrimination play in the genetic engineering of people?

The World State leaders claim their genetic engineering creates differences but not bias against each other between the five castes. The leaders discriminate by purposely altering intellectual and physical qualities to range from smart, strong, and attractive to stupid, strong, and unappealing, along with conditioning people to accept derogatory stereotypes. However, we can see that the Hatchery's process of creating a person from a single Alpha egg or 96 identical Epsilon twins in a Bokanovsky group follows the same concept as a Mercedes manufacturer engineered to produce an S-class coupe and a Ford factory outfitted to produce Escorts. Discrimination in product quality is purposeful; similarly, the propaganda that refers to products/people in the State creates prejudicial thoughts. Purposely stunting people's thought processes denies them the opportunity to change their destinies. Creating a hierarchy among the castes is the World State's purpose, and mass-produced discrimination is their game.

How are the men and women introduced in Chapter 1 of Brave New World characterized by the effects of genetic engineering and societal conditioning regarding their place in the world?

The Director, a man, is the top administrator at the institution. Only male Alpha adolescents are deemed important enough for a tour. Henry Foster is an Alpha-Plus scientist who is highly knowledgeable about all aspects of the Hatchery, from fertilizing through decanting. He offers facts on any stage of the genetic engineering process. Beta worker Lenina Crowne's sole purpose on the assembly line in the Social Predestination Room is to inoculate the embryos against typhoid fever and sleeping sickness. Male and female Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon Bokanovsky groups are designed to be workers with average to low intelligence, depending on their caste. The author's characterizations suggest that the Alpha men are designed with the intelligence to be industry leaders and to think independently (to the extent the State allows), whereas women are created to be passive and obedient followers. Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon men and women are dutiful workers who never question their place in society.

Why is moral conditioning preferable to scientific-based training in Brave New World's Chapter 2, considering how humans' thinking skills are already chemically altered in the decanters?

The conditioning people experience from infancy to adulthood is much more successful when it is based on subjectivity and not objectivity because biased ideas do not have to be proven. The subliminal messages rely on the concepts that the World State determines are actualities, such as "Alphas work harder" and "Epsilons can't read or write." Hypnopaedia (sleep-learning) works with thinking skills that range from highly proficient to barely functional, but scientific-based training demands intellectual aptitude. Whether the genetic engineers are working with brilliant Alpha embryos or dull Epsilon eggs, they must devise the proper chemical balance that will stunt intelligence but allow enough cognitive skills to enable the mind-control training to work. This is dangerous because a slight change in the formula might allow a person to one day wonder why Gammas must wear green. The illogical but consistent statements of moral conditioning offer the necessary control to a population lacking the mental capacity to ask why.

Why is English the only living language of the 10 World States in the year A.F. 632 as implied in Chapter 2 of Brave New World?

Allowing only one language is another controlling scheme of the World State. The vocabularies of all languages differ by denotation (meaning) and connotation (implied qualities), which could open the door to erroneous interpretations. Controlling the creation of accurate hypnopaedic messages in multiple languages would be nearly impossible, considering how a mere inflection can change a word's meaning. Also the dialects within a language offer too many chances for a statement against the World State to be sleep-taught. Highly trained linguists, most likely Alphas, would be required to guarantee accepted words and nuances were utilized. This in itself is dangerous since the translators' intellectual abilities would need to be high and would have to include evaluation and analysis skills. Translators' education would involve learning about other cultures, which could cause rebellious thoughts and actions. They could teach other caste members to speak the same language, even if their understanding would be only rudimentary. Those who share the same language would form groups based on their culture since people tend to congregate with others who share their identifications. Those in a language group would be able to talk without others understanding what they were discussing, including the World State leaders. Language group identity would become more important to the people than uniting with the whole population, control would be weakened, and societal stability would be destroyed.

In Chapter 3 of Brave New World, why does Mustapha Mond's conversation with the students depict familial relationships as obscene but promiscuity as desirable?

Since its inception, the World State has chosen to depict mothers as overprotective, fathers as job slaves, and home as a "squalid prison." This is the 10 Controllers' way of ensuring a hatred for romantic involvements, monogamous relationships, and family loyalty. By focusing on the pain of childbirth and the costs of rearing children while promoting the false assumption that all families wallow in poverty, the leaders reinforce the message that familial relationships are the downfall of humanity. This is a philosophical façade they sustain because they fear the unified force that results from a loving, giving, and sharing union fortified by common personal goals. Promiscuity along with the repetitive conditioning declaration "Everyone belongs to everyone else" defeats exclusivity and keeps people dependent on and loyal to the State.

In Chapter 3 of Brave New World, considering the conditioning that promotes promiscuity, what factors contribute to the different viewpoints about sex women and men share in their changing rooms?

The characters' cognitive skills and conditioning contribute to their views about sex. Lenina reveals boredom with promiscuity, which is why she is still with Henry after four weeks. Although she professes a desire to be with Bernard, she is using him to fulfill her desire to visit the Reservation. Because of her conditioning, without question Fanny practices promiscuity and agrees to the Pregnancy Substitute. She worries Lenina will be reprimanded for dating Henry too long. As for the men, Henry and the Assistant Predestinator discuss Lenina's alluring qualities. Henry mentions he has slept with her and suggests his companion do the same. Their conditioning fuels their lust and reveals their sexual desires. Bernard is disgusted by the men's conversation that objectifies Lenina. Although he is a conditioning expert, he judges the hypnopaedic sexual messages to be repulsive and demeaning.

What is Mustapha Mond's defense in Chapter 3 of Brave New World regarding suppressing history and abolishing old age as crucial to the State's stability, and how is it peculiar?

Mustapha Mond professes his belief that if people are negatively affected by viewing the ravages of age or hearing about the horrors and misery that afflicted the Before Ford world they will be unable to work to their potential. He contends that this will lead to work stoppage and societal instability. Keeping people attractive instead of wrinkled and feeble, as well as physically fit and able to work, removes the fear of aging, increases their productivity, and fortifies stability. Interspersed with Mond's explanation are casual comments on Shakespeare, religion, reading, and thinking. Since these aspects of the old days are not in accordance to the World State, Mond's reasoning for mentioning them to intelligent Alphas is unusual. Maybe he is testing the strength of their conditioning or their loyalty to the World State. The Director's concern that the Controller might corrupt the impressionable young men also holds some weight.

If the reason for genetic engineering, conditioning, and instant gratification is happiness, why are Bernard and Helmholtz discontented, as revealed throughout Chapter 4 of Brave New World?

As Alpha-Plus men, Bernard and Helmholtz possess the highest level of intelligence allowed. Their intellectual capabilities are such that they can ask questions on the why of things that can break through their conditioning and demand answers. Bernard's concerns about his non-Alpha physique prod his inferiority complex and result in a sullen attitude that separates him from his peers. His alienation from society leads him to spend more time finding satisfaction in his independent thoughts. Helmholtz is stifled by the inane propaganda he is forced to create. He tells Bernard he knows his true voice is buried inside his head, and he doesn't know how to free it or even if he should. Locked in a society that oppresses original thought and forbids ties with another person, they still forge an uneasy friendship.

How does Bernard's and Helmholtz's understanding of their individuality in Chapter 4 of Brave New World show a fallacy or mistaken belief in the State's methods of control?

Bernard and Helmholtz understand that individuality can never be fully controlled chemically, psychologically, or by a mixture of both. As long as a vestige of independent thought exists along with the emotions that shadow ideas, total control is not just improbable, but is impossible. That is acceptable to them both. Even the Epsilon-Minus elevator operator, with an abysmally low IQ, perceives the difference from the darkness that surrounds his menial task and the bright roof of the building when he flings open the doors and the sun's warmth greets him. "Oh roof!" he cries joyfully, momentarily deafening him to the soft but persistent voice of his unseen monitor commanding him to "Go down." At some future time, the sunlight could even pierce the non-stunted part of his brain and compel him to ignore the voice and stay in the sunlight.

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