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Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


How beneficial or detrimental will John the Savage's unrestricted learning, noted in Chapter 8 of Brave New World, be to him during his visit to London?

On the one hand John's familiarity with William Shakespeare's portrayals of people and their motivations as found in his complete works are not restricted by times or cultures. This will benefit John when he meets a variety of new people in London. Yet Shakespeare as his only source of learning will be a detriment when he encounters the scientific and technology-based culture in the World State. The Bard's view of people is all John understands. As accurate as his deductions are, they do not and cannot prepare John for genetically designed humans who are conditioned to follow the strict and narrow propaganda of the State.

In Chapter 8 of Brave New World, why do both John and Bernard feel so alienated and alone even though they have been raised in different cultures?

When people feel their views and principles clash with the society in which they live, the type of culture doesn't matter. Specific moralities and ideologies are common to any society. How they are selected is dependent on the freedom or oppression that exists. Because of their heredity or ethnicity, Bernard and John are atypical of their peer groups. Their innate differences, their intelligence that feeds their independent thoughts, and their attitudes compound their alienation. On the Reservation John is ostracized for both his ethnicity and for his mother's nonconformity to the Indians' beliefs. Once in London John becomes a mere curiosity. Bernard feels inferior because his stature is like a Gamma's instead of showing qualities of the Alpha class. He also is critical of the government because it stifles individuality. People must follow governmental dictates if they want to be accepted. A totalitarian regime like the World State, or one like the Malpais Indians with principles and customs that tie in with their particular ethnicity, leaves no room for deviations from established beliefs.

In Chapter 9 of Brave New World, what does John's shame over his erotic thoughts about Lenina foreshadow?

John's shame for his erotic thoughts gives warning of an impending struggle between him and Lenina. In the World State, children are encouraged to participate in erotic play starting as toddlers. By the time they are adults, promiscuity is encouraged and accepted as the norm. John's belief system, a mix of Indian mythology and spirituality combined with Christianity, demands monogamy and only marital sex. Lenina is conditioned to believe "everyone belongs to everyone else," and a close romantic relationship with another person is prohibited. Lenina and John could overcome these opposing factors if they could adapt their principles and meet each other halfway. This is improbable, however, since John's shame for his impure thoughts will overshadow any compromise with his dream girl's conditioning. If he gives in to his attraction to Lenina, much inner conflict will ensue.

Why does intelligence necessitate more responsibility in cultures as the Director contends in Chapter 10 of Brave New World?

The quote "To those whom much is given, much is expected" originated in the Bible but also has been stated by John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates, and others. The Director's words in Chapter 10, "Intellectual eminence carries with it corresponding moral responsibilities," reflect the same thought. He is correct in declaring that those with superior abilities—be they intellectual, creative, or labor-intensive—should use them to benefit society and not weaken it. The Director purports to fear that Bernard will use his surly attitude, independent thoughts, and intelligence to the detriment of the World State's stability. His fear is in a sense misplaced. Bernard's intellectual ability is such that he will use it destructively, not to the detriment of the World State, but to the downfall of the Director or himself.

How does the return of Linda and John clarify the fragility of oppressive regimes as revealed in Chapter 10 of Brave New World?

Linda's and John's presence proves that if two people can ruin someone like the Director, it wouldn't take many more to overturn a repressive government. When one other culture with ties to the past exists, and if its population is permitted to freely think and to feel, the opportunity to topple a totalitarian regime is present. People might not accept a person who is as disgusting to their customs as Linda is, but new concepts can be intriguing when they come in attractive packaging like John. His differences are fresh, and his stories of the Reservation along with his strange way of talking are a welcome novelty. John teases the conditioned brains of the Alphas and Betas because he is an escape from their mundane lives. They want to be around him for his popularity, but that could change the more they hear his unique thoughts.

What qualities of rationalization does Dr. Shaw reveal during his discussion about Linda's soma usage in Chapter 11 of Brave New World?

Dr. Shaw's rationalization follows the "means justifies the end" reasoning. Even though Linda is relying too heavily on soma to reduce her misery, Dr. Shaw continues to supply her with an unhealthy dosage. He allows his ego to choose the good qualities of the drug to overshadow the harmful ones. Yes, her life span will be shortened. Yes, the drug will shut down her respiratory system. But in the interim she will enjoy an imaginary mental and emotional trip that will satisfy all of her sense organs. He supports his decision with the comment, "Well, of course, if you prefer to have her screaming all of the time ..." to John, who refutes the doctor's faulty reasoning. The doctor convinces himself that he is thinking of Linda's needs with his self-deception.

In Chapter 11 of Brave New World, how does Bernard's success affect him, and why do these changes make him more acceptable to the people he encounters?

As John's guardian and social agent, Bernard experiences popularity. All of the important people in the London World State eagerly anticipate invitations to his parties so they can socialize with this attractive and intriguing man from the Reservation. This acceptance has given Bernard confidence and erased his surly attitude. The psychologist and conditioning expert realizes that others flock toward happy people, just as hypnopaedia promises. The jealousy he once felt toward men who easily attract girls has fled now that women constantly pursue him. He considers this social approval as support for his nonconformist attitude about the World State that he still airs at his soirees.

In Chapter 11 of Brave New World, how does the seductive quality of power lead to Bernard's downfall?

Bernard proves that power is captivating and becomes a deceptive master at wielding it. He feels "gigantic and lighter than air" since he caused the collapse of the Director's authority. By presuming that his superiors' and peers' attention is for him and not for John, he has blinded himself to reality. The power he feels as a result of his popularity clouds his intelligence. He misinterprets how annoying and odd his guests still find him because that thought is opposite to what he would rather believe. Puffed up by his faulty assumptions, Bernard doesn't hear the negative comments that warn about his downfall.

Why didn't the Controllers use genetics and conditioning to eradicate the sexism and racism that have cropped up in Chapter 12 and throughout Brave New World?

The Controllers have chosen not to eradicate sexism and racism because intolerance directs people's negative feelings away from the government's oppression. The higher caste men expect women to be beautiful, sexually alluring, and intelligent enough to hold a superficial conversation. Lenina and her gender-mates accept these obedient roles because it is all they understand. They are happy with their position in society and grateful to the government for their easy lives. Although the Alphas and Betas denigrate the lower castes, they understand their importance to the World State. The genetic error that created Bernard as an intelligent Alpha in a Gamma body gives the people a scapegoat for their class snobbery. They listen to his heretical criticisms but vocally reveal their repulsion toward them because this is safe. Possibly the Controllers allow for these genetic mistakes because they realize the people need an outlet for ideas not curbed through hypnopaedia.

As revealed in Chapter 12 of Brave New World, why would John rather suffer true unhappiness than experience the false cheerfulness Bernard prefers?

John abhors the false happiness the World State encourages. Although he experienced much sadness on the Reservation where he was treated as an outcast, he was able to feel true joy through reading Shakespeare, making pottery, and contemplating the night skies and stars. He knows that forced happiness is false but that sorrow is always true. John believes mass-produced people and manufactured emotions cannot be sustained because they are fabricated and offer artificial foundations. The World State's contrived and controlled happiness is an easy out for people who don't want to shoulder any responsibility for making choices, but he'd rather be unhappy if this allows him to be free.

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