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Brave New World | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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What exactly does the World State in Brave New World fear about solitude that causes officials to create thousands of warnings about it?

The World State knows that when people are alone they tend to think about their place in life more. The government doesn't worry so much about people who are sad in their aloneness because soma can fix that. It's the people who find comfort in solitude who worry them. Before going to the Reservation, Lenina was horrified when Bernard said that the heaving ocean made him feel he was not "just a cell in the social body." She has no desire to encounter her thoughts. Helmholtz understands the power of the negative reaction to his poem because it has helped him "write piercingly." Solitude offers people the power to reach into their souls and pull out their thoughts. This is what the World State fears. After all, the idea for the World States didn't come from a soma-filled evening at the Westminster Abbey Cabaret. For the stability of the World State, it's better for the citizens to avoid loneliness by filling their lives with empty pursuits.

In Chapter 13 of Brave New World, how do John's and Lenina's backgrounds play a major role in their inability to communicate clearly?

John's ability to communicate with others was left up to him. Although he wasn't allowed to join in the ceremonies, no rules kept him from watching what they did and learning why. The elder Indians included him when they related stories about their traditions, spirituality, and Christian beliefs. He adapted these learnings to create his own ceremonies and principles. He found his voice in Shakespeare's words. On the other hand Lenina was given only what she needed to complete her job inoculating embryos and to enjoy an active social life. John learned to understand his feelings and when to use them. Lenina never even knew she had feelings even though she discussed the results of them with Fanny. Neither John nor Lenina learn how to talk with each other instead of at each other.

What are the pros and cons of the children's death conditioning and John's reality of it in Chapter 14 of Brave New World?

While teaching children that death is a natural extension of life may be a beautiful concept, in London their conditioning touches on only the scientific aspects. So it is as empty of substance as the eclairs the children are given. They are never taught to honor the dying for their endurance, wisdom, or contributions to the world. Since love and affection are forbidden, they find John's grief odd but are not disturbed by it. John's grief stems from his thoughts about the reality of his life with Linda and what it could have been. He is angry with her for loving Popé more than him and harshly criticizes himself for allowing her last weeks to be a soma coma when they could have had time to understand each other. The death conditioning will keep the children from feeling the pain of grief, but they will never know the joy of loving someone and being loved in return.

In Chapter 14 of Brave New World, how can a situation like Linda's somatized existence be viewed as civilized to some people and barbaric to others?

To some people, being civilized includes being sure their ill loved ones are anesthetized from pain or sedated. Such measures are welcome and make situations emotionally easier to deal with for both sides. Others take the selfish route and wish to be numbed from dealing with the stress of making decisions for their loved ones or witnessing their deterioration. Citizens of the World State experience conditioning that numbs them from death and ugliness like old age. John believes this is as barbaric as the doctor's decision to keep his mother in a soma-induced coma because it removes the chance of the living and the dying to communicate with each other. The staff and children at the hospital find John's grief-stricken display during Linda's suffering and dying to be crude. Each character's reaction reflects his or her cultural upbringing.

In Chapter 15 and throughout the rest of Brave New World, how do John's interpretations of Shakespeare's quote "O brave new world" illustrate his changing perceptions of London?

In Chapter 8 when John utters Shakespeare's lines "How beauteous mankind is!" he is pondering his attraction to Lenina. He then begins to quote "O brave new world" but goes pale, doesn't finish the quote, and asks if Bernard is married to her. The thought that in London they will be united as a couple fills him with delight. The quote reflects the promise of a world that fills him with hope and excitement. At the Electrical Equipment Corporation plant in Chapter 11, he is so horrified by the various Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon people who are identical to their caste's specifications that he vomits. When he utters "O brave new world" here, he is showing his complete revulsion toward a society that creates identical groups instead of allowing people to be individuals. In Chapter 15 John is disgusted at the Deltas' robotic obedience to lining up for their soma and is furious that the government drugs them into submission. This time the quote is his battle cry to rouse the people to fight their oppression so they will live freely.

What does John mean when he cheerfully shouts "Men at last!" after Helmholtz joins his fight with the Deltas in Chapter 15 of Brave New World?

John is overjoyed that Helmholtz defies his conditioning and joins him to fight the furious Deltas. Throughout his visit, John has witnessed people who do only what they are conditioned to do, when they are required to, and how they have been taught to fulfill these orders. During his discussions with Bernard and Helmholtz, he has sensed his friends' disagreements with some of the World State's policies. During his discussions with Helmholtz, he has heard the writer's desire to produce material with emotional depth and substance instead of superficial, government-accepted propaganda. So far both men have shown their desire for independence only in words. Now Helmholtz is actually showing his conviction by taking a stand for individuality and against the World State.

What does the existence of the "Anti-Riot Speech Number Two" reveal about the Controllers' confidence in genetic emotion stunting and conditioning in Chapter 15 of Brave New World?

If the Controllers truly believed their genetic engineering and behavioral conditioning was absolutely sound and sustainable, they would have no use for the first or second speeches at all. They fully comprehend that they will never be able to eradicate all emotions and vestiges of independent thought, however, because all of the castes require varied thinking skills to complete their jobs and keep the World State stable. As long as the people are not complete androids, it will be necessary for conditioning speeches like this one and the one in Chapter 4 in which the Epsilon elevator operator is told to go down to the 18th floor after expressing rapture upon feeling the sun's rays. "Words before blood" is the World State's principle during volatile situations, and the police are secondary to that.

How does the propaganda urging consumerism throughout the story tie into Mustapha Mond's comment "We haven't any use for old things here" in Chapter 16 of Brave New World?

In the World State the mass production wheels are greased by consumerism. In this brave new world nothing is made to last. People are conditioned to continually buy new products that ensure happiness with their enticing facades and promises of leisurely lives. Repetitive conditioning messages like "Ending is better than mending" and "I love new clothes" keep them flocking to stores. Anything consumable is made to quickly wear out. Shoddily manufactured goods keep factories running, people working, wages high, the economy flush, and the World State secure. "Old things" that were made to last would lead to the collapse of the economy, joblessness, inflation, and unhappiness. The brave new world would not be so admirable anymore.

Why do World State leaders agree that unhappiness feeds on instability and leads to more unrest, as Mustapha Mond explains in Chapter 16 of Brave New World?

History has proven that poverty leads to citizens' discontent. When disgruntled people are more open to heretical talk against the government, it could result in the collapse of the existing regime. This is why the leaders forbid any historical knowledge and why they work so hard to keep their population from yearning for anything. Obstacles that cause unhappiness are pebbles that will develop into boulders if ignored. Bernard's misery could become an epidemic infecting the masses. Helmholtz's powerful writing could lead to turmoil. Both of these factors could spark workers to rebel, and this would destroy production. The Controllers understand that a contented, comfortable, and happy population keeps them in power.

Why can John debate the nuances of philosophical ideas of books and religion more successfully with Mustapha Mond than Bernard or Helmholtz could in chapter 16 of Brave New World?

John is able to think his way through an idea to develop his argument. On the Reservation he had only The Complete Works of William Shakespeare to feed his mind. This reading offered him the opportunity to understand, to apply, to analyze, to evaluate, and to hypothesize about the text and subtext. Mustapha Mond enjoys similar experiences with his secret cache of books. These factors make them debating equals. To argue philosophic ideas, people first have to know they exist, and then they need to study the divergent viewpoints. Because they live in a society that has banned all books but those they need to do their jobs, neither Bernard nor Helmholtz ever know other ideas exist. They have no comprehension of religion. People cannot effectively discuss a topic if they don't know it exists.

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