Brave New World is more a statement of ideas than a narrative or plot.
The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning explains that this Utopia breeds people to order, artificially fertilizing a mother’s eggs to create babies that grow in bottles. They are not born, but decanted. Everyone belongs to one of five classes, from the Alphas, the most intelligent, to the Epsilons, morons bred to do the dirty jobs that nobody else wants to do. The lower classes are multiplied by a budding process that can create up to 96 identical clones and produce over 15,000 brothers and sisters from a single ovary.
All the babies are conditioned, physically and chemically in the bottle, and psychologically after birth, to make them happy citizens of the society with both a liking and an aptitude for the work they will do. One psychological conditioning techni
que is hypnopaedia, or teaching people while they sleep–not teaching facts or analysis, but planting suggestions that will make people behave in certain ways.
Society is based on several principles. One is that “history is bunk”; the society limits people’s knowledge of the past so they will not be able to compare the present with anything that might make them want to change the present. Another principle is that people should have no emotions, particularly no painful emotions; blind happiness is necessary for stability. One of the things that guarantees happiness is a drug called soma, which calms citizens down.
Bernard Marx, an Alpha of the top class, is on the verge of falling in love with Lenina Crowne, a woman who works in the Embryo Room of the Hatchery. Lenina has been dating Henry Foster, a Hatchery scientist; her friend Fanny nags her because she hasn’t seen any other man for four months. Lenina likes Bernard but doesn’t fall in love with him. Falling in love is a sin, and she is a happy, conforming citizen of the Utopia.
Bernard is neither happy nor conforming. He’s a bit odd; for one thing, he’s small for an Alpha, in a world where every member of the same caste is alike. He likes to treasure his differences from his fellows, but he lacks the courage to fight for his right to be an individual.
Bernard attends a solidarity service of the Fordian religion, a parody of Christianity as practiced in England in the 1920s.
Bernard then takes Lenina to visit a Savage Reservation in North America.
At the Reservation, Bernard and Lenina meet John, a handsome young Savage who, Bernard soon realizes, is the son of the Director. The rest of the book is somewhat confusing but Huxley is trying to make some points about the future.
Community, Identity, Stability is the motto of the World State. It lists the Utopia’s prime goals. Community is in part a result of identity and stability. It is also achieved through a religion that satirizes Christianity. And it is achieved by organizing life so that a person is almost never alone. These are values that mock, and satirize, early American notions of the “rugged individual” and the “American dream.”
Identity is in large part the result of genetic engineering. Society is divided into five classes or castes, hereditary social groups.
Huxley wrote before there was an atomic bomb. He was more worried about the misuse of biology, physiology, and psychology to achieve community. Ironically, complete control over human activity destroys even the scientific progress that gained it such control.
Every human being in the new world is conditioned to fit society’s needs–to like the work he will have to do.
A society can achieve stability only when everyone is happy, and the brave new world tries hard to ensure that every person is happy. It does its best to eliminate any painful emotion, which means every deep feeling, every passion. Rather than offering satisfaction, the brave new world anesthetizes its members.
This society offers its members distractions that they must enjoy in common–never alone–because solitude breeds instability. The combination of genetic engineering and bottle-birth means there is no marriage, or family. “Mother” and “father” are obscene words that may be used scientifically on rare, carefully chosen occasions to label ancient sources of psychological problems.
The brave new world insists that death is a natural and not unpleasant process. There is no old age or visible aging. Children are conditioned at hospitals for the dying and given sweets to eat when they hear of death occurring. This conditioning does not–as it might–prepare people to cope with the death of a loved one or with their own mortality. It eliminates the painful emotions of grief and loss, and the spiritual significance of death. In other words, death is a reality. The Brave New World cannot mitigate that reality. But it dilutes its effect by removing the concepts “grief” and “loss.”