Questions for study and suggestions for answers
Q: What is the meaning of satire, and what does Huxley aim to achieve by using
it in Brave New World?
Basically, satire comes in a wide variety of forms, but here we are looking at literary ridicule.
Huxley pokes fun at institutions, places and people that we hold dear.
In Brave New World, the satire has two main thrusts, firstly, directed at
the evil of materialism and, secondly, science.
Huxley warns that when a society continues to expand too fast, the people
become wasteful, consuming what they don’t need. Their wants outstrip their needs, and inevitably a vicious circle demonstrated in Utopia arises.
However, Huxley’s aim is to achieve more than plain ridicule. His
words make the reader sit up and note that he is warning mankind that science will control man, instead of vice versa.
This is evident in the fact that in Utopia man is no longer the product of the sexual intimacy of a couple, but is the product of science. Humans are designed to carry out a specific function in the whole mechanism of society. Man evolved because of adaptability and diversity. These have been taken away in Brave New World, and he exists in a cocoon.
There are specific satirical plays on words, here are some examples: instead
of A.D., in the year of our Lord, we have A.F., After Ford; instead of Our Lord, it is Our Ford; instead of referring to people as His Lordship, it is His Fordship; instead of the cross, the symbol is a T
taken from Henry Ford’s Model T car; instead of God is in His Heaven, it is Ford is in his Flivver (a flivver is a cheap automobile);
Brave New World’s substitute for Sunday is Ford’s Day; instead of Charing Cross, we have Charing T (a Fordian T replacing the Christian Cross); instead of St. Paul’s Cathedral, we have Fordson Community Singery; Big Ben is now Big Henry. There
are others in this novel. Do you know what they are?
Q: Huxley clearly loved Shakespeare and was well read in the full works of the
bard. Give instances where it is evident in this work.
Ideas: The title Brave New World is taken from Miranda’s speech in The Tempest “O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it!”
John quotes this three times in the novel, initially when he sees Lenina,
but later when he sees what Utopia is really like he puts a different connotation on the words. When referring to Lenina, John usually quotes from Romeo and Juliet and Troilus and Cressida. Just as John
goes completely over the top about Lenina’s beauty, so has Troilus an exaggerated feeling for Cressida, and John says quoting from the play, Lenina “her gait” (her manner of walking) “handlest in their discourse”
and further quoting from Romeo and Juliet, “on the white wonder vestal, chaste, virginal” – Lenina was anything but virginal.
John uses quotes from Shakespeare to articulate his own feelings and views
on a wide variety of subjects.
Most are tragic statements taken from the tragedies of Shakespeare. When we first meet John, he is frustrated at not being able to take part in the Indian fertility rite and participating in the flagellation. When he sees the bloodstain on the ground, he quotes from Macbeth when Lady Macbeth says, “damned spot”.
When he goes to the Feelies with Lenina, he quotes from Othello when one of
the characters reminds him of the “Blackamoor”.
Later when Lenina tries to force the pace of the relationship and she strips
off revealing her breasts, John quotes from Timon of Athens, “for those milk paps”, and also quotes from Othello (See Chapter 13’s Interpretation).
When John loses his temper and becomes violent, he rants quoting from King
Lear commenting on the sexual nature of women, “down from the waist they are centaurs” (beasts), “but to the girdle do the gods inherit” (women resemble the gods only in that portion of their bodies above the sexual organs).
Finally, in his conversation with Mond, he is able to show the extent of his
repertoire, as Mond too is familiar with the works of Shakespeare.
John is so disillusioned with what he has seen that he confines his quotes to the tragedies King Lear and Hamlet - “to sleep, perchance to dream”, Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on death, and then “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”, a direct snipe at Mond.
John’s dialogue is littered with quotations from Shakespeare.
Q: Expand the science fiction theme of Brave New World.
Ideas: Huxley is looking into the future, 600 plus from the 1930’s.
He had at one time considered being a doctor; so much of the science fiction is concerned with the medical field.
In Utopia, they are engaging in genetic engineering, which is possible now
to a limited extent.
There is no doubt that what Huxley had envisaged is possible. We can use genetic engineering to remove inherent flaws, and what Huxley imagined to be possible in 600 years is more likely to be 100 years.
The psychology part of Huxley’s vision is less clear. Much of this
deals with thought training and learning.
However, it is one thing to train an animal to do a reactive task, it is another to teach or indoctrinate a human whilst asleep. Whether this will ever be possible, one can only speculate.
So, we have Huxley’s hypothesis involving test-tube babies, feelies, sleep
teaching, drug dependent society, euthanasia and the surrender of freewill, the latter being the most controversial.
Q: Brave New World contains much of its own language. What would you
consider placing in a glossary?
Ideas: Bokanovsky process
- a process where the human egg has its normal development halted, which causes the egg to bud, producing multiple identical eggs
- a system for putting the artificial embryos into a sow’s peritoneum so that it can mature
the five castes of Utopia are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon
Chemical persuasion -
in order to control the will of the people, chemical stimulants and/or tranquillisers are used in order to make the people receptive to suggestion
the name given to the removal of embryos from the bottles in which they have matured
Erotic play -
children’s playtime usually involves the exploration of each other’s naked bodies
complicated motion pictures where the audience sit on special seats and hold two knobs and they can thus feel the action whilst watching it on the screen
Ford - the Utopian idol or god
- the name given to the majority of Utopian women who have been sterilised
Hypnopaedia - teaching during sleep
- solidarity within the community is obtained through communal indiscriminate sexual orgies
Pneumatic - those Utopian women that are particularly attractive
- a medical procedure where Utopian women receive the psychological benefits of childbirth without undergoing it
- those that are not worthy of converting to the Utopian ideal are confined in the reservation
- this drug has become the religion of all people in Utopia. It pacifies and dulls the senses and is the main ingredient of the social stability of Utopia
T-model - this has replaced the Christian cross
Add any words or phrases you think may be useful