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This novel is about a Utopia, an ideal state-a bad ideal state. It is therefore a novel about ideas, and its themes are as important as its plot. They will be studied in depth in the chapter-by-chapter discussion of the book. Most are expressed as fundamental principles of the Utopia, the brave new world. Some come to light when one character, a Savage raised on an Indian reservation, confronts that world. As you find the themes, try to think not only about what they say about Huxley's Utopia, but also about Huxley's real world-and your own.
1. COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY-VERSUS INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM
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-a religion that encourages people to reach solidarity through sexual orgy. And it is achieved by organizing life so that a person is almost never alone.
Identity is in large part the result of genetic engineering. Society is divided into five classes or castes, hereditary social groups. In the lower three classes, people are cloned in order to produce up to 96 identical "twins." Identity is also achieved by teaching everyone to conform, so that someone who has or feels more than a minimum of individuality is made to feel different, odd, almost an outcast.
Stability is the third of the three goals, but it is the one the characters mention most often-the reason for designing society this way. The desire for stability, for instance, requires the production of large numbers of genetically identical "individuals," because people who are exactly the same are less likely to come into conflict. Stability means minimizing conflict, risk, and change.
2. SCIENCE AS A MEANS OF CONTROL
Brave New World is not only a Utopian book, it is also a science-fiction novel. But it does not predict much about science in general. Its theme "is the advancement of science as it affects human individuals," Huxley said in the Foreword he wrote in 1946, 15 years after he wrote the book. He did not focus on physical sciences like nuclear physics, though even in 1931 he knew that the production of nuclear energy (and weapons) was probable. He was more worried about dangers that appeared more obvious at that time-the possible misuse of biology, physiology, and psychology to achieve community, identity, and stability. Ironically, it becomes clear at the end of the book that the World State's complete control over human activity destroys even the scientific progress that gained it such control.
3. THE THREAT OF GENETIC ENGINEERING
Genetic engineering is a term that has come into use in recent years as scientists have learned to manipulate RNA and DNA, the proteins in every cell that determine the basic inherited characteristics of life. Huxley didn't use the phrase but he describes genetic engineering when he explains how his new world breeds prescribed numbers of humans artificially for specified qualities.
4. THE MISUSE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITIONING
Every human being in the new world is conditioned to fit society's needs-to like the work he will have to do. Human embryos do not grow inside their mothers' wombs but in bottles. Biological or physiological conditioning consists of adding chemicals or spinning the bottles to prepare the embryos for the levels of strength, intelligence, and aptitude required for given jobs. After they are "decanted" from the bottles, people are psychologically conditioned, mainly by hypnopaedia or sleep-teaching. You might say that at every stage the society brainwashes its citizens.
5. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS CARRIED TO AN EXTREME
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. It uses genetic engineering and conditioning to ensure that everyone is happy with his or her work.
6. THE CHEAPENING OF SEXUAL PLEASURE
Sex is a primary source of happiness. The brave new world makes promiscuity a virtue: you have sex with any partner you want, who wants you-and sooner or later every partner will want you. (As a child, you learn in your sleep that "everyone belongs to everyone else.") In this Utopia, what we think of as true love for one person would lead to neurotic passions and the establishment of family life, both of which would interfere with community and stability. Nobody is allowed to become pregnant because nobody is born, only decanted from a bottle. Many females are born sterile by design; those who are not are trained by "Malthusian drill" to use contraceptives properly.