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Brave New World Allusions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Brave New World' is a novel about a dystopian society that emphasizes population control, conditioning of citizens, and economic growth. In this lesson, we will explore how the author, Aldous Huxley, alludes to these culture changes.

Cultural Evolution

Have you ever wondered what the founding fathers of the U.S. would think if they saw America today? Everything, including culture, changes in small increments over time, but how things change depends on factors such as resources, new information, and significant events. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley references an economist, a scientist, a literary genius, and several other revolutionary thinkers in order to allude to how the World State evolved. Allusions are vague references to literature, history, or important figures that the reader must draw conclusions from to understand the author's point. Let's take a closer look at some of the allusions made in this novel.

Malthusian Belt

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist who theorized that population growth needed to be controlled to prevent food shortages. Much of the philosophy behind the beliefs of the World State is based on Malthusian theories. All females who are not freemartins (sterile), wear a Malthusian belt containing contraceptives. The upper echelon has designer belts that are worn as an accessory.

Thomas Malthus
Thomas Malthus

As teenagers, ladies are so conditioned to take contraceptives that even under the influence of soma (drugs), they do not forget. And yet, bottled as she was, and in spite of that second gramme of soma, Lenina did not forget to take all the contraceptive precautions prescribed by the regulations. Years of intensive hypnopædia and, from twelve to seventeen, Malthusian drill three times a week had made the taking of these precautions almost as automatic and inevitable as blinking. While sex is permissible, parenthood is considered obscene because of its potential impact on the stability of the population.

The society believes that Thomas Malthus was correct about the need to control breeding. They go to extraordinary lengths to make sure all of the citizens comply.

Neo-Pavlovian

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian doctor who contributed to the fields of psychology and learning theory while studying conditioned responses related to digestion. He found that when he made a specific sound before feeding dogs, they eventually learned to relate the sound to food and would salivate when they heard it, even if food was not present.

Ivan Pavlov
Pavlov

Following this model, in Brave New World, infants are conditioned from birth to like and dislike specific things. The idea is that they are being trained to find happiness in whatever position they are predestined to fill as adults. For example, factory workers are conditioned as babies, through the use of electric shock therapy, to hate the outdoors and nature so that they will prefer to be inside working.

Rather than forcing people into roles they don't want to play, Controllers make them happiest to play the roles they are given. In the end, said Mustapha Mond, the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods of ectogenesis, neo- Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopædia.

Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an eloquent English poet and playwright, who is still popular, and considered by many to be the best playwright to have ever existed.

William Shakespeare
Shakespeare

Shakespeare, like art, science, and religion, has been banned in the World State. Shakespeare's writings in particular are dangerous because they are beautiful and old. The Controllers prefer that the citizens like beautiful new things to stimulate the economy.

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