Brave New World: Savage Reservation Rituals & Religion

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  • 0:04 Cultural Experience
  • 0:35 No One Leaves
  • 1:28 The Snake Dance
  • 2:52 The Sacrifice
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

In ''Brave New World'' by Aldous Huxley, Lenina and Bernard visit the Savage Reservation. Here, they get a peek at what life may have been like if they had not lived in the civilized part of the world.

Cultural Experience

Have you ever visited a place that seems stuck in time such as Colonial Williamsburg or an Amish community? Lenina and Bernard have their chance! Having always wanted to visit a savage reservation, Lenina sees a vacation with Bernard, who is an Alpha-Plus psychologist and one of the few people to have access to a reservation, as a great opportunity. Let's follow along as they observe a strange ritual in Malpais, which is very different from the Ford's Day and Solidarity Services of civilized England, in A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

No One Leaves

From the moment they arrive, Lenina realizes things are different. ''To touch the fence is instant death,'' pronounced the Warden solemnly, ''There is no escape from a Savage Reservation.'' Except for inspections, the savages do not communicate with civilization. They're stuck in a time capsule of outmoded practices; according to the pilot, they ''still preserve their repulsive habits and customs; marriage, if you know what that is, my dear young lady; families; no conditioning; monstrous superstitions, Christianity and totemism and ancestor worship. Extinct languages, such as Zuñi and Spanish and Athapascan. Pumas, porcupines, and other ferocious animals. Infectious diseases. Priests. Venomous lizards.'' For civilized people such as Bernard and Lenina, exposure to disgusting marriage practices and dirty animals is shocking, but the pilot reassures them that the savages will not hurt them.

The Snake Dance

As they approach the village, Lenina hears the sounds of flutes and drums preparing for a ceremony. Lenina finds the drums reassuring and reminiscent of a Solidarity Service back home, but then she is startled by the ''burst of singing-hundreds of male voices crying out fiercely in harsh metallic unison'' followed by silence. The repetitive drumming continues, but then the female voices cry out in response. After a pause, the process is repeated. Lenina finds the people, clothes, and music strange. During the Solidarity Services, similar music is played, people dance, and cry out, but it is followed by a communion of soma, a drug, and group sex, which seems normal to Lenina. She sees people who are aging and have strange skin abnormalities that don't exist in civilization. Suddenly, groups of people swarmed around wearing masks or painted so that they're unrecognizable. They dance a strange dance around the square and sing, increasing in speed as they move. The crowd starts singing with the dancers until the women begin to screech. When the leader steps out of the line, he opens a big wooden chest and pulls out two big black snakes. As the dancers run towards him, he throws snakes at them and then reaches into the chest for more. The rhythm of the dance changes as the group dances round and round with their snakes. At the signal, all the snakes are thrown into the center. Elderly women sprinkled the snakes with cornmeal and water. When the old man lifts his hand, everything freezes.

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