Brave New World Savage Reservation vs. the World State

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  • 0:02 The Civilized and the Savage
  • 1:00 The Family Structure
  • 2:28 Religion
  • 4:28 The Culture of Consumption
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terri Beth Miller

Terri Beth has taught college writing and literature courses since 2005 and has a PhD in literature.

Aldous Huxley's 1932 dystopian masterpiece, 'Brave New World,' features two vastly different settings: the World State and the Savage Reservation. Through these opposing worlds, Huxley explores the question of who is civilized and who is barbaric.

The Civilized and the Savage

What does it truly mean to be 'civilized'? Is progress all about scientific and technological achievement? Is it the orderly and predictable operation of society? Or is civilization something more, like a serene state of the soul? Is it enlightenment? Is it human connection?

These questions and more are examined in Aldous Huxley's 1932 Brave New World, a masterpiece of dystopian literature, presenting a frightening future world in which technology is used to oppress and dominate. Brave New World features two primary settings. The first is the 'civilized' environment of the World State (roughly situated in Western Europe). This is where the 'real' people live, the ones who are cultured and enlightened--the ones who are considered human. Then there is the Savage Reservation, corresponding to the Native American lands of the American southwest. This is where the 'savages' live, those who are scarcely - if at all - human.

The Family Structure

The most obvious and maybe the most important difference between the World State and the Savage Reservation is in the family structure itself. On the Savage Reservation, families as we know them today still exist. There are still mothers and fathers, children and siblings.

Not so in the World State, where natural reproduction has been outlawed. Babies are engineered in hatcheries, which are a cross between an in vitro fertilization laboratory and a factory assembly line. Scientists, not lovers, make babies, manipulating their genetic, physical, and psychological character to meet the future needs of the World State.

Families in the World State represent destabilizing attachments, the potential for the kinds of intense feelings that the World State shuns. After all, when we love someone, whether it's a parent, a child, a sibling, or a romantic partner, emotions will inevitably overflow.

But in the World State, the motto is 'Everybody belongs to everybody else'. Men and women live in communal dorms. Promiscuity is encouraged and sexual exclusivity forbidden. No special attachments are allowed. No bonds of kinship and no relations by blood or marriage survive. And while that may sound good when the Thanksgiving drama rolls around, it also means there's no one special. One person is just as important - or unimportant - as the next. No messy, violent feelings allowed.


On the Savage Reservation, a sort of syncretic, or blended, religiosity prevails. Sacred beliefs and rituals are still maintained, but these are observed in complicated ways. Christianity mingles with the diverse faiths and practices of the Reservation's various Native American nations.

Things in the World State could not be more different, though. Here, there is no religion. It is outlawed, considered another obscene relic of a primitive past. But those in the World State are amused and fascinated by the savages' beliefs and they will often take vacation trips to the reservation, particularly to watch the religious rites and rituals. For World Staters, this is a sort of sick fascination. They witness the religious fervor with the same kind of appalled interest that one would watch an impending train wreck.

Citizens of the World State do, however, have something like a religious idol, in the form of the real-life industrial pioneer, Henry Ford. Expressions like 'Oh My Ford!' and 'His Fordship' are the equivalent of invoking the name of God in our modern world.

This is because everything in the World State is based upon Fordian principles. The World State, essentially, is one big industrial machine, an efficient factory operating on a multinational scale very much like the moving assembly line Ford created. Every person in the World State is simply another gear, a simple wheel, in the massive social machine. Everyone bows down to the name of our Ford, but to nothing else, not ever.

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