Brave New World: Setting & Analysis

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  • 0:00 Dystopian Fiction
  • 0:53 Plot Summary
  • 4:16 Central London Hatchery
  • 4:58 The Savage Reservation
  • 5:35 The Lighthouse
  • 6:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Yates

Kimberly has taught college English and has a master's degree in education.

'Brave New World,' published by Aldous Huxley in 1932, is the story of a futuristic society that finds happiness through drugs and promiscuity. This lesson will look at the theme of the danger of technology. It will also define dystopian fiction.

Dystopian Fiction

What's your idea of a perfect world? One where everyone is happy all the time? One where there are no rules or morals and you can do whatever you want? This may sound like fun on the surface, but in the novel, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley shows how dehumanizing that can be. The novel is an example of dystopian fiction, a story that portrays a negative view of a future world. Dystopian fiction often features disturbing, futuristic societies in which members are rigidly controlled. Free will and thought are discouraged and even forbidden, while conformity becomes the ideal. Dystopian novels, like Brave New World, are often considered exaggerated warnings of what could happen if current trends or problems aren't addressed.

Plot Summary

The novel begins in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where human beings are mass-produced in test tubes. The Director of the Centre leads a group of students through the building to show them how every stage of development is rigidly controlled. After being born, or 'decanted' as it's called in this society, the children are conditioned according to their respective social classes. Lower-class babies are trained to be mindless workers and are given electric shocks when they reach for books in order to terrify them away from reading. This is our first clue that everything is not so perfect in this so-called perfect world. As they grow older, children in the lab are conditioned to indulge themselves in physical pleasure. They constantly take a drug called soma. In addition, everyone is taught that they should have sex with as many different people as possible; after all, everyone belongs to everyone else.

But all the world is not this sterile and amoral. As the novel progresses, two workers from the Centre, Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx, take a vacation together to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico. Life there is completely different from the civilized society in London, and Bernard and Lenina watch the people as if they were strange creatures at the zoo. Lenina is especially horrified; the Savage Reservation seems filthy to her. The sight of two women nursing their babies nearly makes her sick. She tries watching a religious ceremony, comparing it to the orgies back in London. However, when the savages start handling snakes and whipping each other to make blood offerings, she becomes hysterical and desperate for her soma.

Bernard is more surprised to come across Linda, a civilized woman who has been living on the reservation for about 25 years. She had also come to the reservation on vacation but had gotten lost and been trapped there ever since. Even after all this time, she has not adapted to the savage lifestyle and is desperate to get back to civilization. But when Bernard gets permission to bring her and her son back to London, she finds that she doesn't fit in there either. The other citizens are disgusted by the fact that she has given birth like an animal. She soon overdoses on soma.

Linda's son, John, doesn't fit into society either. Even though he had been unhappy on the Savage Reservation, he still has a lot of savage values. He doesn't believe in taking drugs, and he thinks people should be monogamous. He thinks civilized society is completely immoral. Civilized society, however, thinks that John is fascinating. In a world that has tried to make everything and everyone exactly the same, he is different, and everyone wants to know more about him. In the end, he can't stand it and goes off to live alone in a lighthouse. Unfortunately, reporters come to interview him, and hundreds of people come to stare at him. Unable to take the pressure, John commits suicide.

Authors often use the setting, when and where story takes place, to enhance the theme or overall subject or idea of the story. In Brave New World, Huxley uses the setting to emphasize his theme of the dangers of technology.

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