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Meaning of Pneumatic in Brave New World

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Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

The term 'pneumatic' is utilized in three main contexts through 'Brave New World'. Identify how it can be used to describe women, objects, and even describe people as things in a dehumanizing way. Updated: 12/14/2021

Pneumatic: Multiple Meanings

In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the word 'pneumatic' is used to describe girls, furniture, and shoes. In this lesson, we will take a look at the multiple meanings of this word and apply it to the context of the novel.

From a literal sense, the word pneumatic means filled with air. Pneumatic tools contain air that remain at intense pressure, so that when the valve is opened, the force of air that is released powers the machine. When the valve is released, the compressed air forces the chair to move up or down. Another definition of pneumatic has to do with the spiritual realm. Pneuma is a Greek word for spirit that is often used interchangeably with the Holy Spirit in Christianity. Finally, it can be used to describe a curvy woman. Throughout the novel, the word is used in ways that somewhat plays with blending the three definitions.

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  • 0:00 Pneumatic: Multiple Meanings
  • 0:54 Describing Women
  • 1:41 Describing Things
  • 2:26 Describing People as Things
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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Describing Women

Pneumatic is used in a most flattering way to describe Lenina Crowne. When Lenina's frequent partner, Henry Foster, describes her to the Assistant Predestinator, it is intended to be a compliment. 'Oh, she's a splendid girl. Wonderfully pneumatic. I'm surprised you haven't had her.' Other girls are compared to Lenina as being wonderful people, but less pneumatic than Lenina. Typically pneumatic is a good thing, but evidently, you can have too much of a good thing. 'Clara…was really too pneumatic. Whereas Fifi and Joanna were absolutely right. Plump, blonde, not too large.' Most likely, in reference to these girls, pneumatic is referring to their breast size, but there may be a little cross-over into Lenina's spirited personality.

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