ENG 2420: Science Fiction

Professor Belli — Spring 2017 — City Tech

ENG 2420: Science Fiction

Class Discussion: Brave New World

*We’ll continue to use this space to discuss the novel. You should make one initial comment on chapters 10-18 by W 3/1  + two additional comments by F 3/3.

We’re extending our discussion of Brave New World to the OpenLab, to dig even deeper into the text.

Initial comments are due by W 2/22, and then a minimum of two additional comments by F 2/24. A friendly reminder that, in addition to posting your own comment(s), you are responsible for checking back in and reading through the whole discussion, prior to each class. This “discussion” is part of the required reading for the course.

Feel free to pick up on something we discussed in class, bring in aspects of the text we didn’t get to, raise questions, offer excerpts/analysis, provide connections to our contemporary world (references & links to other texts articles, songs, videos, etc. would be great, but remember to keep your discussion grounded in the novel), raise–& take a shot at answering!–big existential questions raised by the text (e.g., can happiness be “real” if it is manufacturing chemically?), or anything else relevant. The goal is conversation that will lead to continued close reading/understanding of the text

45 thoughts on “Class Discussion: Brave New World

  1. Bernard is different from other alpha plus members, making him unique. This uniqueness make him feel like an outcast to society unable to give proper orders to lower caste members. This also relate to the world we live in today, where if someone where to act strange or deviate from the social norm that they outcast them usually with race, religion, or ethnicity.

      • “And then so small. Fanny made grimace; smallness was so horribly and typically low-caste.”(Huxley 51). As Fanny and Lenina discuss about Bernard Marx, Fanny point out all the imperfection of an alpha plus of Bernard and making his uniqueness to be “low-caste” which makes him an outcast to the other alpha plus members.

  2. In Brave New World the world state motto is “Identity, Community, Stability” this motto is not applied to everyone. As I stated in class only Alphas and Betas have an identity and free will. They are the ones to get to enjoy the pleasures of the new world. While the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons do all the work. They are also the ones who get clone and go through Bokanovskys process. No one in this world are really free they are all slaves to the programming the society has instilled on them. If you are different such as Bernard and John you are ostracized and made fun of. You become an outsider.

    • Carmen, thanks for reiterating your points from class (though it is good to extend them too in this new discussion). Can you provide one piece of textual evidence (with citation) here for us, to illustrate your point?

    • I agree with the idea of no one in the society being truly free. Every one whether they realize it or not is under some form of control by the leaders , also know as the World State. The amount of power that the World State has seems like that of Hitler. Through their eyes they might be doing whats best for the people/society as a whole.But from some ones like Bernard’s eyes its destruction.They are willing to sacrifice the few for the benefit of the many.

    • The motto only applies to a minority that out class the others. It’s more like everyone is part of a pyramid that supports these ideals. Communities have a certain normal and abnormal. They consider those who do not share these social norms to be these outcasts. Stability is in the system that separates individuals into these classes. This way everyone will know their place and where they fit in this system. Identity is reserved for the elite few. People of the lower class are a product that can be produced. People of a higher echelon have the luxury of being unique and maintaining their identity.

  3. In the book Brave New World, it is intriguing how what we would consider to be wrong or looked down upon in this world, some of the things they do in the world in that story is considered right for them. Like we would think that sexual interaction between kids before they hit puberty would be wrong but in the place where they produce the clones and instill certain values in them they use that as a part of raising them and for them they think it is right. Even though they do think that certain sexual aspects are not right they still use it in a way they feel is right in order to make a society that sticks to the standards it had set. Also stability for that society is the creation of the different types of classes of the clones because they are able to prosper as a unit or civilization that way because they create them to fulfill various aspects.

    • Great point Jaraad about how certain values of the World State seem odd to us (as readers), and also to outsiders within the text (e.g., John) Can you provide a piece of textual evidence (with citation) here for us to support your discussion?

    • In a sense as Jaraad said, stability is made by putting people to their caste that they belong to. How do they control people once they are in the society? Maybe soma for the intellectuals in the society? To stop them thinking something wrong with society caste system or how it is run. This is how Bernard see it since he refuse to take soma which is widely available.

    • “So we allow as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos to develop normally. The other get a dose of male sex-hormone every twenty-four metres for the rest of the course.”(Huxley,23). In the text they process and tamper with certain aspects in terms of developing human clones so that they can be best suited for different needs. The society treats human beings in a actual non-human way as seen from a different point of view because that would be considered wrong to alter and experiment with genetics and sex hormones instead of letting them go by there own course. This is how that society was able to maintain stability and prosper.

    • The cultural difference between our values and the values of the World State are very different. How we view it could be just culture shock where we judge a fictional place for their beliefs. There are plenty of examples of backwards cultures and trends in our real world too. Did you know that Japan has a killer working environment? And I mean killer in both the metaphorical and literal sense of the phrase. The Japanese salary men have it really rough. imagine working 15 hours a day. Now take that 15 hour work day and imagine it 6 times a week. This kind of work has killed people. I mean that literally people have died because they overworked themselves in Japan. In our reality, there is a country with rich history and culture that regularly has people dying from work related stress and malnutrition. And you know what, that’s completely normal in Japan. The country that is leading in robotics and engineering literally treat their employees like machines. If an employee verbally mentions getting back home in time for dinner with the wife and kids, they are considered disloyal to their employer. This is a long standing problem in Japan that not many seem interested in fixing. They generally don’t see this as a problem. In fact this mentality can be traced back to when Japan still had a feudal empire. I would love to give a history lesson about that but I just need to drive home the fact that there is a country that finds this normal.

  4. The understudies see different machines and procedures used to advance the generation and molding of fetuses. The researchers take an ovary, evacuate and treat the eggs, compel the eggs to bud up to ninety-six circumstances, and in this manner develop the incipient organisms in containers. Predestinators then choose the future capacity of every developing life inside the general public, basically allocating a future employment to every human

    this reminds me how technology is taking human being in the world. it’s the exact thing is happening in the story but in the story they’re creating human being. for me it’s still artificial intelligence same thing as a robot. clasifiying them by cast.

    • Thanks Pedro for your comment … I’m hoping you can clarify a little bit more the connection you’re making. Are you suggesting that humans creating robots and AIs is comparable to the type of “production” of babies that happens in the novel? Can you provide textual evidence to support your point?

  5. In order to understand my plight I have to explain my thought process I had when I was reading Brave New World. At first I understood that you can mass produce human embryos through the Bokanovsky method. At this point I thought that humans couldn’t reproduce sexually in this setting. Then in the further chapters of the book I was surprised to find that not only was my initial assumption wrong, but that there are entire scenes and characters that are all about sex. So if people can reproduce sexually, than what was the human factory for?
    I get that when you produce humans like how they do it in that human factory or “hatchery” as they are so lovingly referred as, but what is the point? Yes I get that they can be bred and trained to do certain jobs, but wouldn’t it be easier to just kidnap them upon birth instead of this cloning facility? This facility that I am very confident costs a lot of power and money to not only build but to also maintain. You have hospitals and a lower class. Why are you making all lower class citizens a bunch of clones that roll off the conveyor belt? Whats the point of having dozens of clones who are only capable of doing the same job? The caste system I can imagine working, hell I’ve seen it work in other science fiction stories. But what is the point of making this whole thing out of clones? If nothing else I think this system just burns more money than necessary. I’m not even worried that the clones are going to rebel against the system, I;m confident that the whole system is going to have an energy crisis or face bankruptcy. So can someone tell me how the hell this system is supposed to work better than having lower class citizens be born normally as opposed to this mess?

    • Thanks Ryan for raising these important questions about the premises of the text. Your question in particular about why not just “kidnap” babies from birth points to an important point about the conditioning that this society believes is necessary to ensure “stability.” It seems that psychological conditioning (e.g., hypnopaedia) does not seem sufficient for the rulers; they also seem to feel that biological conditioning is necessary. It would be really helpful for you to provide textual evidence (quotes, with citations) to support/ground your discussion.

      The identity question, about clones is also really important: what do others think about why they clone folks and have all the people similar (within castes)?

    • So as I’ve read into and past chapter 10, I still don’t know what the point of the human factory is but I do sense that the society is heavily relying on this clone system. It’s almost like a culture or even a cult. These people simply accept this as normal and call people who ask too many questions a heretic. In chapter 10 the Director was going to do just that to Bernard. On page 137 paragraph 3 he explains to Henry that Bernard must be made “A public example,” of what happens when you don’t share the same values as the rest of society.
      As much as I would like to believe that this is all because of people’s narrow mindedness, I feel that this society is just beyond belief. John is a character who has what we consider to be real world values and is called a savage for having a natural birth. In Chapter 13 page 174 paragraph 6, he professes his love to a woman by the name of Lenina. Lenina herself cannot accept another man for whatever reason and is overjoyed by John’s response to her. In paragraph 10 he later tells her about marriage and what it entails, she calls it a terrible idea. This society sees marriage as horrible. To answer my earlier concerns about the baby factory, not only does that make no sense but everything makes no sense. I’m sure this is just me in culture shock from this madness but this is madness nonetheless. This is a society with no families and civilization has some inhuman beliefs and values.

  6. Bernard seems to be quite sympathetic. He feels outcast and alone, and so he acts on it which makes people treat him like an outsider even more and it goes even further into a self feeding cycle. Even his friend, Helmholtz, isn’t much of a help because while he also feels different from everyone like Bernard, it’s from such a different angle and reason from Bernard that it makes it difficult for one to see the other’s view at times. It’s such that to a point where Bernard feels empowered when singled out or for acting like an individual instead of a machine.
    Bernard also has such a different way of thinking that, when shared with Lenina, it was something incomprehensible or too nonsensical to understand, much less to even think that it was frightening. It was because of this train of thought that he avoided Soma to see how far he can push himself and experience emotions that to him are intense. Unfortunately, it was also because of this that he risked being transferred to Iceland because of his behavior was considered inappropriate.

    • Thanks Aneita for these thoughts, that help to understand how different perspectives within this society are not even legible to others (because of the conditioning that people have gone through that force them to think/see the world only in certain ways). Can you provide textual evidence (with citations) to support your points?

    • I totally agree with you Aneita I would like to add on to what to said about Bernard being sympathetic . Bernard throughout the play was almost lost and in search of finding himself , he know that there was more to happiness that just a drug (soma).With Bernard already feeling like an out caste because of his size compared to the other Alpha men , Bernard main focused was to show others that they need to create their own happiness.

  7. In a brave new world, its clear that the society has sacrificed its individuality and morality for what they see as stability and efficiency. I find it pretty crazy how far they will go and what they are willing to do to people.Putting children through shock therapy to mold them, using hypnopedia, and altering the embryos of children, they do all this to keep their society “in order”. As I read through the book i assumed the whole world was like this, but with the introduction to john and the savages, I realized the people are probably under the control of the committee with the use of fear and drugs. The upper 2 classes might think of themselves as free, but in reality they are just as enslaved as the lower classes

    • Thanks Alyssa for this discussion. Can you clarify what you mean when you state that “this society has sacrificed its [. . .] morality”? Is morality something absolute? Or is it relative to what a society values? It would be really helpful, too, to provide textual evidence (with citations) to support your ideas.

    • There’s a mentality to this but for the most part, yeah that sounds about right. Even Alphas and Betas are conditioned to share these values. Everyone is conditioned to hold certain values. Granted some are more for work purposes than others, but the Alphas are constantly surrounded by the values of the World State. Have fun, be happy, always be happy. These later chapters introduce some very conflicting values between those who have been conditioned and those who have not. In chapter 14 page 183 paragraph 5, John who has just lost his mother strikes a child who is curious and perplexed at the sight of a dying person and the boy said some rude things about John’s mother. A boy who was conditioned since birth had some conflicting values with John. It is some sort of crazy when a society brings up a child to say some rude things about a dying person.

  8. The things depicted in Brave New World are just bizarre to read. From having 96 identical twins to sex being commonplace to all these different castes. And then people are basically brainwashed at their early stages in life to think all of this is normal. The brainwashing brings up another point, its efficiency. Obviously there are no problems with it from what we’ve seen so far. Everyone turns out the way they were meant to. Everyone is content (because they’re programmed to be). Other than the special case of Bernard where he turns out different because of the way he’s treated for not being the generic Alpha, there are no problems with the conditioning itself, or at least so far. I don’t necessarily agree with how it works and I dislike the lack in identity and individuality in the lower castes. It makes them more efficient but it makes them duller by comparison.

    • Thanks Jesse for adding your thoughts to this discussion. I want to push back a little bit on the claim that “there are no problems with the conditioning itself” … we’re halfway through the novel so far, and there are a number of places that show the cracks in the conditioning, or alternatives. How do you account for them? Can you provide textual evidence (with citations) to more fully discuss/analyze this topic?

    • You mentioned that these people are brainwashed in their early stages of life. However, is it brainwashing if a child is scolded for not doing homework or burning their hand when they touch fire. This is more like training and conditioning. I could tell you all about what this all means to children who are learning but the bottom line is that these experiences are all that these kids are exposed to. If you are only exposed to terrible things when interacting with fire, you learn to fear it. And of course man discovered the trick to fire. There will more than likely be problems with this system when someone discovers a trick or two about these terrible experiences.

  9. When first reading Brave New World, and how much pleasure is just every where, that its given without much work involved, and that it should be given constantly, even having the perfect drug soma in ice cream, reminded me much of the fall of the Eldar from the Warhammer 40k mythos. In that part of the history, the race know as the Eldar basically had every thing on auto pilot, and decided to pretty much live life to the fullest and gave into their pleasures, all the while ignoring their great doom in the background and not thinking through what would happen if they continued down this path. It ultimately culminated in the final crumble of their once great empire and now are a dying species, with their whole reproduction cycle messed up beyond repair, I wonder if this would happen if the hatcheries began to fail.

    • Thanks Hunter for adding this connection to another text (can you link us?), and for bringing up the theme of hedonism. It would be helpful, though, to ground your analysis more fully in the novel we are reading, and to provide specific textual analysis (with citation) for us.

  10. Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson are only friends because of the dislike of environment the World State have manufactured for everyone happiest. Being “manufactured and modified” from birth, placed in perfect environment and given the happy pill (SOMA), you would believe that Alpha Plus would be similar mentally and physically to eliminate the negative attribute human possess (envy, greed, lust etc.). This kind of dominance over human life to prevent peace and a happy society will not constantly function. In the movie the Equilibrium, it produces a similar environment using pill eliminate emotions and citizen lived in a military state, but it produced people like Bernard, who dislike his caste because he didn’t fit in and Helmhotltz wanted more out of his life in caste because it was just too easy. At the end the day, the World State will only label them as rebels because they are not part of the whole.

    • After John was introduce, Bernard quickly became famous among the upper class. The fame radically changed Bernard, his friend Helmholtz did not like that, as discribed by the narrator “Helmholtz listened to his boasting in a silence so gloomily disapproving that Bernard was offended”(Huxley 145). The fame that Bernard gain had made him blind, causing him to go aganist his friend. Later on in the story Helmholtz and Bernard are no longer friends because they don’t share the same view point anymore. John and Helmholtz did share some similar view points that they became friends.In a sense Bernard was replaced by John.

  11. Thanks Jay for bringing up the question of the inevitability of rebellion in such a rigidly controlled (and false happiness) society, and for the connection to the movie ‘Equilibrium.” Can you provide specific textual evidence (with citation) to support/ground your claims?

    • One of the first signs of rebellion came from Bernard while explaining to Lenina how he wanted to be allow and free to look at the sea which is not acceptable by the World State. Bernard tries to convince Lenina, but she was not having it and didn’t understand what pleasure he’d receive from that experience. “I want to look at the sea in peace,” he said. “One can’t even look with that beastly noise going on.” “But it’s lovely. And I don’t want to look.” “But I do,” he insisted. “It makes me feel as though .” he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, “as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely apart of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?” But Lenina was crying. “It’s horrible, it’s horrible,” she kept repeating. “And how can you talk like that about not wanting to be a part of the social body? (Huxley, pg 90)

  12. This is the ‘New York Times’ article that I mentioned in class on Tuesday: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/health/human-gene-editing-panel.html

    It’s entitled “Human Gene Editing Receives Science Panel’s Support” and discusses movement toward human genetic engineering. The article starts off with the following:

    “An influential science advisory group formed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine on Tuesday lent its support to a once-unthinkable proposition: the modification of human embryos to create genetic traits that can be passed down to future generations.

    This type of human gene editing has long been seen as an ethical minefield. Researchers fear that the techniques used to prevent genetic diseases might also be used to enhance intelligence, for example, or to create people physically suited to particular tasks, like serving as soldiers.”

    Later in the article there is discussion of some of the negative consequences that might arise if this genetic modification were to become a reality:

    “But opponents of human germ line editing say that is not a reason to take a big step toward what they fear will be an inevitable push to engineer traits like strength, beauty and intelligence, perhaps eventually creating a dystopian social divide between those who can afford enhancements and those who cannot.”

    This real-world contemporary example is really interesting to consider in dialogue with ‘Brave New World,’ and our considerations of the ways the World State manufactures/mass produces/conditions humans.

    Another thing I was thinking of as I read this article (and am re-reading BNW) is a documentary called ‘The Perfect 46’ (its currently on Netflix, if you have that), which is about a fictional genetics company that aims to eliminate disease through genetic matching. You can read more about it here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/genetic-crossroads/201407/the-perfect-46-science-fiction-film-about-our-near-future

  13. From the book, I had a lot of questions. One of these questions is that why are words and concepts like “family”, “Mother”, “Father”, and “born” considered smut? This can be seen when the director asks the group of student what a parent(page 32). While this may have to do with the strangeness in of it itself as these words and meaning is normal to us, it is especially confusing when it’s considered the norm to sleep with anyone around you. This can also be seen when a nurse was taking in a child who “seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play”(page 38) as well as when Fanny tells Lenina to “have someone else from time to time”, referring to her to sleep with other people(page 47).

  14. A interesting quote that pops up from the book, which in turn made me question it and the book. In the book, the Director tells Bernard that “Alphas are so conditioned that they do not have to be infantile in their emotional behaviour” and that “It is their duty to be infantile, even against their inclination”(page 96). To be infantile means to act childish or immature. This is an odd thing that adults are supposed to be childish and to be more mature is considered wrong, unnatural, or at least worth getting in trouble for.

  15. Linda after all the time away from the World State she still remember her conditioning, as said “it wasn’t my fault, Tomakin. Because I always did my drill, didn’t I?” (Huxley 140). The State’s conditioning is so powerful that Linda still remember she needs to take her contraceptive even if she ran out of it a long time ago. John is placed in the story so reader can relate if they were to be place in the world state, it show how a normal human being might have reacted without any conditioning by the World State. In theory John, Linda and Tomakin was the closes it gets to family, although the idea of family disgust even Tomakin and the society.

  16. Pingback: Class Notes (Class Discussion 2-28-17) | ENG 2420: Science Fiction

  17. I believe John is the anomaly in the whole story which can make or break society created like the World State. Because John grew up on Shakespeare literary works, it creates this idea of how society should be in his mind. The more he tried to be part of World State the more he saw the truth about the control placed on citizen of the World State. John even started an outcry after his mother passed away to the citizen outside the hospital, to help them stop taking Soma because it was blinding them from the truth, but his effort failed. There movie called Demolition Man, where the main character woke up to a world a little similar to the one in the Brave New World. He was the anomaly, but the main character was able to break their way of living that John couldn’t do in the Brave New World.

  18. John and Lenina are the crossed lovers from two different worlds. Civilized vs. uncivilized societies. John whose ideals of love,marriage and family stem from the works of Shakespeare and the practices of the native people in New Mexico reservations (uncivilized). He believes in marriage( monogamy) and doing an act of love to prove his worthiness and nobility to her. As oppose, to Lenina whose been condition by (civilized society) Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre to have many lovers. “every one belongs to every one else” (pg46). There is no chase, build up, or passion. Everyone gives in to pleasure. There is no emotional attachment . Marriage and the idea of family are bad and forbidden in the civilized society. These different ideas is why John and Lenina relationship does not go anywhere further than just having feelings for each other.

  19. Also, I find it symbolic, poetic in a way, that the story ends with Johns death. Most of Johns ideologies came from Shakespeare. In the Brave New World, the novel ends with John “The Savage” committing suicide . This becomes (to me) the epitome of Shakespeare plays which ultimately end in death.

  20. Discussion on Chapters 10-18
    Throughout these remaining chapters in the text Henry is regarded as a savage because of his beliefs and ideals being different in the nation’s state’s society. ” They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children…”(Huxley, page 198). In this saying it describes how the civilization is in a good position because they are various factors that actually causes it to be more civilized. Even though many various things are not apart of civilizations like family and some emotional types of feelings, it is ironic how this is what it would cause the civilization to be considered to be civilized while many would considered that to be uncivilized because people need those types of things to be able to have understanding and be able to better themselves and live more freely.

  21. Poor John. While he had a crush on Lenina, as she forced herself upon him, she turned from something like an angel to something horrific as a succubus. Convinced by her friend Fanny to “just go and take him” and take soma before doing so (page 172), Lenina went to the room John stayed in to do so. John and Lenina are basically raised in two different cultures, which Lenina believing “everyone belongs to everyone”, while John want to prove himself to be worth to be with a woman for the rest of his days. This goes over the other’s head. When john expressed his emotions while quoting Shakespeare’s line, “If thou dost break her virgin knot before all sanctimonious ceremonies may be full and holy rite…”, Lenina could not understand him. This was more than just because Shakespeare is an illegal book in the “civilized” world, but because the idea of proving oneself to another and belonging to one person doesn’t makes sense to Lenina. John, on the other hand, was horrified as Lenina stripped in front of him as she forcefully come onto him. As a result of that action, John not only freaks out, but also chases Lenina away and became scarred because of it. In the last chapter, John whips himself when he thought of Lenina because of her actions on him.(page 224-225)

  22. The narrator keeps referring to John as the savage, but the characters in the story called him by his proper name. For example the narrator said “The savage waited and watched”(Huxley 151). John is being called savage throughout the rest of the story by the narrator. It is ironic because John is the only person in the World State that acted like a normal person and the rest of the people seem to be savages in the reader’s eyes

  23. Throughout this story some of the characters use a drug known as soma in order to achieve a certain level of happiness and be able to escape from the reality they are in or it would be used to calm their thinking if they thought of something else that might be considered unusual. As Lenina in the story states “I wish I had my soma!”(Huxley 110). It is interesting how the civilization would make things different for the people by applying there own rules and standards and affecting the people by making them live the way they think would be a way of happiness and being civilized and yet they would have the people get access to soma. It is interesting because that drug would alter their minds in a way that would affect their thinking.

  24. The conversation between John and Mustapha comes to a conclusion with John stating “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry , I want real danger, I want freedom , I want goodness, I want sin.” (p.g.215) John chooses his knowledge and admiration for art, passion, adventure , and above all free will to do so over stability. He chooses all the good and bad qualities that comes with being human. Qualities that separate people from everything else . In contrast, the citizens of the new world are superficially fulfilled and happy but in turn don’t care about their personal freedom, they have no morals or values, and suppress every emotion that isn’t happy or pleasurable. They give up their humanity for stability.

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