1. Bernard is criticized by the Director for not acting “infantile” enough. Discuss how and why the World State infantilizes its citizens.
The World State infantilizes its citizens by allowing them instant gratification and denying them responsibility. It assigns every citizen to a caste and a particular social function before birth, it encourages its citizens to use soma regularly and to seek instant sexual gratification, and it conditions its citizens to have no identity independent of the World State. John compares the dependence of Delta workers on soma to a prolonged childhood. Their reaction to John’s call to revolution resembles a childhood temper tantrum. The lifelong process of conditioning socializes the citizens into infantile dependence on the State through the lures of pleasure, security, and happiness. Like children, they are never allowed to make independent moral choices. Instead, these choices are made for them through conditioned, blind obedience to the World State’s moral laws. All of this occurs in the name of stability. Infantilization is implemented through scientific discoveries in human psychology, such as Pavlovian theory and hypnopaedia.
2. Discuss the relation between the sexes in the World State. How do men and women interact? Who holds the power in social situations, in the workplace, and in the government?
When the Director gives his new students a tour of the Hatchery at the beginning of Brave New World, it is made immediately clear that the students are all boys. This is the first of many hints that women occupy positions of inferior power and status in the World State. Another clue comes soon after, when we learn that in order to retain the State’s control over reproduction, many of the female fetuses are sterilized—but none of the male fetuses are. The Malthusian belt, containing regulation contraceptives, is another example of the burden placed on women to avoid pregnancies. In sexual relations, men and women seem to be equally promiscuous and equally free to initiate contact. Lenina is just as ready as Bernard to capitalize on the fame brought through association with John by spending time with as many partners as possible. But in work situations and in the government men are undeniably in charge. Assuming that Lenina and Fanny are Beta females, there are very few Alpha women in the novel and none about whom we learn anything significant. The people in positions of power—in propaganda (Bernard, Helmholtz), in the Hatchery (the Director, Henry), and in the government (Mustapha Mond)—are all male. In the social realm the relations between the sexes are liberalized, but in the realms of work and politics the power remains squarely in the hands of men. It is an open question whether this state of affairs is part of the satirical target of Brave New World or whether it simply reflects the culture in which the novel was written.
3. Discuss the parallels between Brave New World and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Many critics interpret The Tempest as an allegory of imperialism because Prospero decides to raise Caliban and “civilize” him. England has a long history of colonizing “savages” it saw as being in need of “civilizing.” In some respects, the World State practices a form of British imperialism. “Civilizing the savages” often involved replacing native languages with English. There are hints that English is the only language in the World State. Polish, German, and French are referred to as “dead languages.” Therefore, it seems that the World State has eradicated most other cultures and languages except for a few “Savage Reservations.” John identifies with Miranda by quoting her, and, like Miranda, he is raised in isolation from the culture of his parents. However, John resembles Caliban, because he becomes known as “the Savage” when he travels to the World State.
Bernard also parallels different characters from The Tempest. Like Prospero’s brother, Bernard uses another person to further his own selfish interests. He uses John to acquire greater popularity and status. However, Bernard also becomes John’s appointed guardian, so he becomes John’s “father” on one level. Bernard’s role as guardian is to expose John to “civilization.” Therefore, Bernard plays Prospero, as John plays Caliban. London society’s reaction to John reproduces the stereotype of the “Noble Savage.” This cliché often functioned as a justification for the cultural genocide practiced in British Imperialism. “Civilized” British culture played the parent role to the “child-like savage” by raising him above his “savage, childish” culture. Therefore, the relationship between Bernard and John dramatizes the thematic content of The Tempest, as well as the history of British imperialism.
4. In what ways does the World State treat people like commodities?
The Predestinators estimate the need for various members of each caste, and the Hatchery produces human beings to match their mathematical figures. This directly follows the economic rules of supply and demand. Through the Podsnap and Bokanovsky Processes, the lower castes are mass-produced on assembly lines to satisfy the needs of a market, just like any other standardized manufactured good. Linda’s doctor and Bernard are content to allow Linda to abuse soma even though they know it will eventually kill her. The doctor explains to John that it is better for her to die as quickly and quietly as possible now that she cannot perform any economically productive work. The doctor voices the World State’s belief that human beings are things meant to be “used up until they wear out.” Just as with manufactured goods, when people get old and worn out, they are thrown away. With respect to sexual pleasure, World State citizens are conditioned to view themselves, and others, as commodities to be consumed like any other manufactured good. As Bernard says, Henry and the Predestinator view Lenina as a “bit of meat,” and Lenina thinks of herself “as meat.”