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Brave New World

Aldous Huxley
Summary Chapter 1
Summary Chapter 1

The almost religious regard in which the World State holds technology is apparent from the start. The starting date for the calendar is Henry Ford’s introduction of the Model T, an automobile cheaply and efficiently produced by the assembly line system. All dates are preceded by “a.f.,” “After Ford,” just as today’s calendar system begins with the birth of Jesus, a.d. (Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of the lord”). Other satirical hints of a warped religion are scattered throughout the text. The Predestinators, for example, are a farcical secular manifestation of the Calvinist religious belief that God predestines individuals for heaven or hell before birth. The World State’s religious adherence to technology is far from innocent. In fact it becomes one of the pillars of stability for the totalitarian World State. As the Director says, “social stability” is the highest social goal, and through predestination and rigorous conditioning, individuals accept their given roles in society without question. The caste structure is created and maintained using specific tools, and it is technology that allows the most powerful members of the World State’s ruling Alpha caste to solidify and justify the unequal distribution of power and status.

Conditioning individuals genetically, physically, and psychologically for their “inescapable social destinies” stabilizes the caste system by creating servants who love and fully accept their servility. Moreover, conditioning makes them virtually incapable of performing any other function than that to which they are assigned. The satirical tone of the text makes it clear that, though social stability may sound like an admirable goal, it can be used for the wrong reasons toward the wrong ends.

One theme emphasized repeatedly in this first chapter is the similarity between the production of humans in the Hatchery and the production of consumer goods on an assembly line. Everything about human reproduction is technologically managed to maximize efficiency and profit. Following the rule of supply and demand, the Predestinators project how many members of each caste will be needed, and the Hatchery produces human beings according to those figures. One of the keys of mass production is that every part is identical and interchangeable; a steering wheel from one Model T fits neatly onto the steering column of any other Ford. Similarly, in the Hatchery, human beings are standardized by the production of thousands of brothers and sisters in multiple groups of identical twins using the Bokanovsky and Podsnap Processes.

The lower castes are more subject to these forces of anonymity and mechanization. Members of the higher castes are decanted one by one, without any artificial intervention. Thus the higher castes retain at least some level of the individuality and creativity that is denied completely to the lower castes.