Mother, monogamy, romance.

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Summary: Chapter 3

The Director leads the students to the garden, where several hundred naked children are playing. The Director remarks that “in Our Ford’s day,” games involved no more than a ball or two, a few sticks, and maybe a net. Such simple apparatus did nothing to increase consumption. In the current World State, all games, like “Centrifugal Bumble-puppy,” involve complicated machines.

The Director is interrupted by the cries of a little boy sitting in the bushes. It soon becomes clear that the little boy, for some reason, is uncomfortable with the erotic play in which the children are encouraged to participate. After the boy is whisked off to see the psychologist, the Director astounds the students by explaining that sexual play during childhood and adolescence used to be considered abnormal and immoral. When he begins to explain the deleterious effects of sexual repression, a man interrupts him. The Director reverently introduces the man as “his fordship” Mustapha Mond. At the complex, four thousand electric clocks simultaneously strike four, marking the shift change. Henry Foster and Lenina each head up to the changing rooms in preparation for their date. While heading to the rooms, Henry snubs Bernard Marx who is said to have an unsavory reputation.

The narrative suddenly begins to shift back and forth between three different scenes, splicing in Mustapha Mond’s speech to the boys with scenes of Henry’s conversation in the male changing room and Lenina’s conversation in the female training room. This SparkNote will describe Mond’s speech first, and then the two changing room conversations.

The students are overwhelmed by meeting Mond, the Resident Controller for Western Europe, and one of only ten World Controllers. Mond quotes Ford, saying, “History is bunk” (an actual quote from the real-life Henry Ford) in order to explain why the students have not learned any of the history that the Director explains to them. The Director glances at him nervously. He has heard rumors that Mond keeps forbidden books, such as Bibles and poetry collections, locked in a safe. Mond, aware of the Director’s unease, condescendingly reassures him that he does not plan to corrupt the students.

Mond begins to describe life in the time before the World State began its policy of tight control over reproduction, child-rearing, and social relations. He likens the narrow channeling of emotion and desire to water under pressure in a pipe. One hole produces a strong jet. However, many small holes produce calm streams of water. Strong emotion, inspired by family relationships, sexual repression, and delayed satisfaction of desire, goes directly against stability. Without stability, civilization cannot exist. Before the existence of the World State, the instability caused by strong emotions led to disease, war, and social unrest that resulted in millions of deaths and untold suffering and misery.

Mond describes the initial resistance to the World State’s use of hypnopaedia, the caste system, and artificial gestation. But after the Nine Years’ War, which involved horrible chemical and biological warfare, an intense propaganda campaign, including the suppression of all books published before a.f. 150, began to weaken the resistance. Religion, Shakespeare, museums, and families all passed into obscurity. The date of the introduction of the Model T was chosen as the start of the new era, and all crosses had their tops cut off to make them into Ts. Six years of pharmaceutical research yielded soma, the perfect drug. The problem of old age was solved, and people could now retain the mental and physical character of youth throughout life. No one was allowed to sit alone and think. No one was allowed “leisure from pleasure.”

In the changing room at the end of the workday, Bernard overhears Henry talking with the Assistant Predestinator about Lenina. The Predestinator suggests a “feely” (a movie involving senses of touch and smell) that Henry might want to attend. While discussing Lenina admiringly, Henry tells the Assistant that he should “have her” some time. The conversation disgusts Bernard. The Assistant notices his glum expression and he and Henry decide to bait him. Henry offers Bernard some soma, infuriating him. They laugh as Bernard curses them.

The scene shifts to a public bathroom and showering room, where Lenina is chatting with Fanny Crowne. At age nineteen, Fanny is starting to take a temporary Pregnancy Substitute because she feels “out of sorts.” The Pregnancy Substitute mimics the hormonal effects of pregnancy. Fanny expresses surprise that Lenina is still dating Henry exclusively after four months. She advises Lenina to be more promiscuous, as a virtuous member of World State should. Lenina mentions that Bernard Marx, an Alpha Plus hypnopaedia specialist, invited her to the Savage Reservation. Fanny warns that Bernard has a bad reputation for spending time alone and is smaller and less confident than other Alphas. Fanny mentions the rumors that someone might have accidentally injected alcohol into his blood surrogate when he was in the bottle. Lenina decides to accept Bernard’s invitation because she thinks Bernard is sweet and wants to see the Reservation. Fanny admires Lenina’s Malthusian belt, a contraceptive holder that was a gift from Henry.

Analysis: Chapter 3

As the Director and Mustapha Mond explain to the boys how the World State works in an abstract way, the interspliced scenes of Lenina and Bernard show the society in action. The sexual play of the children at recess, the boys’ discomfort at the word mother, Lenina’s relaxed nakedness, and the conversation between Henry and the Predestinator all serve to illustrate how the traditional taboos regarding sexuality have been discarded. Bernard is the sole character to protest—almost silently—the way the system works. His discomfort with the commodification of sex marks him as a misfit. It is worth noting that the novel explicitly establishes that Bernard’s dissatisfaction with the State stems from his own isolation within it, introducing Bernard with the words “Those who feel themselves despised do well to look despising.” Bernard may be a rebel, but that rebellion does not come from any ideological objection to the World State. It comes from a sense that he might never fully belong to that society. This facet of Bernard’s character will be brought into play as the novel progresses.

Read more about Bernard as a protagonist.

In addition to prenatal and postnatal conditioning, the World State controls the behavior of its members through the forces of social conformity and social criticism. Lenina’s friend Fanny warns her that the Director does not like it when Hatchery workers fail to conform to the expected promiscuity standards. Even as an adult, a World State citizen must fear being seen doing something “shameful” or “abnormal.” The adult citizen has no private life. As Lenina notes, the only thing that one does when one is alone in the World State is sleep, and one can’t do that forever. In and out of the office, the adult citizen is under surveillance to ensure that his or her body and mind are following the World State’s moral value system. Both peers and superiors, like Fanny and the Director, are constantly watching to ensure that each citizen is behaving appropriately.

Read more about sexual norms in the World State.

In his long speech about the history of the World State, Mustapha Mond blames the previously sacred institutions of family, love, motherhood, and marriage for causing social instability in the old society. As Mond explains it, these old institutions shared the work of mediating the conflict between the individual’s interests and the interests of society with the State, but the personal institutions and State institutions were themselves out of alignment, creating instability. Individuals cannot always be relied upon to choose the path of most stability since family, love, and marriage produce divided allegiances. Freely acting individuals must constantly weigh the moral value and the moral consequences of their actions. Mond argues that the divided allegiances of individuals produce social instability. For this reason, the World State has eliminated all traces of non-State institutions. The citizen is socialized to only have an allegiance to the State; personal connections of all sorts are discouraged, and even the desire to develop such connections is conditioned away. The constant availability of physical satisfaction evident in the feelies, the abundance of soma, the easy attainment of sex through state-sanctioned promiscuity, and the lack of any historical knowledge that might point to an alternate way of life, ensure that the way of life developed and instituted by the World State will not be threatened.

Mustapha Mond and the Director spend a good deal of time discussing the importance of consumption. They are really talking about creating a population that will always want more—a captive market created by conditioning that will want whatever goods the World State produces. This culture of constant consumption allows the government to act as a supplier, propelling the economy and creating a happy community dependent on its supplier. But the economic discussion led by Mond and the Director does not refer only to the economy of money and goods. In Brave New World, everything, including sex, operates according to the logic of supply and demand. Citizens are taught to view one another, and themselves, as commodities to be consumed like any other manufactured good. Bernard rebels against this sentiment when he notes that Henry and the Predestinator view Lenina as a “piece of meat”—and that Lenina thinks of herself the same way. Consumption as a way of life is never justified by the World State; it is taken as a way of life.

Read more about consumer society as a theme.

In Mustapha Mond’s discussion of history, Brave New World gives some thought to a theme that George Orwell explores in detail in 1984. Implicit in Mond’s statement that “history is bunk” and his discussion of the history of the World State, is the fact that Mond and the other nine World Controllers have a monopoly on historical knowledge. This ensures their positions of power. In 1984, Orwell describes the mechanisms of this manipulation, as the government of Oceania actively revises history in order to serve its political goals from moment to moment. But in the World State, active revision is unnecessary because the population is conditioned to believe that, as Mond says, “history is bunk.” Because they are trained to see history as worthless, they are trapped in the present, unable to imagine alternative ways of life. It is unclear why Mond takes the time to explain the history of the World State to the boys, though it certainly is a convenient way of explaining a possible pathway from the reader’s world to that of the World State.