Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Chapter 3

Summary Chapter 3

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.

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.

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.