Brave New World


Plot Summary

Brave New World takes place in a dystopian future, opening in the year A.F. 632 (“After Ford”). It is set in an almost completely industrialized world where genetic manipulation and planning have reached incredibly precise levels. Civilization is ordered by a genetically engineered caste system and is controlled by a small minority of people at the top of the World State. At the bottom of the caste system are the Epsilons, and above them the Deltas, then the Gammas, Betas, and finally the Alphas.

The novel opens in London with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Center, where reproduction and human conditioning now take place. This initial tour sets the tone for a sterile, hygienic, highly organized reality and establishes the theme of dehumanization that runs throughout the novel. Birth is no longer the province of men and women at all, but rather of the manipulation of ovum and gametes in plastic tubes on conveyer belts. In fact, the words “mother” and “father” are considered obscene because the whole concept of the family was eradicated long ago. Birth, aging and death are all controlled by science. The only acceptable pursuits are consumption and physical pleasure; recreational, non-reproductive sex is an important staple of the civilization. The populace is kept in a state of incurious complacence with the help of a drug called soma, which is dispensed by the State and is readily available to everyone.

Bernard Marx, an Alpha-Plus psychologist, quickly emerges as a malcontent. He is repelled by the promiscuity of his colleagues and is reluctant to numb his feelings with soma. These characteristics establish him as an outsider. His only friend, Helmholtz Watson, shares Marx’s dissatisfaction, though his version of it is slightly different. In a world where religion, art and literature have all been eradicated for their “destabilizing” characteristics, Helmholtz is an Alpha-Plus “Emotional Engineer” who longs to write poetry.


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