Brave New World Reading Journal Assignment
Brave New World is a dystopian view of industrialization. Like the short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” it imagines a world in which everyone is made equal and similar through the use of technology. In fact, you’ll notice that expressions such as “Our Lord” or “Lord!” have been transformed into “Our Ford” or “Ford!” Henry Ford was, as you know, the maker of the first automobile, and the book satirizes the factory world Ford made popular. In the book, it is not only cars that are made in factories; it is humans as well.
Other names in the book, such as Freud and Marx, also reveal that the author is satirizing the philosophies of men such as Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. It was Marx who espoused the Communist ideal, that everyone should be equal. In the book, however, we see that there is hierarchy in the world the work envisions. Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, the names of Greek letters and therefore a play on fraternity, abound, with Epsilons being on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
Actually, that’s not quite true. There are those who are lower than Epsilons: people who are viviparous, which in the book’s language means, born to a natural mother. Yes, those with families, children who have actual mothers and have been -- horror of horrors! -- breast-fed are the lowest form of humanity imaginable.
Viviparous isn’t the only word Aldous Huxley made up for the book. Soma is another one and is the drug everyone takes in order to feel good and forget all problems (Actually, Huxley seems like a prophet; soma sounds remarkably like Valium or Zoloft). The root soma means sleep, appropriately enough.
Soma isn’t the only thing used on the brainwashed people in Huxley’s world. We’ll also note that elaborate sports games are used to distract those in society from more intellectual pursuits (Huxley really has turned out to be a great prophet!), but perhaps people are grateful for the distraction, since books and the study of history are strictly forbidden. Religion has also been banned. In fact, on page 75-76, a famous church in England, Westminster Abbey, has been turned into a cabaret, that is, a place where people go to dance and drink.
1. As we said, science fiction is a genre which takes a certain technology and imagines “what if?” The imaginary world then challenges us to think about what our moral and ethical obligations are as science becomes more sophisticated. In a few sentences, describe some of the scientific innovations in the “brave new world” Huxley imagines.
2. Name five terms aside from the ones I mention above and explain what they mean or to what they refer in the book.
Chapter 5: Parts 1 and 2
3. Describe the ritual that occurs in Westminster Abbey Cabaret. In what ways does the ritual sound like a religious ceremony? Why is the number 12 significant then in a religious way?
Chapter 6: Parts 1, 2 and 3
4. List an aphorism (saying) Lenina recites. How does the saying reflect the way society has brainwashed its members?
5. How is Bernard different from everyone else? Why do you think he wants to go to an Indian reservation where naturally-born men and women live?
Drums are able to arouse feeling in a listener. Note the use of drums in the chapter. Also note the mention of snakes. Snakes, like drums, are primitive and should also remind us of the sin of Adam and Eve. We should be on the lookout for what happens to our Adam and Eve, Bernard and Lenina, at the reservation.
6. What ritual do Lenina and Bernard witness?
7. Linda tells Lenina and Bernard that she wasn’t used to the natural materials of the Indian society. She says she had been taught, as everyone else was, to throw clothes away “when they’ve got holes in them and buy new. ‘The more stitches, the less riches’” (121). Do you think the throw-away mentality is present in our world as well? Write a one-paragraph response, defending your answer with examples.
Item of Note: At the end of chapter 8 is a quotation that references the book’s title. When Bernard tells John he’d like to take John back to London with him, John says the words that the main female protagonist says when she sees men coming to the deserted island on which she and her father live: “How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it.”
The quotation is actually from a Shakespearean play called The Tempest. In the play, Miranda and her father Prospero, a magician, have been exiled to an island on which lives a man who seems half-savage. Prospero decides to enslave the half-savage, Caliban. Therefore, the reference to the play is appropriate. John is half-savage and half from the World State, but in reality the World State, the “magician” has enslaved everyone, as Prospero has Caliban.
Reading journal #2
From the moment we meet John Savage until the end of the book, Huxley makes use of quotations from Shakespeare, a writer who has been banned in the book’s setting. All old books, such as the Bible and works by Shakespeare and other great writers, have been banned.
In chapter 9, John uses quotations from Romeo and Juliet to describe Lenina and his feelings for her. Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers who were kept apart by society. Note as you read how society and Lenina herself keep John and Lenina from ever having a real relationship. What is the obstacle to having a real relationship in Huxley’s world?
1) In this chapter, Huxley writes, “Murder kills only the individual--and, after all, what is the individual?” How does the society in the book seek to keep the individual from being independent and free thinking? Cite two ways, and give a specific example from the book for one of the ways you cited.
2) What is the difference between the way the book’s society views a father and a mother? Why do think there is a difference in attitude toward fathers and mothers?
3) What do you think Huxley is trying to show by having John, who is considered a savage, have to deal with the society in the book? What is Huxley trying to show us?
4) Feelys are basically porn films. Why does the society use them? How does John react to them? What is the difference between his and Lenina’s reaction? What does he feel for Lenina that she cannot reciprocate?
5) The society in the book has created a world with elaborate sport games with which people can entertain themselves; sexual and other sensual activities that stimulate and occupy people so that their physical urges are satisfied; and soma, a drug that enables people to escape at any moment from any uncomfortable feeling or situation. The book was first published in 1932. Do you think Huxley did a good job of predicting the world in which we live now?
6) Why doesn’t the society care that Linda is dying? What happens as she dies? Why is John so horrified? Irony is creating a situation that is the opposite of what we expect it to be. How does Huxley use irony in Linda’s death scene?
7) How does John try to rebel in the hospital? Is he successful?
8) Why does the Controller want to suppress religion, old books and even science?
9) Why does John want suffering and hardship in the world?
10) John retreats from the world. How does he try to live? Cite three activities in which he engages that show what kind of life he tries to build.
11) How does society invade his privacy, and how do the intruders cause him to behave? What is John’s solution to society’s invasion at the end of the book?