The year is 632 AF (After Ford), and the planet Earth is now governed by the World State. Birth is now artificially engineered, and the resulting children sorted into a rigid tier system from the start of their embryonic lives. Bernard Marx finds himself doubting the wisdom of the system he is a part of, and is in danger of exile, but on a trip to a “savage reservation” he meets a man whose odd, horribly natural parentage gives Marx a chance to escape his fate. He brings John back to the “civilized” world, but John rejects everything about the World State. He eventually confronts Mustapha Mond, a World Controller, and the two debate free will, happiness, and humanity. Finally, in frustration, John flees to an abandoned lighthouse, where he tries to free himself of “civilization” through self-flagellation, but eventually hangs himself in shame after he is swept up in an orgy of sex and violence triggered by his behavior. This is Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at five of its most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on "Brave New World"
JOHN THE SAVAGE
We are first introduced to John at a New Mexico reservation, where the World State allows “savages” to live freely, bear children naturally, age, contract disease, and worship as they choose. John is the son of Linda, a citizen who was left behind by a group of tourists, and who remained there because she discovered she had become pregnant, and couldn’t bear the shame. She raises John, teaching him to read using the only two books she has, a science text and a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works. John is attracted to Lenina Crowne, who is also attracted to him, but the casualness with which sex is treated by Lenina and the “civilized” world horrifies him. He causes a scandal by attending his mother’s death. When Lenina tracks him down at the lighthouse, he first beats himself with his whip, but then turns it on her, triggering a massive sexual frenzy among the onlookers.
Although Bernard is an “Alpha Plus”, the highest tier in society, he has an inferiority complex because he is shorter than other Alphas, and is often looked at as an oddity where conformity is the norm. Early in the novel, Bernard voices his distaste for many aspects of the World State, including social games like Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy and Obstacle Golf, casual sex, and the emptiness of soma. However, unlike his friend Helmholtz, when he is threatened with exile to a distant island with other malcontents, Bernard begs for a second chance and uses John as a pawn to keep himself safe, but ends up being sent away despite his best efforts.
Soma is the drug of choice in the World State, and it is freely distributed with encouraging slogans like “One cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments.” It is used as part of the solidarity services, which are mandatory for citizens. Linda, upon her return to civilization, essentially puts herself into a Soma-induced coma, unwilling to face the world she has lost and the person she has become. Soma is used by the World State to keep the population docile by conditioning citizens to take the drug whenever they are upset in any way.
The Bokanovsky Process is part of the World State’s method of ensuring social stability. It is a cloning technique that creates up to 96 identical embryos from a single egg. Following this, steps are taken to turn the embryos into Gammas, Deltas, or Epislons, based on the currently needed skills. By doing so, the government ensures that they can control both population and productivity. Alphas and Betas are not subjected to this process, which is used in conjunction with Podsnap’s Technique.
Lenina is the love interest of multiple characters in the novel, starting with Henry Foster. Bernard is attracted to her, but even though she agrees to go out with him, he is disappointed to find that she views sex like everyone else - as a casual event with no purpose but immediate pleasure. Lenina’s physicality is at her core; she is described as pneumatic by several characters. However, when she becomes attracted to John, he rejects her sexual advance, leaving her confused and shaken. Lenina works at the Central London Hatchery, and is a regular soma user. When she tries to later visit John at the lighthouse, he attacks her, but may or may not have had sex with her in the orgy that results.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* The title of the book, Brave New World, is taken from a line in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, where Miranda first sees a group of shipwrecked men. However, Miranda is unaware that most of the men she is looking at are actually pretty rotten people. For more on the connection between the two works, in addition to a nice hypertext of the novel, check here.
* We can always count on the good folks at Mental Floss for cool extras about an important work of literature. Here’s their list of “15 Things You Might Not Know About Brave New World”, including a note about a name change in the 1980 film version that might surprise you.
* If you liked Brave New World, you might look at one of Huxley’s other novels, which were usually social satires. Several of these are available free for download at Project Gutenberg’s website.
* It’s a lengthy presentation, but there’s an intriguing debate about the significance of Brave New World and that of 1984 in today’s society presented by Intelligence Squared on YouTube. You can watch it here:
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