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BRAVE New World was published in 1932. It is a remarkable piece of science fiction for both its
time and our own. It seems to withstand the intervening 65 years, primarily because of its
depiction of a tightly controlled, rigidly stratified homogenous society. Issues of social control are
as relevant today as in 1932, perhaps more so.
Reproductive technology plays a key role in the social control of Brave New World.
Reproduction takes place in a "Hatchery". Excised ova are inspected for abnormalities, fertilised,
put into incubators and then undergo the "Bokanovsky Process". Each embryo is irradiated for 8
minutes with X-rays until rather than the cells dividing normally, they "bud". Each bud has the
potential of becoming a separate but identical embryo. These buds are then subjected to various
chemicals such as alcohol, until they also "bud". This process is repeated many times until an
average harvest of 11,000 identical embryos can be created from one egg. These 11,000 identical
brothers and sisters become a "Bokanovsky group".
Each embryo is then bottled, labelled and sent down the conveyor belt to the "Social
Predestination Room". It is here that they are given a caste designation (Alpha, Beta, Delta,
Epsilon), carded into the main card index and stored. It is here that they are "sexed". Thirty
percent of the female embryos are allowed to develop normally (to maintain the supply of initial
ova). The rest of the female embryos are given a large dose of male hormone that renders them
structurally female in all ways, but sterile.
It is also here that their caste designation determines how much oxygen they will receive in their
bottle. "The lower the caste, the shorter the oxygen." The lower caste Epsilons are oxygen
deprived because for the labours they are destined to perform, they will not need human
The "Bokanovskified", pre-sexed, caste designated embryos are then taken out of storage when
needed and "decanted" where as children, they are subjected immediately to sleep learning tapes
on the "conditioning wards". Hour after hour as they sleep, the children receive sleep
reinforcement of their social caste designation. As they mature, they naturally assume the
responsibilities and the rules of their castes. Very few question, as their caste is assigned from
birth. If they do, they are exiled to an island (usually Iceland) where their questioning can't
contaminate others.
Thus, the society is stable and unquestioning. Identical genetic material, rigidly enforced social
caste using oxygen deprivation and sleep tapes for brainwashing. Everyone easily fulfils society's
obligations and there are few surprises. If things should get stressful for any reason, there's always
the wonder drug "soma". If anything goes wrong, there's always the "soma holiday" from life.
Most of the Epsilon workers are paid in "soma" tablets to keep them happy. It wouldn't do to have
an unhappy workforce. Leisure time is often spent at the "feelies", a movie theatre where the
emotions and responses of the actors can actually be experienced.
But not everyone belongs to this society. Some places there are reservations, where an Indian
tribe lives. They have their own culture, with worshipping of a mix between Jesus and some old
Indian gods.
And in this story we meet 4 persons. Bernhard Marx, Lenina Crowne, Helmholtz Watson and the
savage John.
Bernhard and Helmholtz are "thinkers". They haven't conformed properly. They actually do some
thinking of their own. Bernhard is also peculiar in the respect that he is not of the average height
as his class. There are rumours that there was put some alcohol in his bottle when he was on the
embryo stadium. On the other hand we have Lenina, a girl just doing her job, taking her soma,
and having her sex.
She and Bernhard goes to the reservation in New Mexico for their holidays, and meet the savage
John. He is the son of the director of the London hatchery. His mother was also there on her
holidays, but she got lost, and stayed there. So the young John learned to read, and he has read a
lot of Shakespeares plays.
They bring John and his mother back to England. After meeting a lot of problems in his new
society, and when both Bernhard and Helmhotz are sent away, he finally tries to escape, and he
runs off, and goes to a lighthouse. After some months he is seen whipping himself. This causes a
lot of people to come there and see, and John looses his mind, and attacks Lenina, whom he had
fallen in love with. That night he and the many other people there had a long orgie, and he even
took some soma. When even more people came back the next evening, he had committed suicide,
and he hung inside his lighthouse.
John, the savage, has been a loner all his life. He was not accepted in the Indian society, and the
only comfort he had was his mother (an alcoholic) and Shakespear. And through his childhood
his mother told him lots of stories of the Utopian society she thought the "outer" world was.
When he came there, he found that this Utopia was nothing like what he had expected. People
thought they had the best society ever (people always think that, don't they?), but John saw
through all this and saw the realities. People weren't free, they were trapped by their own minds
and their sleep-conditioning. John felt very disappointed. He also was truly disappointed over his
mothers decay when she came back to "civilisation". She started using Soma, and took very large
doses. And after a very short while she died. John truly started to dislike the civilised society after
this. And when Helmholtz and Bernhard, his only true friends, were exiled, he turned his back on
society, and decided to leave society.

But our new reproductive technologies have, luckily, yielded us nothing like the society of Brave
New World, but the stage has been set for a future which could be every bit as chilling and
oppressive. We have the technology to "sex select" or predetermine. The poor of all countries slip
closer to Epsilon status, deprived not of oxygen, but of financial, educational, nutritional and
political resources. Where we go from here depends on how much we educate ourselves as a
society, and which of these technologies we allow to bear their bitter fruit. At least we don't have
soma as a method of social control ... but then again, we do have Prozac!

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