Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
Contributed by Sharen Felty
Chapter 2
Summary

The Director brings the students to the Nurseries. There is a notice board there. On it are posts with the phrases, “Infant Nurseries. Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms.” The students see a Bokanovsky group of babies. They are eight months old and are dressed in the khaki-colored clothes of the Delta caste. Books and flowers are presented to the babies by some nurses. The babies begin to crawl in the direction of these objects, clearly enchanted. Shrill alarms then ring. The babies are then given a mild electric shock. After this, when the nurses give the books and flowers to the infants, they are terrified and shrink away.

The Director says that once 200 repetitions of the same process occur, the children will end up with an instinctive aversion to flowers and books. A dislike of books is created within the lower castes to stop them wasting the time of the community looking at books that might “decondition” them. The reason for ingraining a hatred of flowers is more complex. It is explained that the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons were once made to appreciate flowers and nature as a whole. The reason for this was to make them want to go to the country frequently and “consume transport” as they do so. As nature is free, however, they consumed nothing more than transportation.

In the World State’s quest to increase consumption of goods, it decided to abandon instilling a love of nature while keeping up the wish to use transportation. The lower castes now undergo conditioning to hate the countryside but to appreciate country sports. This is because all country sports that take place in the World State involve using elaborate apparatus. As a consequence, the lower castes are now forced to pay for both manufactured goods and transportation when they go to the countryside for their sporting events.

The Director starts telling a story. It is about a child called Reuban. Reuban had Polish-speaking parents. The use of the word parent makes the students blush. Any references to sexual reproduction and words like mother and father are now seen as pornographic. These kinds of words can be used only in clinical discussions in the World State.

One evening, Reuban’s parents let the radio continue to play as he slept. When the child woke up, he was reciting a broadcast from the radio. It was a speech by George Bernard Shaw. The parents had no knowledge of English, and they imagined there must be something wrong with their son. They brought Reuban to a doctor. The doctor knew English and told the medical press about what had happened. The overnight learning that Reuban experienced led to the discovery of sleep teaching. Sleep teaching is also referred to as hypnopaedia. The Director tells the students that hypnopaedia’s discovery occurred just twenty-three years after the sale of the first Ford Model T. He makes a sign on his stomach. It is in the shape of a T. This is similar to how a Catholic might make the sign of the cross. The students do the same, making the T Sign. He says that hypnopaedia researchers quickly found that it was not useful for intellectual training. While Reuban could recite the speech word for word, he had no insight into its meaning. One area where the method can be effective, however, is moral training.

The tour is then led by the Director to a dormitory. Some Beta children are sleeping there. They are told by the Nurse that the Elementary Sex lesson has recently ended and that the Elementary Class Consciousness lesson has just started. A recorded voice can be heard. It is whispering to each child as he or she sleeps. It says that Alpha children need to work more diligently than the other classes. It also speaks disparagingly about the lower castes, claiming they have inferior intelligence. The whisper encourages pride in the Beta caste and happiness in that state. It explains that while Betas need not work as hard as the Alphas, who are more intelligent, they are still superior to the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The Director says that the lesson will be played one hundred and twenty times. This will occur three times a week for thirty months. Hypnopaedia teaches the specific prejudices and distinctions for which alarms and electric shocks are too crude to be effective. The Director concludes with that hypnopaedia is “the greatest moralizing and socializing force of all time.”   

Analysis

The first part of the students’ tour, which we read about in the previous section, shows how the World State is abusing biological science in order to condition its citizens. This section’s focus is how psychological technologies are used to control World State citizens’ future behavior. When conditioning is combined with specific prenatal treatment, individuals bereft of individuality are created. Each is programmed to behave in a way that is identical to the others in their caste. The World State uses this system in order to encourage social stability and economic productivity, albeit within narrow boundaries. It also creates a society that is dominated by infantile attitudes and mindless obedience.

The conditioning technique that is used to create hatred for books and flowers in babies is modeled on the research of Pavlov. Pavlov was Ivan Pavlov, a well-known Russian scientist. His experiments demonstrated that conditioning could be used to train dogs to salivate when hearing a bell ring. This was done by causing the dogs to associate the sound of the bell with the sight of food. Pavlov’s discovery led to people thinking that conditioning could be used for other purposes. The scientist’s work became well-known in the Western scientific community in the ten years before the publication of this novel. Through the application of Pavlov’s ideas to human infants, the World State is able to program humans in order to maintain the status quo.

The conditioning forces the people to support the World State’s capitalist system. AS the World State desires for children to be loyal consumers when they are adults, the significance of the individual is dismissed in the quest to benefit other interests. Even when World State citizens are outside of their working hours, they pander to the interests of production and, as a result, the apparent interests of the whole society and economy, by consuming products such as transportation and costly sporting equipment. Elimination of any kind of individual and idiosyncratic behavior that might not benefit the economy is assured. 

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