Brave New World

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Themes and Colors
Dystopia and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Technology and Control Theme Icon
The Cost of Happiness Theme Icon
Industrialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Individuality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Brave New World, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Technology and Control Theme Icon

Science and technology are two different things. Science is the pursuit of truth and fact in the various sciences, from biology to physics. Technology refers to the tools and applications developed from science. Science is knowledge. Technology is what you can do with that knowledge.

Brave New World raises the terrifying prospect that advances in the sciences of biology and psychology could be transformed by a totalitarian government into technologies that will change the way that human beings think and act. Once this happens, the novel suggests, the totalitarian government will cease to allow the pursuit of any actual science and the truth that science reveals will be restricted and controlled, even as the technologies that allow for control will be constantly improved and perfected.

Technology and Control ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Technology and Control appears in each chapter of Brave New World. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Technology and Control Quotes in Brave New World

Below you will find the important quotes in Brave New World related to the theme of Technology and Control.
Chapter 1 Quotes
And that ... is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny.
Related Characters: The Director (Thomas) (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

The Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre has explained how babies are created; he has told the students on the tour that Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are "hatched" by forcing fertilized eggs to divide into many pairs of identical wins. He then describes how the different fetuses are chemically manipulated in order to encourage them to enjoy the lifestyle they will be assigned to, claiming that this is because "the secret of happiness and virtue [is] liking what you've got to do." Like much World State ideology, on the surface this statement seems persuasive. Common sense suggests that enjoying life is indeed the secret of happiness, and that happy, satisfied people are more likely to be virtuous. 

However, in the context of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, the Director's words take on a seriously sinister tone. As he has demonstrated to the students, the government preconditions people to enjoy their lives as a method of control. Although this may result in happy citizens, their happiness comes at the expense of freedom––a fact confirmed by the Director's comment about their "inescapable social destiny." This detail in turn calls into question what the Director means by "virtue." Does "virtue" refer to morality, or is it simply another way of describing a repressed and controlled society? 

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Chapter 2 Quotes
Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta.
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Having showed the tour group where babies are hatched, the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre moves on to the Infant Nurseries, where young children are conditioned according to their caste. One method of indoctrination is hypnopaedia, or sleep-teaching; in this scene, the Director reveals a room of sleeping Betas, and the quote is of a recorded voice placed under their pillows that is conditioning the Betas to love their future role. The speaker's words highlight the delicate balance of inspiring the children to feel proud and satisfied of their status as Betas while internalizing the overall caste hierarchy as natural and correct.

As this passage reveals, this balance is achieved by a combination of positive and negative messages. The children are encouraged to think of the lower classes as "stupid," yet be grateful that the expectations for how hard they work will exactly match their capabilities as Betas. The fact that citizens all wear the color of their caste shows how the caste system, although artificially created, is enforced as a fundamental and unalterable fact of society. It also conveys how individual identity is subsumed under the classification of people into classes. 

Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too-all his life long. The mind that judges and desire and decides-made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions... Suggestions from the State.
Related Characters: The Director (Thomas) (speaker)
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

The Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre has taken the group of students around various parts of the Infant Nurseries, and shown them a room of Beta children being conditioned via hypnopaedia: a voice that plays as the children sleep and encourages them to feel proud that they are Betas, and to have admiration for the Alphas and disdain for the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons.

In this quote, the Director refers to these messages as "suggestions," and notes that all citizens continue to receive them into adulthood. The use of the word "suggestions" is misleading, as is the Director's claim that citizens use their minds to "judge," "desire," and "decide." Although these assertions may be technically true, the State's control over people's thoughts and wishes is so extensive that they no longer truly have any agency. The government here is not merely making suggestions that its citizens will later vote on; it is making suggestions in a way that shapes its citizens minds so that they will never stray from the government's role for them.

Chapter 3 Quotes
Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches.
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

The Elementary Class Consciousness lesson at the Hatcheries has ended, but the recorded voice continues to repeat hypnopaedic "suggestions" that encourage these children to grow up with the belief that limitless greed and consumption are better than moderation or frugality. These maxims are phrased in a whimsical, memorable fashion akin to children's nursery rhymes, and as such are reminiscent of the government propaganda used in World Wars I and II, which blended commercial advertising and patriotism in its messaging. However, while the messages disseminated by the World State echo the style of wartime propaganda, they convey the opposite message: while the wartime propaganda was designed to encourage people to limit wastefulness, the hypnopaedic suggestions of the World State make clear that the duty of citizenship involves throwing away possessions instead of fixing them, in order to enable further consumption and continue to drive the economy.

Note that the phrase "Ending is better than mending" is eerily similar to the famous "Make Do and Mend" campaign of WWII (although they of course contain contradictory sentiments!). This similarity is striking, considering the Make Do and Mend campaign was not launched until 1943, and Brave New World was written in 1932. Furthermore, in the economic boom of the decades following WWII, the surge in commercial advertising and consumption did indeed create a culture in which the "Make Do and Mend" mindset was replaced by a drive to purchase more and more products. The message that "Ending is better than mending" is thus one of several examples of Huxley's remarkable ability to anticipate the future. 

Chapter 6 Quotes
A gramme in time saves nine.
Related Characters: Lenina Crowne (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

Lenina has reflected on how strange she finds Bernard Marx; he doesn't enjoy activities such as electro-magnetic golf, preferring simple pursuits such as going for a walk. They travel to Amsterdam for a women's wrestling tournament, and in between matches go to an ice cream soma bar with "dozens" of Lenina's friends. Lenina tries to persuade Bernard to eat a soma-infused raspberry sundae by telling him "A gramme in time saves nine," but he refuses. Lenina's advice is an adaptation of the adage "A stitch in time saves nine," meaning if you solve a problem straight away it will be easier than if you put it off until later.

Lenina's version of the adage suggests that taking soma is a good solution to life's problems; however, in reality it is the opposite. Taking soma doesn't change or solve anything––instead, it just makes people forget their troubles, thus putting off problem-solving indefinitely. This attitude reflects the widespread addiction to immediate satisfaction to which all the characters in the novel are conditioned. Even Lenina's use of this phrase itself represents a kind of short-circuited thinking. Unlike Bernard, who reflects on issues using logic, Lenina simply regurgitates cliches she has learned during hypnopaedia. This explains why she finds Bernard odd, yet is not able to comprehend the reason behind his unconventional behavior.

Chapter 13 Quotes
Put your arms around me...Hug me till you drug me, honey...Kiss me till I'm in a coma. Hug me honey, snuggly...
Related Characters: Lenina Crowne (speaker)
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Lenina has grown more and more in love with John the Savage, a fact that makes her friends suspicious, as it is antithetical to World State conditioning to have such strong feelings and to love only one person. At his house, the Savage confesses he loves Lenina, who is thrilled; however, when he proposes marriage, Lenina dismisses this as absurd and simply removes her clothes while singing seductively to him. The words of Lenina's song highlight the connection that the World State has created between sexual desire and the desire for the annihilation of individual identity. Intimacy is depicted as a kind of drug ("hug me till you drug me"), and Lenina seems to crave sex as a way of losing her sense of self and slipping out of consciousness.

The lyrics of the song are reminiscent of the style popular in the 1930s, when Brave New World was written. During this era, the still relatively new genre of vocal jazz combined romantic ballads, sexual innuendo, and childlike nonsense words to create songs about love, desire, and intimacy. Although the words of Lenina's song seem fairly innocent by today's standards, remember that singing explicitly about sex was still quite new when Huxley was writing, and thus would have been far more striking to readers at the time. 

Chapter 15 Quotes
"Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side–"Good old Helmholtz!"—also punching—"Men at last!"—and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"
Howling, the Deltas charged with a redoubled fury.
Related Characters: John (the Savage) (speaker), Helmholtz Watson
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

John the Savage's mother, Linda, has died, and the Savage is distraught. At the hospital where he had come to see his mother, the Savage has encountered Delta twins being given soma. Convinced that soma caused his mother's death (his mother, on returning from the reservation, did just basically drug herself into a constant stupor), the Savage shouts at the Deltas not to take the soma, and throws the drug out of the window. This causes a riot, and when Helmholtz arrives, he and the Savage fight off the enraged Deltas, all while gleefully exclaiming that they are finally "free" and "men at last." Once again, the Savage's actions call into question the binary between civilized and uncivilized behavior. While physically attacking others at random would conventionally be considered a wild, animalistic act, in this case it makes the Savage and Helmholtz "men." 

The implication of this is that what truly makes a person human is the possession of free will and individual identity. Although Helmholtz and the Savage are engaging in a riot, at least they are doing so through their own agency, rebelling against the conditioning and expectations of the World State. Similarly, they claim that discarding the soma makes the Deltas "free," meaning free from the paralyzing grip of addiction. However, as the Delta's "redoubled fury" shows, the World State's conditioning is so powerful that not all people embrace this "freedom" with the same enthusiasm as Helmholtz and the Savage. 

Chapter 16 Quotes
The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get... And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.
Related Characters: Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

Following the riot at the hospital, Helmholtz, Bernard, and John the Savage have been arrested and brought to Mustapha Mond's study. Mond has asked John if he likes civilization; John says he doesn't, and this sparks a lengthy discussion between the two men about the nature of the world.

In this passage, Mond speaks approvingly of the instant-gratification, contentment, and stability of the society created by the World State. Note that everything Mond says in this passage is objectively true; preconditioned to love their lives, the citizens of the World State are indeed happy, and the world is stable. However, the events of the novel call into question the cost of this happiness and stability. Does happiness still retain the same value if it is artificially produced, not freely chosen, and never contrasted with negative emotions? 

Chapter 17 Quotes
There's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears-that's what soma is.
Related Characters: Mustapha Mond (speaker)
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

John has asked Mustapha Mond if anything else in addition to science and "high art" has been sacrificed in order to create stability and happiness. Mond has responded that religion has also been sacrificed, as there is no place for religion in "civilization." Under Mond's interpretation, religion used to be important because it helped people find solace, forgiveness, and connection to others; however, citizens of the World State feel all of these things anyway due to their conditioning and through the use of soma. Indeed, in this passage Mond draws a direct parallel between religion and soma, arguing that they have the same function. This reflects the famous statement by Karl Marx that "religion is the opiate of the masses." 

Mond's nonchalant dismissal of religion suggests that his understanding of the role of religion is rather narrow. While it is true that practices such as group sex and taking soma encourage feelings of peace and solidarity, many would argue that these emotions lose meaning when they are produced artificially. Indeed, throughout the novel the interpersonal connections between citizens of the World State are shown to be superficial and hollow. Although the World State creates mass happiness and stability, these do not seem to be a legitimate replacement for religious or moral virtue. Interestingly, this tension echoes a longstanding debate within religious communities themselves over whether faith and morality are only meaningful if they are freely chosen.