Brave New World

Brave New World Chapter 1  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, a dreary, 34-story building, the Director of Hatcheries leads new students on a tour of the facilities. They pass beneath the motto of the World State—Community, Identity, Stability—and into the Fertilizing Room, which has a bleak, frozen atmosphere.
Immediately, the novel introduces a grim and coldly antiseptic futuristic setting. The World State’s motto will be noteworthy as much for what it omits—like freedom—as for what it includes.
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The students meekly follow along and scribble notes as the Director explains the fertilization process. Surgically removed human ovaries (voluntarily extracted) produce ova for artificial insemination. The resulting embryos receive different treatment depending on their destinies: to become a higher caste Alpha or Beta, or a lower caste Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon. Alphas and Betas are allowed to develop naturally. Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, however, are put through the Bokanovsky Process, which causes an egg to divide into as many as 96 identical twins.
It is revealed that the Hatchery manufactures human beings. Not only that, it predetermines what human beings will be like in advance—their characteristics and social standing. Lower-caste humans are mass-produced. Ideals of freedom and self-determination are not priorities in this society, to say the least.
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The Bokanovsky Process is mass production applied to biology. Combined with Podsnap's Technique, which hastens the maturation of eggs in an ovary, the Bokanovsky Process allows the average ovary to produce around 11,000 brothers and sisters. The Director tells the students that this process is “one of the major instruments of social stability.”
The mass production of human beings, creating over 10,000 "twins" from the same ovary, destroys the possibility of any sense of individuality. In the World State, creating artificial communities by assigning identities is done for the sake of stability, and this is viewed as a positive development.
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The Director introduces a young employee named Henry Foster, who happily tells the students that the record for offspring produced by a single ovary in this factory is 16,012. Foster leads the group into the Bottling Room, where the embryos are put into artificial wombs made of bottles filled with blood-surrogate.
Foster’s cheerfulness and pride in the Hatchery’s achievement is jarring, because he seems completely accepting of the mass production of human beings and the erasure of individuality that goes along with this system.
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In "wombs" such as this, Gamma, Deltas, and Epsilons are given alcohol treatment and limited oxygen to stunt physical and mental development. Fetuses of all castes are conditioned to prefer certain climates or environments so that they will like their pre-determined jobs, and 70 percent of female fetuses are sterilized. These sterilized females are referred to as “freemartins.”
Future World State citizens have not only been predetermined to fulfill certain roles, they have also been preconditioned to enjoy those roles regardless of how fundamentally unnatural they are. Females’ reproductive capacity is also strictly controlled by the State long before they are born, further highlighting the dehumanization of the World State’s population.
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As the group continues their tour, Henry Foster explains regretfully that the London Hatchery has so far failed to reach the ideal compromise between physical, social, and sexual maturity (for example, creating a six-year-old Epsilon who is already equipped to work). However, they have achieved what the Director calls “the secret of happiness and virtue,” ensuring that people enjoy their preconditioned destiny.
The idea of a fully matured six-year-old is startling. Such an idea illustrates how much this society views human beings—especially lower-caste ones—as cogs in an industrial system, not as individuals with inherent value. Happiness is understood not as something each person determines for oneself, but as a person’s acceptance of what has been decided for them.
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The group meets a pretty young nurse named Lenina Crowne as she is inoculating future tropical workers against diseases. Foster tells Lenina to meet him on the roof later that afternoon, as usual. Then the Director hurries the group upstairs to watch some interesting conditioning in the nurseries.
It is implied that Lenina and Foster are romantically involved. As will become increasingly clear in the story, sexual promiscuity is an open and approved feature of World State society, which would have been much more shocking in 1930s America than it is today.
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