Headscratchers: Brave New World

(Both the Pokémon fanfic and the Huxley novel of this title point to this Headscratcher page.)

For The Book:

  • If the people in Brave New World don't have age-related frailty and disease, why do they still die when they're old?
    • To make way for the next generation. They almost certainly have the technology to avert it if the controllers thought that was a good idea, but if they do it goes the same way as labor-saving technology.
    • Mond points out that people in his society enjoy perfect health until death (which he cites as a reason for disinterest in the idea of God). This reasoning suggests that social stability is best served by having people live to 60 in perfect health and then quickly die than by having them live to 120 with the afflictions of old age toward the end, even if those afflictions are mild by modern real-world standards.
    • Presumably, if they did develop the means to extend life, they tested it on some island and didn't like the results.
  • What about homosexuals? A society of frequent, non reproductive sex and no one even MENTIONS homosexuality? The Brave New World is trying to prevent unwanted pregnancy by sterilizing most women, yet promoting homosexuality or Bisexual "conditioning" aren't considered? Why not actively promote homosexuality in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies? Huxley seems to be going for a society where sex is quick and commonplace, and Everyone Is Bi would fit nicely with this.
  • They may disagree about whether it's worth it, but all of the characters seem to accept that maintaining a society where people are happy and comfortable requires sacrificing everything else that people might value. Is it so hard to imagine that people could be happy and pursue science, philosophy, and art?
    • Given individuality is key in pursuing science, philosophy and art... not really. In this utopia, the only kind of science, philosophy and art that can be pursued is the "mass-produced" kind. But it's obvious this sort of philosophy is useless, this kind of art is barely art(more like a craft) and this sort of science (government-funded and focused on goals instead of discovery) would make Carl Sagan cry.
    • No, people probably could be happy while still pursuing science, philosophy, and art... it's just too risky. Pursuit of science, philosophy, and art ups their chances of not being happy, so they have to go. Mustapha Mond's judgement when he refuses approval for that article's publication seems to be, "Better safe than sorry."
  • In the Island experiment, everyone was an Alpha citzen and all the islanders considered themselves above tasks for the lower classes, and things went downhill … and fast. However, wasn't that experiment already doomed to fail even before it began? I kept thinking: all Alpha citizens are conditioned since birth to behave like exactly like that, relishing their inteligence while priding themselves as above those of the lower classes, even if those jobs needed to be done.
    • Pretty much. Mond had mentioned that there was a huge archive of labor-saving devices not in use because it would render a good bulk of the population effectively unemployed, right? They should have started with their standard ratio of classes on Cyprus and then experimented with adding those inventions to the society and determining what the new optimum ratio would be, with the eventual goal of applying it to the world at large.
    • Bear in mind that some (not all) of those setting up the "experiment" would have been ...keen to see it fail.
      • It's a shame that Bernard, John and Helmholtz completely fail to call Mustapha out on this. You'd think that Helmholtz at least, who is meant to be a very bright man, would notice how the whole exercise sounds like it was designed to reinforce the worldview of the Controllers.
    • But this king of experiment isn't necessarily meaningless. They needed to prove themselves right and that the conditioning works. It's more like "submiting it to tests" than an experiment.
  • Why do World State inhabitants have last names? Those seem to be a relic from the past that there's no reason for the World State to preserve, considering its offensive connotation of the family institution.
    • Ah, that's a very good question, but my belief is that it's to differentiate people who have the same first name. That was actually the original purpose of surnames.
    • The surnames in the book are mostly from 18th-20th century history. Possibly the World State was attempting to commemorate certain approved historical figures (and perhaps also converting them to icons having little connection to historical reality, much as they did with "Our Ford").
    • I took it to imply that because all history before the Nine Years War had become expunged (Other than the existence of Our Ford of course), the use of nomenclature belonging to old world cultural figures as normal surnames might be an intentional effort to invoke mimetic dilution. At the beginning of the book it's described that there are only a few hundred surnames used to define hundreds of thousands of citizens, so the names are so ubiquitous as to be meaningless. It's a far more insidious way of robbing the lives and philosophies those names invoke than simply censoring them. "Hey Tolstoy, I found a strange book with your name on it!" "Who cares Guevara, I know fifty men with my name. Here, have a dose! A Gramme Is Better Than A Damn!".
    • In his first appeareance, Mond talks about Freud, but the students imply he is just mispelling "Ford". It's implied that some people, like Freud (who studied not just family relations, but majorly individuality) are hidden and forbidden. All the names that are accepted are about people whose ideas revolve around coletivity.
  • The Epsilons, who are at the bottom of the gene pool, are called 'semi-morons'. What are full morons then?
    • Full morons are literally too retarded to be of any value- even Epsilons need to be able to understand orders. Moron in this case referred to a real kind of mental disability, rather than just the insult now, which is from that anyway (imbecile and idiot were also medical terms once before they became used simply as insults).
  • So, the Epsilons are supposedly needed because someone has to do the dirty work and labor-saving gadgets are supposedly not implemented because then the Epsilons get bored. Why wouldn't they just implement the labor-saving gadgets and make fewer Epsilons?
    • More gadgets and devices and dropping out Epsilons might also affect other people in various ways in a socioeconomic chain-reaction. This culture wants consumerism. More mouths wanting more food needing more employed food makers needing more employed advertisers triggering desire for more food, etc. They don't feel the need to stop people from being engaged in labor, so they don't need many labor-saving devices.
    • Epsilons also create a bigger population that Alphas and Betas can feel superior to, which means more effective marketing (helping drive the above point) and helping them fit into their own niches better.
    • Basically, anyone above Epsilons can feel better knowing that at least s/he isn't Epsilon and there for has better job and life. Epsilons, on the other hand, are "semi-morons" and do not realize that they are basically genetically engineered Butt Monkeys for everyone else. This helps to keep everyone else happy. Epsilons can be made to do everything nasty nobody else wants and they feel better since they don't have to do it, there is someone lower that has to do it and since they are too stupid to realize they can say no (whatever reaction this could cause is a different matter) they will do it. In the book, there's a mention of an experiment on Cyprus about a fully-automated society composed of all-Alphas. It collapsed.
      • The Alpha society wasn't fully automated, though.
    • And Epsilons are engineered to take pride in the fact that without them, the society would collapse in very short order.
  • The people in this world are conditioned before birth to be content with pointless happiness and sex. So what would happen if the society that maintained all this suddenly collapse?
    • Bad things probably. But then collapsing societies are no picnic for anyone.
    • While the society portrayed is pretty recognisable, it's hinted several times that their actual level of background technology is way more advanced than what you can see on the surface. It's almost certainly been designed with hundreds of tiers of automated safeties, redundant backups, global monitoring systems, etc. For all we know the planet has automatic asteroid defences and Mond can control tectonic drift from his office.
    • The society maintains itself, with intervention from the ingenious Alpha-Pluses who 'graduate' to the point that they have to choose, essentially, to disappear or become Controllers. Alphas are the world leaders, Epsilons are the manual laborers, and the others fill the gaps. Every single job can be met, because they're predestined to have their job. They like the job because they were conditioned to like it. The happiness with those things are to distract them between workdays. People are constantly being grown. These people are conditioned to love their jobs, love who they are, and love everyone else. They're all conditioned to consume a large, consistent amount, so no industries are growing or shrinking. Community, Identity, Stability.
      • The very interesting implication of this is that the World State needs those "deviant" Alphas like Helmholtz and Bernard, whose sense of individuality has developed to the point that they're capable of creation and invention, in order to research and develop the science and technology needed to keep civilization going. If that's so, the most advanced laboratories and research facilities in the world in this era are very likely located on those islands, staffed by the exiles - who also have living conditions (residences, food, recreation, etc.) fully as comfortable as anything they had had to leave behind. This is also useful for the World State in that it gives the exiles interesting and fulfilling work instead of having them sit around on the beaches all day bemoaning their lot. This would also help explain why Mond is so sympathetic, gentlemanly and downright kind to Helmholtz and Bernard when he sentences them to exile; quite apart from his own personal inclinations - he may be a dictator, but he's not the genocidal type - he recognizes the two as having developed into the most valuable resources available to the World State. And it also helps explain why Helmholtz seems positively welcoming of the prospect of exile, if he's going to be installed in a luxurious flat on an island with all the modern conveniences and everything he needs to pursue his poetry (including a heaping helping of bad weather!!)

  • Okay I get how they condition and engineer the lower castes, and I guess betas are just people of regular intelligence by today's standards, but how are alphas created?
    • Its possible most of them are not actually super-intelligent, they just believe they are.
      • That's an interesting interpretation, but the DHC does say to his students "I'd like to show you some very interesting conditioning for Alpha Plus Intellectuals. We have a big batch of them on Rack 5. First Gallery level." at the end of the first chapter. It seems that there ARE methods of conditioning people to be geniuses, we just never have them described.