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The bottle that will one day die of sleeping sickness why this matters
The Bottle That Will One Day Die of Sleeping Sickness – Why This Matters

  • This is a really small passage in Chapter 13, and it's easy to miss if you're reading quickly. That being said, it's arguably the most skilled, artistic moment in Brave New World, partly because it's so minute. Huxley, for once, wasn't flagrantly obvious. He didn't beat us over the head, he just inserted a little anecdote and let it stand on its own. -- Source: UC Berkeley

Beautiful. Look at the specificity on display here: "Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days." Through the authority of the narrative voice, the reader sees that the chain of cause and effect cannot be effectively controlled by the human hand.

After all, humans are fallible, so as exact and as rigid men like Mustapha might think their system is, there are always going to be errors, mistakes, and other minor disasters.

Lenina, distraught by her unchecked and unsatisfied desire for John, gets flustered at work and accidentally misses giving one bottle its immunization against sleeping sickness. The story then halts for a minute while the narrative reveals this: "Twenty-two years, eight months, and four days from that moment, a promising young Alpha-Minus administrator at Mwanza-Mwanza was to die of trypanosomiasis – the first case for over half a century“ (186).

While this passage is horrifying, it's also hopeful, – Lenina, in making this error, has proven herself more human than machine.

But mostly, we're impressed with the fact that Huxley didn't tell us this in the subsequent paragraph, so maybe that's the real achievement here, gorgeous literary artistry aside.

Setting 2540 a d london england and new mexico united states
Setting Why This Matters: 2540 A.D.; London, England, and New Mexico, United States

  • Huxley establishes in Chapter One that the year is A.F. 632. We are told in Chapter Three that the introduction of the first Ford Model-T was year "zero" for this calendar, and our car-fanatic friends tell us that this monumental event happened in 1908 (A.D.). If you are good with numbers, you will realize that 2540 is the year in which Brave New World takes place. Or in layman's terms, THE FUTURE.But Huxley isn't one for layman's terms. He creates an incredibly elaborate and nuanced setting for his novel. He provides details about everything from technology (vibro-vacuum massage, scent organ) to professions (Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, World Controller) to down-time activities (Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy, Obstacle Golf), and from the cityscape (the seven skyscrapers twinkling over Guildford) down to individual buildings (The Internal and External Secretions Factory, The Hounslow Feely Studio).

Basically everything you see capitalized has something to do with Huxley setting up an atmosphere for his tale.

Creepy right
Creepy, right? Why This Matters

  • The more disturbing the setting and the more complete the picture, the more effective the novel. If Brave New World creeps you out, Huxley did his job well.

  • All of this elaborate detail, while sometimes outlandish, makes the idea of a "World State" that much more plausible in our minds. We start to see how a society like this might function, down to the smallest detail.

  • It's also the details that allow Huxley to parody our own world so effectively. Christianity has crosses, they have T's. We say, "Thank God!" they say "Thank Ford." We play mini-golf, they play Obstacle Golf. See where this is going?

  • Finally, as far as a specific setting goes, there's a clear dichotomy between the Savage Reservation and the civilized world. The two landscapes act as a foil.

Epigraph a short quotation at the beginning of a book
Epigraph: a short quotation Why This Mattersat the beginning of a book

  • "Utopias seem to be much more achievable than we formerly believed them to be. Now we find ourselves presented with another alarming question: how do we prevent utopias from coming into existence? …Utopias are possible. Life tends towards the formation of utopias. Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which intellectuals and the privileged will dream of ways to eliminate utopias and return to a non-utopic society less “perfect” and more free.”– Nicholas Berdiaeff, translated from the French

Assignment: You and a partner (if you so desire) write a level 3 question about the novel, based on this quote. Answer the question completely.

Trivia Why This Matters

  • All that soma stuff is no coincidence – Huxley was extremely interested in hallucinogenic drugs. Reports indicate that he took LSD on his deathbed.

  • For a while, Huxley was nearly blind from an illness and suffered from poor eyesight for most of his life.

  • Brave New World has been banned numerous times. It hit #13 on "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the 20th Century" list, which makes you wonder what is going on in numbers 1-12!

  • The term "hypnopaedia" is also used by author Anthony Burgess in another famous dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange.

Why should i care about this novel
Why Should I Care About This Novel? Why This Matters

  • Wait a minute…we’re having this HUGE, raging argument about God, and it’s not even really about God? It’s about education?

  • Brave New Worldisn’t just a warning about science – it’s a warning about education.

  • The citizens of his future-world-gone-wrong are indoctrinated with irrational lessons in morality and behavior from day one. Teach them the same mindless platitudes over and over, and before you know it, this indoctrination is a part of who they are. (Actually, according to Huxley, it drips onto them like wax and forms a big, blobby mess where a person used to be.)

  • Huxley’s “hypnopaedia” (aka brainwashing) makes it clear that with education comes a HUGE responsibility.

  • In Brave New World’s new world, there is no God. There’s no religion, no Ten Commandments, no spiritual pilgrimages. Why? Because “God is incompatible with machines,” we’re told. Eliminate suffering, and you don’t need God to give you comfort.

  • OK, now let’s back up 532 years to roughly…today. If you’ve turned on your TV in the last few years, you’ve probably heard something on the news about evolution, creationism, and intelligent design.

  • As we learn more and more through science and can do more through technology, the question is this: Will the need for God disappear once we don’t need a higher being to give us answers or comfort?

  • Comfort, answers… either way, the topic here is one of unease. In Brave New World, physical ease means God isn’t needed. In today’s world, the question can be expanded to ask whether mental ease means God isn’t needed.

  • The debate about intelligent design/creationism/evolution isn’t so much about which is true – it often hinders on which theory we should teach in schools.

  • Teachers, students, leaders, followers –

  • no matter who we are, we’re in a position to question, debate, and decide

  • what will be taught.

  • So let’s not mess it up.