Study Guide

Brave New World Chapter 2

By Aldous Huxley

Chapter 2

  • The Director and his students leave Mr. Foster behind (apparently the Alpha-Plus intellectuals weren't that interesting, because we don't hear about them). They head to a room labeled "Infant Nurseries. Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Rooms."
  • Here, nurses in white hats are setting out bowls of roses. (Aw.)
  • Then they set out dozens of colored, playful picture books. (Aww.)
  • Then they bring out the little babies—all Deltas, and so all dressed in khaki—to let them play with the flowers and books. (Awww!)
  • Then they… electrocute the babies. (AAAHH!!!)
  • Not surprisingly, the babies have no further interest in the flowers or the books (or, in all likelihood, bright colors of any kind).
  • One curious student wants to know why.
  • The Director explains: they used to condition the lower castes to like flowers and other outdoorsy things. That way, they would consume lots of transportation services in getting themselves out to the country.
  • The problem was, while they consumed transport, they didn't really consume anything else. Nature can be appreciated without boosting the economy.
  • The solution? They conditioned them all to hate the country, but to love country sports, particularly country sports that required a complicated apparatus that had to be purchased.
  • The curious student is satisfied. And it's time for a story.
  • Long, long ago, the Director explains, when "Our Ford" was still around, there was a boy named Reuben Rabinovitch.
  • This story forces the Director to explain to the students what "parents" are, which is apparently a vulgar word, as are "Mom" and "Dad."
  • Anyway, Reuben's parents (gasp!) played him a tape while he was asleep, a tape that repeated over and over a bunch of information about the Nile River. The next morning, they asked him what the longest river in the world was, and he didn't know. He could repeat word-for-word the lecture he had heard, but to him it was just empty words; he didn't actually comprehend anything.
  • The Director explains the problem: they were trying to teach Reuben intellectual things. What they should have done is indoctrinate him with lessons in morality (because they aren't rational) while he slept. Of course, that's why they do now: it's called "Hypnopaedia."
  • Next they head into a room where small children are asleep on rows and rows of cots. The resident instructor informs them that they just had "Elementary Sex Education." Remember that? Right after snack time, just before recess…
  • Anyway, now they're having a lesson in "Elementary Class Consciousness." Since these particular small people are Betas, the lesson lectures that Betas are the best, that Alphas have to work too hard, and that Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are all stupid.
  • We also find out that Gammas wear green, Deltas wear khaki and Epsilons wear black.
  • As the Director explains this indoctrination, the students write it down— "straight from the horse's mouth," which, if you've been reading your text, you'll know is a phrase we've gotten several times now.
  • And now for a lovely analogy. Water, the text explains, can wear through rock over time. But these lessons repeated over and over during sleep aren't like water—they're like wax. Rather than wearing through the rock, they pile up on the rock and harden and become part of it, until the rock is one big, crusty, waxy blob.