Study Guide

The Wanting Seed Part 1, Chapter 1

By Anthony Burgess

Part 1, Chapter 1

  • In a nondescript State Health Service in Brighton, a young mother named Beatrice-Joanna is grieving for her infant son, who has just died of meningitis.
  • Beatrice-Joanna watches as men from the Ministry of Agriculture (the Phosphorus Reclamation Department) collect her son's body, and take it away to be reprocessed into agricultural fertilizer.
  • Dr. Acheson tells Beatrice-Joanna to look on the bright side: now that her son is dead, the world has one less mouth to feed, and a bit of extra fertilizer to help the crops grow. When Beatrice-Joanna accuses him of not caring about human life, he reminds her: "We care about stability. We care about not letting the earth get overrun. We care about everybody getting enough to eat" (1.1.9).
  • As she rides the elevator down to the ground floor, Beatrice-Joanna is disgusted by a lesbian couple and a gay man who are with her in the lift. In fact, she's disgusted by the whole social order, which encourages homosexuality as a means of keeping the population controlled.
  • Beatrice-Joanna is weeping for her son by the time the elevator reaches the ground floor, and when her fellow passengers giggle at her, she calls them all "unclean" (1.1.13).