Sample Questions

1. 'The World State and the Savage Reservation represent the extreme ends of human existence in Brave New World, and as such they have nothing in common.' Evaluate the truth of this statement.

At face value, the statement would appear to be true - but look for the parallels between the two states of existence.

David Bradshaw identifies the influence of the work of Huxley's friend D.H. Lawrence on the Savage Reservation, notably The Plumed Serpent (1926) and Mornings in Mexico (1927). In these works, Lawrence 'continually draws a distinction between the aboriginal Americans, who have held on to the 'animistic soul of man, and the democratic citizens of the Ford-infested United States.'

When Bernard and Lenina journey to the Savage Reservation, they indeed encounter a world totally alien to their own. For instance, Lenina is shocked by the sight of an old man, by the smell, by the dirt: "cleanliness is next to fordliness... civilization is sterilization." What other aspects does Lenina dislike about the reservation? How does she attempt to cope with the distress that they cause?

There are in the Savage reservation all the elements of human existence that the World State has taken away - pain, death, solitude, monogamy and jealousy (the girl John loves is married to someone else) - and everything else discussed above: all the things that John claims his right to. This is most powerfully illustrated by the character of Linda who has been conditioned in all the ways of the World State, but in the Reservation has ended up suffering from all that which civilisation has abolished.

Compare also John's description of his childhood to that of the 'bottled' upbringing of citizens of the World State. Are there any similarities at all between the two?

However, there are interesting parallels between the World State and Savage Reservation, many surrounding the religious symbolism within Brave New World. When John visits Eton he sees, "suddenly on the screen... there were the Penitentes of Acoma prostrating themselves before Our Lady, and wailing as John had heard them wail, confessing their sins before Jesus on the cross, before the eagle image of Pookong. The young Etonians fairly shouted with laughter." The Etonians may think it is hilarious, but how much do the Savage rituals have in common with the communal rituals in the World State? For example even "Lenina liked the drums... it reminded her... of the synthetic noises made at Solidarity Services and Ford's Day celebrations. 'Orgy-porgy,' she whispered to herself. These drums beat out just the same rhythms."

What other 'religious' aspect link the two worlds? Think about the use of the cross for both the Savages and the cropped version used by the World State: "The Director made a sign of the T on his stomach and all the students reverently followed suit." The Savages have a confused mixture of pagan and Christian beliefs. Compare this to the World State's strange amalgam of pseudo-religious ritual and technology.

At the heart of the rituals - savage and civilised - are drugs: mescal or soma. "The stuff in the gourd was called mescal; but Linda said it ought to be called soma; only it made you feel ill afterwards." "Every soma-holiday is a bit of what our ancestors used to call eternity." What is Huxley trying to say about the way narcotics are used and abused within society?

"They disliked me for my complexion. It's always been like that. Always." So says John, who spent his life being shunned and excluded from aspects of Savage life. Is Huxley saying that the prejudice apparent in both the civilised and Savage world is an aspect of their societies, or that it is a universal human failing? Are the parallels between the two worlds a way for Huxley to illustrate that whatever is imposed from above, certain human aspects will remain or need to be kept?

2. "Any future, so long as it's bleak" Are the exile islands for the likes of Bernard and Helmholtz potential Utopias within the Dystopia of the World State, or are they doomed to failure?

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