Conditioning in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"

Term Paper, 2010

14 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. The various forms of conditioning in Brave New World
2. 1 Biological engineering
2. 2 The use of psychological conditioning
2. 2. 1 Behaviourism
2. 2. 2 Sleep-teaching and hypnopaedia
2. 3 Chemical persuasion

3. The essential role of conditioning in the “utopian” world

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Unquestionably, Aldous Huxley‟s Brave New World, written in 1931, is one of the most fascinating dystopian novels. His description of a world state in the future, in which people are conditioned and manipulated from the cradle to the grave is meant to be a warning of the danger of dehumanization. Huxley draws a picture of a future including the misuse of political power, economic control, sciences and technology, biological engineering, mass consumption and the loss of ethical values. More precisely, Huxley‟s Brave New World could be regarded as a kind of “leisure dystopia”1 which is defined as an “utopia [that has] gone wretched or failed paradise-engineering projects.”2 The fine line between utopia and dystopia becomes visible. In leisure dystopian societies like in Brave New World, all problems have officially been abolished and the people are living in wealth and happiness. But this state is only achieved by eliminating intellectualism, values or individual freedom.3 Therefore, the state rulers need means of control. One of the most powerful tools is conditioning in various forms.

This study is meant to focus on the three types of conditioning prevailing in Brave New World. According to the order in the novel, the biological engineering in the pre-natal status will be discussed at first. Thereafter, the use of psychological conditioning with the methods of behaviourism, sleep-teaching and hypnopaedia is an essential theme. To complete it, the last type of conditioning, the chemical manipulation will be looked at. The different aspects will be combined with the motto of the World State in Brave New World: “Community, Identity, Stability”4. Furthermore the loss of individuality caused by biological and psychological conditioning is an important component within the analysis.

After this closer examination of the various forms, the paper tries to give an answer to the question of the essential functions of conditioning in Brave New World which will be concluded by analysing the term happiness in the novel with regard to manipulation and with a comment on how relevant Huxley‟s ideas are today.

2. The various forms of conditioning in Brave New World

2. 1 Biological engineering

At the very beginning of the novel the reader is confronted with the misuse of science in Brave New World. 5 Instead of protecting family life and natural birth, humans are industrially bred in bottles on assembly lines in huge laboratories. The knowledge of biochemistry, genetic engineering and cloning enables the production of the required number of people. Overpopulation would lead to economic insecurity and social unrest.6 A World Government bureau, the “Predestinators”, determines the requirement and then, individuals with special qualities are produced artificially and industrially. The ovaries from females are surgically removed, kept alive in incubators, inspected for abnormalities and after that, artificially fertilized in glass boxes. Whereas the ova of the Alphas and Betas, the most intelligent caste in the World State and on top of the special society‟s hierarchy, remain in the incubator, the Deltas and Epsilons, the less intelligent and underprivileged, undergo the “Bokanovsky Process”. In this process ninety-six identical embryos with the same genetic structure are produced, which we would call cloning nowadays.

The genetic structure of the DNA is furthermore manipulated by adding alcohol, chemical additives or by depriving the embryos of oxygen, in order to determine the basic inherited characteristics of life. The Delta and Epsilon embryos, for example, are made nearly stupid by adding a high amount of alcohol to their blood surrogate, which causes brain damage. Not only the intellectual capacity of an individual is influenced by genetic engineering, but also the outward appearance. Hence, the lower castes in society are smaller and apelike.

It becomes clear that human beings in this world are biologically conditioned to have certain capacities in order to fulfil their prescribed functions in society. Obviously, genetic engineering and the “Bokanovsky Process” work as two pillars in the World State. Community is formed by the production of identical clones (later - on each caste in the hierarchy will wear identical clothes, by which a feeling of togetherness and identification is created). Stability can be kept, because behaviour, skills and the grade of intelligence are conditioned and simultaneously predictable. In the words of the “Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning”: “All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”7

The term identity, the third part of the World‟s motto “Community, Stability, Identity”, should actually be the nucleus and the wonder of the creation of new life, but in this world it degenerates to nothing more than a propagandistic motto or, if it exists, then only in the form of identification with the caste someone belongs to and as a result of genetic engineering.

This conditioned identity furthermore ends in a kind of „perfection‟ in one‟s lifetime by psychological conditioning, which will be demonstrated in the following.

2. 2 The misuse of psychological conditioning

How extensive the psychological conditioning is and how deep it is rooted in the minds of the individuals illustrates an expression by the “Director of the Hatcheries and Conditioning”:

“Not so much like drops of water, though water, it is true, can wear holes in the hardest granite; rather, drops of liquid sealing-wax, drops that adhere, incrust, incorporate themselves with what they fall on, till finally the rock is all one scarlet blob. `Till at last the child‟s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child‟s mind. And not the child‟s mind only. The adult‟s mind too – all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides – made up of these suggestions. But all theses suggestions are our suggestions! “8

From the moment of being born in the World State, the citizens are under the heel of the state‟s conditioning methods with contents according to their class. By “Pavlovian-style behavioural conditioning”9 and hypnopaedia, the World Rulers are able to form the identities of their dependents as required.



2 ibid.

3 cf. ibid.

4 HUXLEY, ALDOUS: Brave New World. London: Vintage, 2007, p. 1.

5 see for the following explanation HUXLEY (2007: Chapter I, set at the “Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre”, p.1-14)

6 cf. HUXLEY, ALDOUS: Brave New World Revisited. London: Triad Grafton Books, 1988, p. 24. Available at:

7 HUXLEY (2007: chapter II ) Availablet at:

8 ibid.,p.23.

9 PEARS, DAVID: “Brave New World? – a Defence of Paradise Engineering”. BLTC research, 1998. Available at

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Conditioning in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"
Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt  (Sprach-und Literaturwissenschaften)
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Huxley Aldous, Brave New World
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Franziska Caesar (Author), 2010, Conditioning in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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