Brave New World, Page 2Aldous Huxley
Two hundred and twenty metres long, two hundred wide, ten high. He pointed upwards. Like chickens drinking, the students lifted their eyes towards the distant ceiling.
Three tiers of racks: ground floor level, first gallery, second gallery.
The spidery steel-work of gallery above gallery faded away in all directions into the dark. Near them three red ghosts were busily unloading demijohns from a moving staircase.
The escalator from the Social Predestination Room.
Each bottle could be placed on one of fifteen racks, each rack, though you couldn’t see it, was a conveyor traveling at the rate of thirty-three and a third centimetres an hour. Two hundred and sixty-seven days at eight metres a day. Two thousand one hundred and thirty-six metres in all. One circuit of the cellar at ground level, one on the first gallery, half on the second, and on the two hundred and sixty-seventh morning, daylight in the Decanting Room. Independent existence—so called.
“But in the interval,” Mr. Foster concluded, “we’ve managed to do a lot to them. Oh, a very great deal.” His laugh was knowing and triumphant.
“That’s the spirit I like,” said the Director once more. “Let’s walk around. You tell them everything, Mr. Foster.”
Mr. Foster duly told them.
Told them of the growing embryo on its bed of peritoneum. Made them taste the rich blood surrogate on which it fed. Explained why it had to be stimulated with placentin and thyroxin. Told them of the corpus luteum extract. Showed them the jets through which at every twelfth metre from zero to 2040 it was automatically injected. Spoke of those gradually increasing doses of pituitary administered during the final ninety-six metres of their course. Described the artificial maternal circulation installed in every bottle at Metre 112; showed them the reservoir of blood-surrogate, the centrifugal pump that kept the liquid moving over the placenta and drove it through the synthetic lung and waste product filter. Referred to the embryo’s troublesome tendency to anæmia, to the massive doses of hog’s stomach extract and foetal foal’s liver with which, in consequence, it had to be supplied.
Showed them the simple mechanism by means of which, during the last two metres out of every eight, all the embryos were simultaneously shaken into familiarity with movement. Hinted at the gravity of the so-called “trauma of decanting,” and enumerated the precautions taken to minimize, by a suitable training of the bottled embryo, that dangerous shock. Told them of the test for sex carried out in the neighborhood of Metre 200. Explained the system of labelling—a T for the males, a circle for the females and for those who were destined to become freemartins a question mark, black on a white ground.
“For of course,” said Mr. Foster, “in the vast majority of cases, fertility is merely a nuisance. One fertile ovary in twelve hundred—that would really be quite sufficient for our purposes. But we want to have a good choice. And of course one must always have an enormous margin of safety. So we allow as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos to develop normally. The others get a dose of male sex-hormone every twenty-four metres for the rest of the course. Result: they’re decanted as freemartins—structurally quite normal (except,” he had to admit, “that they do have the slightest tendency to grow beards), but sterile. Guaranteed sterile. Which brings us at last,” continued Mr. Foster, “out of the realm of mere slavish imitation of nature into the much more interesting world of human invention.”
He rubbed his hands. For of course, they didn’t content themselves with merely hatching out embryos: any cow could do that.
“We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or future …” He was going to say “future World controllers,” but correcting himself, said “future Directors of Hatcheries,” instead.
The D.H.C. acknowledged the compliment with a smile.
They were passing Metre 320 on Rack 11. A young Beta-Minus mechanic was busy with screwdriver and spanner on the blood-surrogate pump of a passing bottle. The hum of the electric motor deepened by fractions of a tone as he turned the nuts. Down, down … A final twist, a glance at the revolution counter, and he was done. He moved two paces down the line and began the same process on the next pump.
“Reducing the number of revolutions per minute,” Mr. Foster explained. “The surrogate goes round slower; therefore passes through the lung at longer intervals; therefore gives the embryo less oxygen. Nothing like oxygen-shortage for keeping an embryo below par.” Again he rubbed his hands.
“But why do you want to keep the embryo below par?” asked an ingenuous student.
“Ass!” said the Director, breaking a long silence. “Hasn’t it occurred to you that an Epsilon embryo must have an Epsilon environment as well as an Epsilon heredity?”
It evidently hadn’t occurred to him. He was covered with confusion.
“The lower the caste,” said Mr. Foster, “the shorter the oxygen.” The first organ affected was the brain. After that the skeleton. At seventy per cent of normal oxygen you got dwarfs. At less than seventy eyeless monsters.
“Who are no use at all,” concluded Mr. Foster.
Whereas (his voice became confidential and eager), if they could discover a technique for shortening the period of maturation what a triumph, what a benefaction to Society!
“Consider the horse.”
They considered it.
Mature at six; the elephant at ten. While at thirteen a man is not yet sexually mature; and is only full-grown at twenty. Hence, of course, that fruit of delayed development, the human intelligence.
“But in Epsilons,” said Mr. Foster very justly, “we don’t need human intelligence.”
Didn’t need and didn’t get it. But though the Epsilon mind was mature at ten, the Epsilon body was not fit to work till eighteen. Long years of superfluous and wasted immaturity. If the physical development could be speeded up till it was as quick, say, as a cow’s, what an enormous saving to the Community!
“Enormous!” murmured the students. Mr. Foster’s enthusiasm was infectious.
He became rather technical; spoke of the abnormal endocrine co-ordination which made men grow so slowly; postulated a germinal mutation to account for it. Could the effects of this germinal mutation be undone? Could the individual Epsilon embryo be made a revert, by a suitable technique, to the normality of dogs and cows? That was the problem. And it was all but solved.
Pilkington, at Mombasa, had produced individuals who were sexually mature at four and full-grown at six and a half. A scientific triumph. But socially useless. Six-year-old men and women were too stupid to do even Epsilon work. And the process was an all-or-nothing one; either you failed to modify at all, or else you modified the whole way. They were still trying to find the ideal compromise between adults of twenty and adults of six. So far without success. Mr. Foster sighed and shook his head.
Their wanderings through the crimson twilight had brought them to the neighborhood of Metre 170 on Rack 9. From this point onwards Rack 9 was enclosed and the bottles performed the remainder of their journey in a kind of tunnel, interrupted here and there by openings two or three metres wide.
“Heat conditioning,” said Mr. Foster.
Hot tunnels alternated with cool tunnels. Coolness was wedded to discomfort in the form of hard X-rays. By the time they were decanted the embryos had a horror of cold. They were predestined to emigrate to the tropics, to be miners and acetate silk spinners and steel workers. Later on their minds would be made to endorse the judgment of their bodies. “We condition them to thrive on heat,” concluded Mr. Foster. “Our colleagues upstairs will teach them to love it.”
“And that,” put in the Director sententiously, “that is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their un-escapable social destiny.”
In a gap between two tunnels, a nurse was delicately probing with a long fine syringe into the gelatinous contents of a passing bottle.
The students and their guides stood watching her for a few moments in silence.
“Well, Lenina,” said Mr. Foster, when at last she withdrew the syringe and straightened herself up.
The girl turned with a start. One could see that, for all the lupus and the purple eyes, she was uncommonly pretty.
“Henry!” Her smile flashed redly at him—a row of coral teeth.
“Charming, charming,” murmured the Director and, giving her two or three little pats, received in exchange a rather deferential smile for himself.
“What are you giving them?” asked Mr. Foster, making his tone very professional.
“Oh, the usual typhoid and sleeping sickness.”
“Tropical workers start being inoculated at Metre 150,” Mr. Foster explained to the students. “The embryos still have gills. We immunize the fish against the future man’s diseases.” Then, turning back to Lenina, “Ten to five on the roof this afternoon,” he said, “as usual.”
“Charming,” said the Director once more, and, with a final pat, moved away after the others.
On Rack 10 rows of next generation’s chemical workers were being trained in the toleration of lead, caustic soda, tar, chlorine. The first of a batch of two hundred and fifty embryonic rocket-plane engineers was just passing the eleven hundred metre mark on Rack 3. A special mechanism kept their containers in constant rotation. “To improve their sense of balance,” Mr. Foster explained. “Doing repairs on the outside of a rocket in mid-air is a ticklish job. We slacken off the circulation when they’re right way up, so that they’re half starved, and double the flow of surrogate when they’re upside down. They learn to associate topsy-turvydom with well-being; in fact, they’re only truly happy when they’re standing on their heads.
“And now,” Mr. Foster went on, “I’d like to show you some very interesting conditioning for Alpha Plus Intellectuals. We have a big batch of them on Rack 5. First Gallery level,” he called to two boys who had started to go down to the ground floor.
“They’re round about Metre 900,” he explained. “You can’t really do any useful intellectual conditioning till the foetuses have lost their tails. Follow me.”
But the Director had looked at his watch. “Ten to three,” he said. “No time for the intellectual embryos, I’m afraid. We must go up to the Nurseries before the children have finished their afternoon sleep.”
Mr. Foster was disappointed. “At least one glance at the Decanting Room,” he pleaded.
“Very well then.” The Director smiled indulgently. “Just one glance.”
Mr. Foster was left in the Decanting Room. The D.H.C. and his students stepped into the nearest lift and were carried up to the fifth floor.
INFANT NURSERIES. NEO-PAVLOVIAN CONDITIONING ROOMS, announced the notice board.
The Director opened a door. They were in a large bare room, very bright and sunny; for the whole of the southern wall was a single window. Half a dozen nurses, trousered and jacketed in the regulation white viscose-linen uniform, their hair aseptically hidden under white caps, were engaged in setting out bowls of roses in a long row across the floor. Big bowls, packed tight with blossom. Thousands of petals, ripe-blown and silkily smooth, like the cheeks of innumerable little cherubs, but of cherubs, in that bright light, not exclusively pink and Aryan, but also luminously Chinese, also Mexican, also apoplectic with too much blowing of celestial trumpets, also pale as death, pale with the posthumous whiteness of marble.
The nurses stiffened to attention as the D.H.C. came in.
“Set out the books,” he said curtly.
In silence the nurses obeyed his command. Between the rose bowls the books were duly set out—a row of nursery quartos opened invitingly each at some gaily coloured image of beast or fish or bird.
“Now bring in the children.”
They hurried out of the room and returned in a minute or two, each pushing a kind of tall dumb-waiter laden, on all its four wire-netted shelves, with eight-month-old babies, all exactly alike (a Bokanovsky Group, it was evident) and all (since their caste was Delta) dressed in khaki.
“Put them down on the floor.”
The infants were unloaded.
“Now turn them so that they can see the flowers and books.”
Turned, the babies at once fell silent, then began to crawl towards those clusters of sleek colours, those shapes so gay and brilliant on the white pages. As they approached, the sun came out of a momentary eclipse behind a cloud. The roses flamed up as though with a sudden passion from within; a new and profound significance seemed to suffuse the shining pages of the books. From the ranks of the crawling babies came little squeals of excitement, gurgles and twitterings of pleasure.
The Director rubbed his hands. “Excellent!” he said. “It might almost have been done on purpose.”
The swiftest crawlers were already at their goal. Small hands reached out uncertainly, touched, grasped, unpetaling the transfigured roses, crumpling the illuminated pages of the books. The Director waited until all were happily busy. Then, “Watch carefully,” he said. And, lifting his hand, he gave the signal
The Head Nurse, who was standing by a switchboard at the other end of the room, pressed down a little lever.
There was a violent explosion. Shriller and ever shriller, a siren shrieked. Alarm bells maddeningly sounded.
The children started, screamed; their faces were distorted with terror.
“And now,” the Director shouted (for the noise was deafening), “now we proceed to rub in the lesson with a mild electric shock.”
He waved his hand again, and the Head Nurse pressed a second lever. The screaming of the babies suddenly changed its tone. There was something desperate, almost insane, about the sharp spasmodic yelps to which they now gave utterance. Their little bodies twitched and stiffened; their limbs moved jerkily as if to the tug of unseen wires.
“We can electrify that whole strip of floor,” bawled the Director in explanation. “But that’s enough,” he signalled to the nurse.
The explosions ceased, the bells stopped ringing, the shriek of the siren died down from tone to tone into silence. The stiffly twitching bodies relaxed, and what had become the sob and yelp of infant maniacs broadened out once more into a normal howl of ordinary terror.
“Offer them the flowers and the books again.”
The nurses obeyed; but at the approach of the roses, at the mere sight of those gaily-coloured images of pussy and cock-a-doodle-doo and baa-baa black sheep, the infants shrank away in horror; the volume of their howling suddenly increased.
“Observe,” said the Director triumphantly, “observe.”
Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks— already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly. What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.
“They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives.” The Director turned to his nurses. “Take them away again.”
Still yelling, the khaki babies were loaded on to their dumb-waiters and wheeled out, leaving behind them the smell of sour milk and a most welcome silence.
One of the students held up his hand; and though he could see quite well why you couldn’t have lower-caste people wasting the Community’s time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes, yet … well, he couldn’t understand about the flowers. Why go to the trouble of making it psychologically impossible for Deltas to like flowers?
Patiently the D.H.C. explained. If the children were made to scream at the sight of a rose, that was on grounds of high economic policy. Not so very long ago (a century or thereabouts), Gammas, Deltas, even Epsilons, had been conditioned to like flowers—flowers in particular and wild
nature in general. The idea was to make them want to be going out into the country at every available opportunity, and so compel them to consume transport.
“And didn’t they consume transport?” asked the student.
“Quite a lot,” the D.H.C. replied. “But nothing else.”
Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes; to abolish the love of nature, but not the tendency to consume transport. For of course it was essential that they should keep on going to the country, even though they hated it. The problem was to find an economically sounder reason for consuming transport than a mere affection for primroses and landscapes. It was duly found.
“We condition the masses to hate the country,” concluded the Director. “But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks.”