A Mock Exam

Brave New World – A Mock Exam

A decade after he wrote Brave New World, Huxley added a foreword to the novel.
This is a short extract from the foreword:

The most important Manhattan Projects of the future will be vast government-sponsored
enquiries into what the politicians and the participating scientists will call ‘the problem of
happiness’ – in other words, the problem of making people love their servitude. Without
economic security, the love of servitude cannot possibly come into existence; for the sake
of brevity, I assume that the all-powerful executive and its managers will succeed in solving
the problem of permanent security. But security tends very quickly to be taken for granted.
Its achievement is merely a superficial, external revolution. The love of servitude cannot
be established except as the result of a deep, personal revolution in human minds and
bodies. To bring about that revolution we require, among others, the following discoveries
and inventions. First, a greatly improved technique of suggestion – through infant
conditioning and, later, with the aid of drugs, such as scopolamine. Second, a fully
developed science of human differences, enabling government managers to assign any
given individual to his or her proper place in the social and economic hierarchy. (Round
pegs in square holes tend to have dangerous thoughts about the social system and to
infect others with their discontents.) Third (since reality, however utopian, is something
from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays), a substitute for
alcohol and the other narcotics, something at once less harmful and more pleasure-giving
than gin or heroin. And fourth (but this would be a long-term project, which it would
take generations of totalitarian control to bring to a successful conclusion), a foolproof
system of eugenics, designed to standardize the human product and so to facilitate the
task of the managers. In Brave New World this standardization of the human product has
been pushed to fantastic, though not perhaps impossible, extremes. Technically and
ideologically we are still a long way from bottled babies and Bokanovsky groups of semi-morons.
But by A.F. 600, who knows what may not be happening? Meanwhile the other
characteristic features of that happier and more stable world – the equivalents of soma
and hypnopaedia and the scientific caste system – are probably not more than three or
four generations away. Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very
distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal
to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like
dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or
keeping more than one animal at a time. As political and economic freedom diminishes,
sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs
cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will
do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under
the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the
servitude which is their fate.
All things considered it looks as though Utopia were far closer to us than anyone, only
fifteen years ago, could have imagined. Then, I projected it six hundred years into the
future. Today it seems quite possible that the horror may be upon us within a single
century. That is, if we refrain from blowing ourselves to smithereens in the interval.
Indeed, unless we choose to decentralize and to use applied science, not as the end to
which human beings are to be made the means, but as the means to producing a race of
free individuals, we have only two alternatives to choose from: either a number of national,
militarized totalitarianisms, having as their root the terror of the atomic bomb and as their
consequence the destruction of civilization (or, if the warfare is limited, the perpetuation
of militarism); or else one supranational totalitarianism, called into existence by the social
chaos resulting from rapid technological progress in general and the atomic revolution in
particular, and developing, under the need for efficiency and stability, into the welfare-tyranny of Utopia. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

(From: Aldous Huxley, Foreword to Brave New World, 1946; © 1959 by Aldous Huxley. Reprinted by permission of
Georges Borchardt, Inc.; 683 words)

1 Manhattan Project: name used for the project to develop the atomic bomb in the Second World War 3 servitude: state or
condition of being a slave 5 brevity: not using many words to explain sth. 11 scopolamine: type of drug that calms the user
13–14 round pegs in square holes: people who do not fit in or adapt to sth. 32 compensatingly: in a way that makes up for sth. that is
lost 33 cannon fodder: Kanonenfutter 35 dope (infml): drugs 40 refrain from sth.: do not do sth. 40 blow yourself to smithereens:
blow yourself up 41 applied science: angewandte Forschung 45 perpetuation: continuation 49 you pays your money and you takes
your choice (infml): the decision is yours

I. Explain how ruling governments will, according to Huxley, try to solve ‘the problem
of happiness’?

II. Explain what is meant by a ‘welfare-tyranny of Utopia’ (ll.49-50).

III. Looking at this text some 70 years after it was written, would you say
that much of what is described has come true or may come true?

P.S.: Write your tasks on a separate sheet each so that we can work with single tasks in class later on. Also leave a blank line in between your written lines so that you can easily insert corrections in class as well. And I apologize for the stupid numbering – I just do not know how to edit a document with line numbers correctly :-(

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