Aldous Huxley had an enormous knowledge of science, politics, and history, so when he created the dystopian Brave New World, he based much of the science on real scientific advancements of his day and real historical figures. If you know a bit about these allusions (references), you will be able to more fully appreciate the novel as well as the humor of the character names and other allusions. Click on the links to read articles on several topics and then answer the questions.
Background on Aldous Huxley
- According to the author of this biography, http://somaweb.org/w/huxbio.html how are Huxley’s own experiences recreated in Brave New World?
- How was England in Huxley’s time like Brave New World?
- Which characters are most like Huxley himself? How?
- What was an influential event in Huxley’s life that occurred when he was 14? How might this event be reflected in Brave New World?
- What illness did Huxley experience at 16? How did it affect his life?
- What was Huxley’s impression of America?
- Check out Huxley’s essay “On Silence” http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/aldous-huxley-on-silence
Explain how his critique fits today’s society.
The Psychology Behind Brave New World
3. Who was Ivan Pavlov and how did he end up experimenting on salivating dogs? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhpavl.html
4. Read about the birth of Behavioral Psychology and John Watson’s research http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh13wa.html. Explain how his experiment with Albert B is eerily similar to how the Delta children are conditioned to hate books and flowers in chapter 2.
5. BF Skinner ( www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhskin.html )
a. How did Skinner develop the ideas of “operant behavior” and “shaping behavior” with pigeons?
b. What similarities did Skinner notice between how children learn to speak and his experiments with pigeons?
c. What is your opinion on Skinner's experiments using “punishment” and “reward?”
d. Do you agree that “everything we do and are is shaped by our experience with punishment and reward?” Why/not?
Why Henry Ford plays such a prominent role in Brave New World: Some clues
6. Henry Ford’s business philosophy shaped America, according to Lee Iacocca’s firsthand account of Ford’s business practices and beliefs. Lee Iacocca was president of Ford, later chairman of Chrysler, and recently. Founded EV Global Motors. http://www.time.com/time/time100/builder/profile/ford.html
a. How did Ford’s modest agrarian (farming) background influence the type of car he decided to make?
b. How did Ford react to backers who wanted him to do things their way (make a car for the rich)?
c. Why was Ford interested in mass consumption?
d. What is Ford’s connection with the interstate highway system? Why?
e. According to Iacocca, how is Ford responsible for creating a middle class in America?
f. Why did Ford raise his workers’ pay?
g. In what ways did Ford take care of his workers like a father (paternalism)?
h. How was Ford’s paternalism similar to the way the World State takes care of its citizens in Brave New World?
Persuasion and Propaganda
In our society, we are not subjected to sleep teaching, Neo-Pavlovian conditioning, or many of the other persuasive techniques used in Brave New World. On the other hand, advertisers, politicians, and others attempt to persuade us every day and they are much more effective at doing so than you may think.
- Why should we analyze ads? Write several sentences that summarize this article. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/ads/question5.htm
- What are the five steps necessary for a perfect sales pitch?
How do these strategies influence advertising and consumer reaction?
- Logical fallacies. In advertising and in other persuasive media, the viewer is sometimes left with a false impression. In some cases this effect is purposeful. In order to identify when you are being manipulated by a logical fallacy, you need a basic understanding of fallacies and some examples. This webpage lists just a few of the most common fallacies. http://www.mathacademy.com/pr/prime/articles/fallac/
Define the term “fallacy.” Pick three fallacies that interest you and come up with your own example for each and explain why it is an example of the fallacy.