Brave New World: Summary: Chapter 1
Huxley’s first chapter begins with a chilling laboratory tour. Even the first paragraph seems a bit overpowering with the nonchalant reference to the "World State." Obviously the setting is in the future (A.F. 632); all of earth is dominated by a one-world government.
The Hatchery Director’s opening remarks should by themselves leave the reader a little perplexed. He lectures his students on the evil of generalities, saying "Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society." Obviously public sentiment has changed from today’s common beliefs that philosophy is a very important undertaking.
The Director proceeds to lead the obedient students through the lab, pointing out incubators and other technological apparatus designed to fertilize and grow human fetuses. As the students furiously jot down what he says, "straight from the horse’s mouth," the Director tells them about how sperm and ova are removed from the human body. He points out casually, "the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months’ salary." Soon he begins to outline the Bokanovsky Process— the process by which many multiples of babies are genetically generated from one original cell. While the Alphas and Betas, the higher castes, are kept from this process, the lower castes of Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons are further multiplied, thereby diluting their intelligence. This system, he brags, "is one of the major instruments of social stability." He and another man even seem to joke about having a friendly competition with other regions of the world for the most organisms hatched from a single ovary. Obviously there is strict population control through the centralized government. Even the "specimen’s" gender is predetermined.
There is also a caste system. Some of the embryos are purposefully given oxygen shortages to deliver them mental birth defects. These specimens, the Deltas and Epsilons, will do manual labor while the Alphas and Betas have leadership positions. "In Epsilons," Mr. Foster points out, "we don’t need human intelligence."
Next there is conditioning. Many of the embryos are made to like the heat by conditioning them with cold temperatures. It’s evident that the people have no freedom, but must submit to the will of the World Controllers.