The World State’s motto is “Community, Identity, Stability,” and a cast of characters find themselves grappling with these principles in Huxley’s famous critical dystopian novel set in AD 2540.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text “Someone Might Be Watching — An Introduction to Dystopian Fiction,” Shelby Ostergaard discusses the characteristics of dystopian fiction and how the genre comments on society.
Introduce this text before students begin Brave New World, in order to provide them with some background and insight on the genre of dystopian fiction and its history. Have students consider the characteristics of dystopian fiction and discuss their connections to the world they live in. How does dystopian fiction mirror the world we live in? How is exaggeration used to convey thoughts about mankind and technology?
This article describes life in North Korea under totalitarian government rule. In North Korea, the government has total control over the economy, the military, education, and people’s access to information—and it punishes those who try to change the status quo.
Introduce “Total Control in North Korea” after students read Chapter 1, to provide real-world context on totalitarian states similar to the setting in the novel. Ask students to compare North Korea to World State, paying close attention to the shared value of unity.
In this article from National Public Radio, a new genetic treatment that removes unwanted DNA from an embryo raises controversy.
Pair Chapter 1 of Brave New World with “Proposed Treatment to Fix Genetic Diseases Raises Ethical Issues” to provide students with background information on technology that genetically manipulates embryos. Ask students to compare the technology we currently have to alter human DNA to the technology of the Human Condition Center in the novel.
In his essay "Fear of Change," Henry Ford, the inventor of the Model T and the assembly line discusses why he believes some resist innovation and change.
Pair Chapter 3 of Brave New World with “Fear of Change” to provide students with background on Henry Ford’s vision for world progress. Ask students to compare Mustapha Mond’s description of how the World State came to be to Ford’s ideology on change. Do they think Ford would approve of the World State’s progress or views of him? In light of Ford’s views on progress, is it appropriate or ironic that the World State uses Ford as their Christ-like figure to symbolize technology and replace religion as a guiding institution?
The drive to conform to group norms is a powerful force in most people’s lives. This informational text about conformity helps explain why people tend to match their beliefs and behaviors to those around them.
Pair Chapter 5 of Brave New World with “Conformity” to provide students with background on the scientific concept and theme of conformity. Ask students to use the article to describe how, in the first five chapters, conformity functions within the World State. How does the World State create conformity? How do people react to pressures to conform? How does conformity create conflict among the characters?
“Sonnet 18” is one of Shakespeare’s best-known love sonnets, known for its opening line: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
Pair Chapter 9 of Brave New World with “Sonnet 18” so that students have a better understanding of Shakespeare and how the author influences John’s characterization. Ask students to discuss how Shakespeare’s language and perspective appear to affect John’s personality and point of view. Ask students this question again after they finish the novel.
In the informational text “The New Painkiller Epidemic,” Shelby Ostergaard discusses the spike in painkiller use, as well as the causes for this epidemic.
Pair Chapter 11 of Brave New World with “The New Painkiller Epidemic” to focus on the theme of drug use as a means of escape in society. Ask students to compare soma use in the novel to opioid use. How are they similar? How are they different? Do students see any similarities between U.S. drug companies promoting painkiller prescriptions and the World State promoting soma use? Why does Linda choose to take an extended soma holiday, and what does this tell us about how the World State has conditioned her to view the world? Teachers may also choose to focus on Lenina’s soma holiday in chapter 9, or why John doesn’t want to take soma throughout the novel.
In Grace Chua’s poem, “(love song, with two goldfish),” the speaker describes a love story between two goldfish in a fish bowl.
Pair Chapter 13 of Brave New World with “(Love Song, With Two Goldfish)” to explore the theme of the limitations of life. Ask students to discuss what prevents John and Lenina from loving one another in the same way, or even a healthy way? How are they similar to the two goldfish in the poem? What might be John and Lenina’s “bowls”?
Dylan Thomas' most famous poem, written for his dying father, in which he urges him to "rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Pair Chapter 14 of Brave New World with “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” to draw student attention to death as a theme, and how it is addressed by family members. Ask students to compare John at his mother’s deathbed to the speaker in the poem; how do they address death? Does the speaker in Thomas’ poem have a different attitude to death when compared to the children in the World State who witness John’s mother die?
“Herd Behavior” describes how individuals change when they are part of a crowd.
Pair Chapter 15 of Brave New World with “Herd Behavior” to provide students with scientific and psychological background on riots. Ask students to use the “Herd Behavior” article to help analyze the origin and outcome of the soma riot in chapter 15 of the novel. How can herd behavior be used to describe other events throughout the novel, such as the riotous scene at John’s house near the end of chapter 18?
In "The Machine Stops," E.M. Forster offers a chilling warning about becoming overly dependent on technology.
Pair Chapters 16 and 17 of Brave New World with “The Machine Stops” to help encourage students to focus on the use of technology as a theme – how technology is used to control society, replaces the need for religion, and the incompatibility of truth and happiness. Ask students to evaluate Mustapha Mond’s philosophy on stability, drawing on the themes raised in Forester’s “The Machine Stops.” How does the novel compare to the short story in its views on technology replacing religion? How does truth conflict with happiness in the two texts?
In “Capitalism Will Eat Democracy — Unless We Speak Up,” Yanis Varoufakis discusses the state of democracy today and how it relates to the political sphere and the economic sphere.
Have students read “Is Capitalism Compatible with Democracy?” after they finish the novel to focus on Huxley’s reflections on consumerism. Ask students to discuss how Varoufakis’ perspective sheds light on the strategies of the World State to create stability through consumerism, paying particular attention to the Director’s speeches in chapter 2 and Mustapha Mond’s reasoning in chapters 16 and 17. Is “Brave New World” what Varoufakis is warning his audience against? Do students see real-world comparisons to the intersection of the two texts?
We is a work of dystopian fiction set in a future police state by Russian writer Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884-1937). In 1921, We became the first work banned by the Soviet Union’s censorship board; Zamyatin managed to have his work smuggled to the West and later lived out the rest of his life in exile. This novel is thought to have inspired Brave New World and 1984.
Introduce students to “Excerpts from We” after they have finished the novel, as the short story is said to have inspired Huxley to write his novel. Ask them to evaluate how “We” may have influenced Huxley by comparing the novel to the excerpt, with a particular focus on plot, themes, and political commentary.