The novel opens in the "year of stability," A.F. 632. The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning is taking a group of new students on a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Center. The world's motto is inscribed at the entrance to the center: Community, Identity, Stability. The motto seems to appropriately state the nature of the hatchery, as well as the nature of the world that Huxley creates. The center strives for community, identity, and stability as it literally creates the people of the world.
The first room visited is the Fertilizing Room with its incubators. Here ova are fertilized in test tubes to be grown into human beings. The chapter gives a detailed, scientific description of the fertilization process. Because of scientific advancements, the kind of human being created can be controlled. Depending upon society's needs, either superior humans (Alphas and Betas) or inferior humans (Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons) are created during fertilization. The inferior creations undergo Bokanovsky's Process, whereby one egg will result in a hundred human beings because of a series of "arrested developments." The Director of the Hatchery praises Bokanovsky's Process, because it ensures uniform batches of standard women and men.
The group of students is soon joined by young Mr. Foster, who is enthusiastic about giving statistical details concerning the progress and achievement of the Hatchery. He joins them on their tour as they pass through a series of rooms. When the group arrives at the Bottling Room, it is explained that this is where the eggs are removed from the test tubes and placed in bottles in an assembly-line manner. The bottles are labeled and identified, revealing the heredity, date of fertilization, and Bokanovsky information. The next room visited is the Social Predestination Room; here card indexes contain all the relevant information on the quantity and quality of all the individuals created in the hatchery. As a next step on the tour, the students are taken to the Embryo Store, where the controlled hatching of embryos takes place over 267 days. Thirty percent of the female embryos are allowed to develop normally; the remaining 70% of the female embryos are sterilized to control breeding. The sterilized women, known as "freemartins," remain physically normal in every other way.
Lenina works in the Embryo Store. While Foster is in the store with
the students, she has a brief conversation with him. They agree to meet
the same afternoon on the roof, as usual. From the Embryo Store, the students
are taken into the Decanting Room, where the babies grown in the in the
store are "decanted" as socialized humans. Whether they are
destined to be superior or inferior beings, they are already conditioned
to welcome their future work environment. Due to a shortage of time, the
students are only given a brief glimpse of the Decanting Room, and no
explanation is given of the special conditioning process for Alpha-Plus
Intellectuals. The chapter ends as they head toward the Nurseries, where
the infants are raised.
In this first chapter, it becomes obvious that the novel is science fiction, portraying an imagined time in the distant future when all of humanity is manipulated by scientific means. The population is bred and controlled in the Hatchery. Seventy percent of all female embryos are sterilized to prevent overpopulation, and all embryos are selected and conditioned to become either a superior or inferior human being. When the embryo is decanted, the person is already socialized and predestined for his/her future role in society.
Several of the main characters of the novel are introduced, including Tomakin (the Director of the Hatcheries), Lenina, and Foster. All of them are almost smug in their self-satisfaction at what is being scientifically achieved in this new world order. At the same time, true to the scientific spirit that rules the age, they are constantly questioning their own methods and seeking to improve on them. During the chapter, much of the description is given in technical jargon, reminding the reader of Huxley's interest in and knowledge of science.
In this scientific and standardized environment, there seems to be a lack
of human emotion and independent thinking, both of which are discouraged
by the state. There is also a hint of the authoritarianism that is typical
in a totalitarian government; it is reflected in the manner in which the
Director dominates the students. The only exception to the unpleasant,
unfeeling picture presented in the opening chapter is the human contact
between Lenina and Foster. Their regular meetings on the roof add an element
of suspense to the novel; the reader is made to think that they are in
some way going against the grain of expected behavior.
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