The novel is set in A.F. 632, approximately seven centuries after the twentieth century. A.F. stands for the year of Ford, named for the great industrialist Henry Ford who refined mass production techniques for automobiles. The world is ruled by World Controllers who ensure the stability of society. To ensure social stability, a five-tiered caste system ruled by Alphas and Betas has been created. The labor force comes from the lower three castes, known as Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. A drug called soma ensures that no one ever feels pain or remains unhappy, and it is rationed out to and used by members of every caste. Social stability is further ensured through the use of pre- and postnatal conditioning.
Brave New World opens with the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre giving a group of young students a tour of the facilities. They view the various techniques for producing more babies and watch as the babies are segregated into various castes.
After the babies are decanted from their bottles they are conditioned. This is done through Neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopaedia. For the Neo-Pavlovian conditioning, babies are placed in a room filled with books and roses. Alarms and sirens sound, as well as a small electric shock, which so frightens the babies that when they are confronted by the same items a second time they recoil in fear. Hypnopaedia is used to teach the children ethics. While the babies and children are asleep, ethical phrases are played numerous times so that the phrases will become a subconscious part of the each person.
The World Controller of Western Europe, His Fordship Mustapha Mond appears and gives the students a lecture about the way things used to be. Before the Utopian world order was established, he indicates...