Producer's thoughts on Brave New World: Language

Producer's thoughts on Brave New World: Language

23 July 2015

by Jenny King

Brave New World producer Jenny King on the use of language, emotional engineering and self-expression in Huxley's Brave New World.

HELMHOLTZ: I feel… like I’ve got something inside me, trying to get out.

BERNARD: What d’you mean? 

HELMHOLTZ: When I’m teaching, I tell my students that an emotional engineer has to  find fresh, new ways to communicate the same old messages that everyone already believes. 

BERNARD: Yes…

HELMHOLTZ: But who cares about selling ‘copters to alphas? Or writing gossip shows  to mollify gammas or dramadies to entertain deltas? How can you say something about nothing? 
From Dawn King’s adaptation of Huxley’s Brave New World

Language of advertising

“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind.  To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. And to generate heat, not light, is the intention.”

Professor Marshall McLuhan

Neologisms - new words and phrases are coined every year; “munchy, scrunchy, zappy, whacky,  temptational, bubbly, minty, tangy, chewy, chunky, crackly, crispy, flaky, meaty, nutty, silky, spicy,  mirror finish, longer-lasting, smoother-handling, whiter than white,”  all these words and phrases have been introduced by the advertising industry.

Emotional engineering?
Advertisers recognise that we all have fears, hopes, anxieties, aspirations, insecurities and dreams that they can appeal to in order to persuade us to BUY SOMETHING.

Appealing to …..

STATUS:    Top people read ……,  discerning people drink ……,  discriminating tastes prefer ……., the best homes…
exclusive

FEAR:  Bad breath, B.O., pejoratives, old-fashioned, soiled.

INSECURITY:  Get with the programme,  a name you can trust, Est. 1870.-  Relax,  treat yourself,  processed food, self-indulgence.

AUTHORITY:  Doctors recommend, Dentists recommend, Beauticians recommend, or just famous people, through endorsement.

SEX AND YOUTH:  Always a good approach designed to catch attention and associate with your product.

 

Sexual Allure and   Celebrity Endorsement – important in our culture – No?

 

The language of maths and science

In Brave New World,  Huxley describes a society in which scientific exactitude is everything: “eighty-eight cubic meters of index cards, two hundred sixty-seven days for the bottles to travel along the conveyor belt at thirty-three centimeters per hour”  ….

This precise language is also used to describe the psychology of Helmholtz and Bernard:-

"That which had made Helmholtz so uncomfortably aware of being himself and all alone was too much ability. What the two men shared was the knowledge that they were individuals. But whereas the physically defective Bernard had suffered all his life from the consciousness of being separate, it was only quite recently that, grown aware of his mental excess, Helmholtz Watson had also become aware of his difference from the people who surrounded him."

 

BUT THE LANGUAGE OF SELF EXPRESSION is undeveloped in all of Huxley’s characters in Brave New World with the exception of John who uses Shakespeare to express how he feels. And Helmholtz himself who has a go …

 

 

JOHN: What is emotional engineering?

HELMHOLTZ: Trying to get people to feel what you want them to feel. Usually, I make people feel happy. Or like they want to buy something.

BERNARD: I don’t like the sound of this.

JOHN: What was it about?

HELMHOLTZ: Would you like to hear it?

JOHN: Yes, please.

HELMHOLTZ:          Late in the city,

Quiet as a dream,

Shut lips, sleeping faces,

Another stopped machine,

The dumb and littered places,

Where happy crowds have been.

Silence rejoice.

Cry (loud or low)

Speak – but with who’s voice?

Who? I do not know.

He looks at them.

JOHN: Loneliness. It’s about loneliness.

HELMHOLTZ: Top marks.

JOHN: Wait, wait here, I’ll come back…

John rushes out.
From Dawn King’s adaptation of Huxley’s Brave New World

AND for John – the language of self-expression that he has learnt has come from his readings of Shakespeare. 

 

"But some kinds of baseness are nobly undergone." (12.47)

John tries to explain to Lenina that he wants to undergo something horrible to prove himself worthy to her.

 

"The murkiest den, the most opportune place, the strongest suggestion / our worser genius can, shall never melt mine honour into lust. Never, never!"(13.71)


These lines (except for the "Never, never!" which is John's own embellishment) are Ferdinand's response to Prospero's request that his daughter Miranda remain a virgin until her wedding night.

 

"Nay, but to live / In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, / Stew's in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty." (8.39)

from Hamlet, John is using these lines to describe his feelings about his own mother, Linda.

And from King Lear:-

"The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to't with a more riotous appetite. Down from the waist they are Centaurs, though women all above. But to the girdle do the gods inherit. Beneath is all the fiend's. There's hell, there's darkness, there is the sulphurous pit, burning scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie, pain, pain! Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination."(13.97)

John delivers these scathing lines while Lenina is in the bathroom naked, having just been turned down for sex.

 

MUCH TO EXPLORE AND THINK ABOUT IN HUXLEY’S BRAVE NEW WORLD REGARDING THE USE OF LANGUAGE
 

Brave New World premieres at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 4 to 26 September 2015. It then tours to Edinburgh, Blackpool, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Bradford where it concludes on 5 December.