Editorial

If Aldous Huxley Were a Mathematician

By Lucy Wu

Volume 2 Issue 6

April 14, 2022

If Aldous Huxley Were a Mathematician

Image provided by High Times

*Note: This article contains minor plot spoilers for Brave New World, the satirical novel by Aldous Huxley. If you would like to preserve your initial reaction to this novel, please refrain from reading this article. During quarter 2, the AP Literature classes, were tasked with reading and analyzing Brave New World, one of the most notable (and existentially terrifying) works of Aldous Huxley. Unlike most dystopian books, the society is not inherently horrifying for its post-apocalyptic citizens or war-torn landscapes, but for their docile complacency and unwavering happiness (for the most part, at least). Certainly, ideas abnormal and even taboo to our modern world including a vehement aversion to literature and maintaining non-nuclear family households were plentiful throughout the novel. But while reading, something else was amiss. The thing that bothered me the most was not the artificial duplication of humans or depriving them of flowers when born. It was not even John’s secretive pursuit of Lenina (which was mildly uncomfortable to say the least). Rather, when introducing the social classes, the basis of the World-State and major source of character tension in the book, Huxley utilized Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons to delineate between the social classes. Alphas are the highest class, followed by the Betas, and continuing until Epsilons, who are the slaves of the society as they are deprived of the most oxygen in the Bokanovsky process (don’t try that at home). Each class has distinguishing characteristics from their cloned appearances to the color uniform they wear, but it is made abundantly clear that being an Alpha is most desirable. Thus, the novel fixates on just a few of the lucid Alpha or Beta men and women of the society. The book piqued my interest because of Huxley’s immaculate attention to detail, unparalleled intention, and hidden meanings peppered throughout the novel. I admired his wittiness like his play on words: instead of “Lord,” the citizens say “Ford” (like the Model T Ford) because technology and automation prevail as their God. Thus, I had anticipated a greater analysis of the classes from Huxley, and not just a quick utilization of Greek alphabet letters. So when he didn’t spend paragraphs and pages rambling on about the ornate class structure, or even scrutinize the viewpoints of each class member closely, I was truthfully, disappointed. For the rest of the novel, this perturbed me: my thoughts ran rampant and my psyche was heightened with unease. I wish I was being hyperbolic (pun definitely intended: get it? hyperbola/hyperbole?) but I’m 100% serious. Ford, the missed potential! What do these symbols really mean? How could these interpretations contribute to the themes present in the overall work? (Sorry, I stole that one from Q3 of the AP Lit exam). Thus, it begged the question: what if Aldous Huxley were a mathematician? But always, permutation matters. In our case, Huxley will still maintain all of his skill as a novelist and philosopher, but his literary choices will be laden with his newfound mathematical skill. peripheral Alphas - Grey Betas - Mulberry Gammas - Green Deltas – Khaki Conveniently enough, in mathematics, there are two forms of the delta symbol:

  1. Delta (with a capital D) is the triangle shape, one that symbolizes change over time

  1. delta (with a lowercase d) is like a snake, and generally symbolizes a tiny quantity

Thus if Huxley were a true mathematician, Deltas would be the instigators for change in the society, as opposed to his fixation on solely Alphas and Betas. He could focus on the plight of the lower classes, Epsilons - Black In my opinion, out of all the social classes, epsilon is perfectly named. In the novel, the epsilons are the bottom of the barrel in society. Trust me when I say you do not want to be an epsilon. They cannot form coherent, independent thoughts, and we repeatedly witness Alphas and Betas mocking them, expressing their gratuity that they were not conditioned to be an epsilon. If that wasn’t enough, they’re even purposely short in stature. But Paul Erdos, the notoriously eccentric mathematician, fondly refers to the small children in his life as epsilons. Thus, epsilons in the novel perfectly match their definition, since they both denote infinitesimal quantities the closest you can approach zero without having absolutely nothing numerically and socially. For the majority of the novel, the classes have minimal intermingling and most do not even talk to each other. But I think Roof deserves a friend, so in terms of proofs, it would have made perfect sense to pair him with a delta, since they are both small forces in an oppressive society. Moreso, -------------------------- As a bonus, I’ll resolve one of our heated debates from class. John, our protagonist in the second half of the novel, is described by Mustapha Mond, the World Controller, as merely an experiment because he enters the World-State as an outsider from the Reservation. This led to the seeds for an analogy; if the society is the overall experiment, is John the independent or dependent variable in the trials that are the different colonies? As a result, John represents Keep in mind, in order to truly quantify the accuracy and magnitude of the effect, there must be a large sample size or n tested. To avoid erroneous conclusions and implications of causation rather than correlation, Mond must repeatedly test John’s presence in nearly identical societies, always checking for confounding variables. Control variable? Control group?? Existential negation In technical writing, we call this proof by contradiction. For instance, (There are many other methods to discuss, but we’d go through the entirety of mathematics before we finished.) I understand my demands are great, given the parameters. After all, Huxley is a philosopher, a constant in his writing, and not a mathematician (but one can dream, can’t they?). And to give credit where credit is due, he certainly gets some things right, such as the epsilons (roof!). However, by happenstance or intention, we may never know. Certainly, I believe peering into the lives of the other caste classes would prove illuminating, but alas, where is the political commentary in that? But my initial question lends itself to asking: what if Huxley were an economist? Or a priest? Or even a genetic engineer? How drastically would his social classes change if so? What does it all mean in the context of the novel? But after exploring the intricacies of mathematical social classes, I think such questions are best not pondered. Instead I suggest, “don’t give a damn, take a gramme” of soma.