Chapters 7–12

In the futuristic World State, the genetically altered citizens are happy and free of pain—but they cannot exercise free will. Learn these words from Huxley's influential dystopian novel, first published in 1932.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. precipitous
    extremely steep
    The channel wound between precipitous banks, and slanting from one wall to the other across the valley ran a streak of green—the river and its fields.
  2. reciprocate
    act, feel, or give mutually or in return
    Her feeling was evidently reciprocated; the very back of the man, as he walked along before them, was hostile, sullenly contemptuous.
  3. indefatigable
    showing sustained enthusiasm with unflagging vitality
    Suddenly it was as though the whole air had come alive and were pulsing, pulsing with the indefatigable movement of blood.
  4. inaudible
    impossible to hear; imperceptible by the ear
    Sometimes the pulsing of the drums was all but inaudible, at others they seemed to be beating only just round the corner.
  5. incredulity
    doubt about the truth of something
    “But how can they live like this?” she broke out in a voice of indignant incredulity.
  6. obsidian
    glass formed by the cooling of lava without crystallization
    His face was profoundly wrinkled and black, like a mask of obsidian.
  7. equilibrium
    a stable situation in which forces cancel one another
    We preserve them from diseases. We keep their internal secretions artificially balanced at a youthful equilibrium.
  8. unorthodox
    breaking with convention or tradition
    Ashamed, now that the effects of the soma had worn off, of the weakness he had displayed that morning in the hotel, he went out of his way to show himself strong and unorthodox.
  9. indignation
    a feeling of righteous anger
    “Bernard! How can you?” the passage of an old woman with ophthalmia and a disease of the skin distracted her from her indignation.
  10. synthetic
    not of natural origin; prepared or made artificially
    It reminded her reassuringly of the synthetic noises made at Solidarity Services and Ford’s Day celebrations.
  11. innocuous
    not injurious to physical or mental health
    But a little later it was reminding her a good deal less of that innocuous function.
  12. multitudinous
    too numerous to be counted
    They could have had twice as much blood from me. The multitudinous seas incarnadine.
  13. aseptic
    free of pathological microorganisms
    I remember how it used to upset me, all that dirt, and nothing being aseptic.
  14. squeamish
    excessively fastidious and easily disgusted
    His conditioning had made him not so much pitiful as profoundly squeamish.
  15. blithe
    carefree and happy and lighthearted
    Blithe was the singing of the young girls over their test tubes, the Predestinators whistled as they worked, and in the Decanting Room what glorious jokes were cracked above the empty bottles!
  16. heinous
    extremely wicked, deeply criminal
    Consider the matter dispassionately, Mr. Foster, and you will see that no offence is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behavior.
  17. heretical
    departing from accepted beliefs or standards
    By his heretical views on sport and soma, by the scandalous unorthodoxy of his sex life, by his refusal to obey the teachings of Our Ford and behave out of office hours, ‘even as a little infant,’ ” (here the Director made the sign of the T), “he has proved himself an enemy of Society, a subverter, ladies and gentlemen, of all Order and Stability, a conspirator against Civilization itself.
  18. ignominy
    a state of dishonor
    For this reason I propose to dismiss him, to dismiss him with ignominy from the post he has held in this Centre
  19. petrify
    cause to become stunned or immobile, as with fear or awe
    She stood looking at him, her head on one side, still smiling, but with a smile that became progressively, in face of the Director’s expression of petrified disgust, less and less self-confident, that wavered and finally went out.
  20. impropriety
    the condition of being unsuitable or offensive
    The word (for “father” was not so much obscene as—with its connotation of something at one remove from the loathsomeness and moral obliquity of child-bearing—merely gross, a scatological rather than a pornographic impropriety); the comically smutty word relieved what had become a quite intolerable tension.
  21. rejuvenate
    return to life; get or give new life or energy
    No more breathing. Finished. And a good thing too. If we could rejuvenate, of course it would be different. But we can’t.
  22. carping
    persistent petty and unjustified criticism
    Before those who now, for the sake of the Savage, paid their court to him, Bernard would parade a carping unorthodoxy.
  23. intoxicated
    stupefied or excited by a chemical substance
    Intoxicated, he was behaving as though, at the very least, he were a visiting World Controller.
  24. aquiline
    curved down like an eagle's beak
    The fifty-six four-spindle chucking and turning machines were being manipulated by fifty-six aquiline and ginger Gammas.
  25. provost
    a high-ranking university administrator
    Dr. Gaffney, the Provost, and Miss Keate, the Head Mistress, received them as they stepped out of the plane.
  26. prostrate
    lie face downward, as in submission
    A click; the room was darkened; and suddenly, on the screen above the Master’s head, there were the Penitentes of Acoma prostrating themselves before Our Lady, and wailing as John had heard them wail, confessing their sins before Jesus on the Cross, before the eagle image of Pookong.
  27. stature
    the height of a standing person
    Crowds of lower-caste workers were queued up in front of the monorail station—seven or eight hundred Gamma, Delta and Epsilon men and women, with not more than a dozen faces and statures between them.
  28. masticate
    bite and grind with the teeth
    “The day’s soma ration,” Bernard answered rather indistinctly; for he was masticating a piece of Benito Hoover’s chewing-gum.
  29. discord
    a harsh mixture of sounds
    The secret organ was playing a delightfully refreshing Herbal Capriccio—rippling arpeggios of thyme and lavender, of rosemary, basil, myrtle, tarragon; a series of daring modulations through the spice keys into ambergris; and a slow return through sandalwood, camphor, cedar and new-mown hay (with occasional subtle touches of discord—a whiff of kidney pudding, the faintest suspicion of pig’s dung) back to the simple aromatics with which the piece began.
  30. unwonted
    out of the ordinary
    Pale, her blue eyes clouded with an unwonted melancholy, she sat in a corner, cut off from those who surrounded her by an emotion which they did not share.
  31. incoherent
    unable to express yourself clearly or fluently
    Pale, distraught, abject and agitated, he moved among his guests stammering incoherent apologies, assuring them that next time the Savage would certainly be there, begging them to sit down and take a carotene sandwich, a slice of vitamin A pate, a glass of champagne-surrogate.
  32. memento
    a reminder of past events
    And she had shown Bernard the little golden zipper-fastening in the form of a T which the Arch-Songster had given her as a memento of the weekend she had spent at Lambeth.
  33. dignitary
    an important or influential person
    “I’d so much hoped . . .” he stammeringly repeated, looking up at the great dignitary with pleading and distracted eyes.
  34. subversive
    in opposition to an established system or government
    “The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published.”
  35. discomfit
    cause to lose one's composure
    When, discomfited, he came and asked once more for the friendship which, in his prosperity, he had not thought it worth his while to preserve.
  36. magnanimity
    nobility and generosity of spirit
    Touched, Bernard felt himself at the same time humiliated by this magnanimity—a magnanimity the more extraordinary and therefore the more humiliating in that it owed nothing to soma and everything to Helmholtz’s character.
  37. estrangement
    separation resulting from hostility
    At their first meeting after the estrangement, Bernard poured out the tale of his miseries and accepted consolation.
  38. latent
    potentially existing but not presently evident or realized
    As though I were beginning to be able to use that power I feel I’ve got inside me—that extra, latent power.
  39. harbinger
    something indicating the approach of something or someone
    At “sole Arabian tree” he started; at “thou shrieking harbinger” he smiled with sudden pleasure; at “every fowl of tyrant wing” the blood rushed up into his cheeks
  40. mollify
    cause to be more favorably inclined
    “And yet,” said Helmholtz when, having recovered breath enough to apologize, he had mollified the Savage into listening to his explanations, “I know quite well that one needs ridiculous, mad situations like that
Created on February 9, 2015 (updated September 25, 2019)

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