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Bernard Marx is somewhat shorter than most (all?) Alphas and perhaps as a sort of joke or maybe people are serious, they suggest that alcohol had been accidentally added to the artificial womb (more precisely, the amniotic fluid) in which he gestated.

Would this not imply that Alphas, at least at birth, are simply normal humans (by today's standards) and the lower castes subnormal? Perhaps the Alphas also benefit from early education, etc.

Or is it shown that besides not adding alcohol, other beneficial things are done to create Alphas while they are gestating?

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I think that Alphas and Betas are unmodified (except for subliminal conditioning), but are sorted by intellectual capability pre-conception. Certainly Deltas and Epsilons are stunted artificially

'Oh, stuff like magnesium salts, and alcohol for keeping the Deltas and Epsilons small and backward, and calcium carbonate for bones, and all that sort of thing.'

Here's where the early stages of the process are outlined

Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical introduction--'the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months' salary'; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the excised ovary alive and actively developing; passed on to a consideration of optimum temperature, salinity, viscosity; referred to the liquor in which the detached and ripened eggs were kept; and, leading his charges to the work tables, actually showed them how this liquor was drawn off from the test-tubes; how it was let out drop by drop on to the specially warmed slides of the microscopes; how the eggs which it contained were inspected for abnormalities, counted and transferred to a porous receptacle; how (and he now took them to watch the operation) this receptacle was immersed in a warm bouillon containing free-swimming spermatozoa--at a minimum concentration of one hundred thousand per cubic centimetre, he insisted; and how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the liquor and its contents re-examined; how, if any of the eggs remained unfertilized, it was again immersed, and, if necessary, yet again; how the fertilized ova went back to the incubators; where the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process.

The Bokanovsky process is cloning.

Another discussion, here

'Reducing the number of revolutions per minute,' Mr. Foster explained. 'The surrogate goes round slower; therefore passes through the lung at longer intervals; therefore gives the embryo less oxygen. Nothing like oxygen-shortage for keeping an embryo below par.' Again he rubbed his hands.

'But why do you want to keep the embryo below par?' asked an ingenuous student.

'Ass!' said the Director, breaking a long silence. 'Hasn't it occurred to you that an Epsilon embryo must have an Epsilon environment as well as an Epsilon heredity?'

It evidently hadn't occurred to him. He was covered with confusion.

'The lower the caste,' said Mr. Foster, 'the shorter the oxygen.' The first organ affected was the brain.

So, an embryo that looks like it will be physically healthy and handsome and very smart gets Alpha conditioning and education, while a physically normal embryo expected to be of normal intelligence gets Beta conditioning.

Poor Bernard Marx is an anomaly - he must have looked like he'd be a handsome Alpha type, and he's a very smart fellow, but something went wrong, making him short and unusual looking. Naturally, people think he looks like someone gave him the Delta treatment (but since the full Delta or Epsilon treatment would have been bad for the brain, that almost certainly didn't happen).

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    What I think is horrifying about BNW is it is not so far from true -- lower classes tend to have higher exposure to toxins and poorer nutrition not to mention fewer educational opportunities. I wonder if Huxley noticed fetal alcohol syndrome (the term did not exist but doctors must have noticed that kids of alcoholics did not do too well).
    – releseabe
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 1:34

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