high school, english

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”

-Mustapha Mond

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)


ABSTRACT- Investigating Millennial Perceptions of 20th Century Literature and Social Attitudes in Online Milieus 

AUTHORS – Jivraj, N 1

AFFILIATIONS – 1 In Crude Terms, Independent

BACKGROUND-  In early 2017, Amazon reported a surge in sales of dystopian fiction novels. These included the likes of Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World*, Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury), and The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood). While many of these 20th Century titles have been typical material for the syllabi of high school literature classes, their resurgence suggests content that is continually relevant in a Trump-era of politics.

OBJECTIVE-  This inquiry aims to gauge millennial perceptions towards 20th century literature online, with the objective of determining the perceived relevance of these titles as of 2017.

METHODS- To evaluate social attitudes towards dystopian fiction, this study utilized the Instagram “poll” tool to collect quantitative data over a 24 hour period commencing November 17th, 2017. One (1) dystopian novel was used as a reference point. Users were asked to vote accordingly: “still relevant” or “out of date”. Respondents were aged 14-35, and of both sexes. User responses were classified and made anonymous for the purpose of this report.

RESULTS-  62% of respondents classified the novel’s content as “still relevant”. 38% of respondents classified the novel’s content as “sexist and racist” (out of date). In total, 54% of respondents were female college graduates, and 46% of respondents were male college graduates. Of 458 polled, only 5.3% responded.

IMPLICATIONS- Low response rates suggest millennials may be uninterested in dystopian literature, books generally, unfamiliar with the chosen title, or conditioned to ignore Instagram polls . There is currently no online millennial consensus. Results indicate discrepancies in social attitudes and perceptions of literature within this age cohort. Further inquiry is recommended.

Submitted November 2017.

*DISCLAIMER- this post may contain plot details from Huxley’s text.

(1) The chosen reference text was Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, published 1932. Set in London in the year AD 2540 (632 A.F.—”After Ford (as in the car make)”—in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that are combined to make a profound change in society. The novel follows the primarily male protagonists as they begin to question the utopian society where they reside, and eventually come into contact with a liberally educated, part-“Savage” man from outside of their society.



For Review:  Definitions, Questions (no solutions)

  1. hierarchy     ˈhʌɪərɑːki/.  noun . a system in which members of an organization or society are ranked according to relative status or authority.

related: Relative. Lottery. Genetics. Colonialism. Relatives. Money. Melanin. Politics. Power. Sex. Consensus. Defined.

Used in a sentence: The hierarchy provides implicit guidelines on how to interact with other people.


  1. morality məˈralɪti. noun. principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.

Related: Relative. Subjective. Church. State. Colonialism. Relatives. Civilization. Lacking. Contentious. Hazy.

Used in a sentence: Morality is the bedrock of any strong society. (right?)


  1. sex sɛks/. noun. (chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse.

Related: Physical. Not with Your Relatives. Entertainment. Love. Skin. Agreement. Power. Desire. Mental. Money. Muscle. Boundaries. Wild. Hazy.

Used in a sentence: Everything is about sex. Except for sex. Sex is about power.


Please circle the correct answer:

  1. Equity is universally important T/F
  2. In a strong society, males and females are equally autonomous T/F
  3. Morality is a deeply personal thing. T/F
  4. Is it okay to judge other people’s morals?  Yes, because there is an objective truth  No, morality is subjective
  5. The name “Mustapha” means “The Chosen One” T/F
  6. Some men are chosen to a specific calling T/F
  7. Those who are “chosen” deserve to have a higher status T/F
  8. Promiscuity is immoral T/F
  9. Reputation is important T/F
  10. Reputation is based on:
  • A. Your position in the hierarchy
  • B. Your morals
  • C. How much sex you have
  • D. All of the above



For the past few days, I’ve been feeling like I’m back in High School. I have a self-imposed curfew. I tutor English. I analyze literary texts “for fun”. I find myself inadvertently flirting over text. Apart from people from my high school era literally coming out of nowhere to revisit things from the past, I feel like I’m socially living in 2012. Where boys (I’ll say boys) think making dirty and/or sexist jokes is a fun pastime. Where most of the girls I know are in serious relationships. Where I buy dark wash denim and wear ballet flats. Where people seem to *live* off of mixed signals and contrived sexual tension. Where I feel like I’m being watched all the time, and should therefore be on my best behaviour. 

Out of a commitment to self, actively fighting against attitudes I don’t believe in has been a priority for me. Where you can try to open a dialogue, try. But with a lack of physically present female support systems, and an incessant backlash, slipping into a hole is easy. Continuing to commit to “doing you” seems less easy. You have to be yourself, yes. But you have to look out for yourself and how you’re perceived, too. 

This is what I believe. What I’ve been conditioned to believe. Pavlovian conditioning pairs a previously neutral stimulus with a biologically potent one. For me, that stimulus for retreating, putting up the “good girl next door” front, is everything high school.

The correct answer for 10 is D- all of the above. I won the genetic lottery, putting me high up in the hierarchy. Somehow, this makes the spotlight feel brighter. I believe in objective good, but you can’t see morals. And regardless of your sexual choices, people assume what sex you’re having if you are within arms distance of anyone of the opposite gender. I could say I’m abstinent, say I sleep with a new guy every week, and it wouldn’t matter. It’s how you seem, and what you represent that matters most.

Does reputation matter? That depends. If you’re in high school- it sure as hell does.






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