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All of the Alpha characters I can think of--Bernard, Helmholtz, Mustapha Mond, the DHC, Henry Foster--are men. And none of the female characters seem to be Alphas. Lenina is probably a Beta. Linda is stated to be a Beta-Minus. Fanny Crowne is probably also a Beta or Beta-Minus since she works in the Fertilizing Room and it seems like all the technicians at the Hatchery are Betas (Linda worked in the Bottling Room).

There's some minor circumstantial evidence against the existence of female Alphas; at the beginning of Chapter 4 it says "The lift was crowded with men from the Alpha Changing Rooms", as if the Alpha Changing Rooms are all-male. But the door Lenina opens towards the start of Chapter 3 just says "Girls' Dressing-Room", not "Beta Girls' Dressing-Room". I'm not entirely convinced by this, though.

Do we know if female Alphas exist? Can we infer their existence or non-existence from evidence in the book?

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  • 1
    I don't have the book on hand to check, but IIRC one stated purpose of the "solidarity" thing is to make those participating be as "one", and I have a hard time believing Alphas wanting to be "one" with non-Alphas.
    – muru
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 6:38
  • 3
    @muru That makes sense. By that same logic, I thought the enforced solidarity community sing we see Bernard go to was Alphas-only. There are women there, so those would be female Alphas. When I read that scene again, though, it didn't look like it actually said that, so those women could have been Betas. It's interesting that there seems to be plenty of fraternization between Alphas and Betas, but none with the lower castes that we see.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 6:46
  • The lack of female Alpha characters in the novel may be a way to portray sexism in the society. Much has been written about this by critics: example one, example two.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 10:48
  • @Randal'Thor Thanks for the links. That was something I was trying to get at with this question--when I first started reading the book, I thought the World State would value caste above things like race or sex. After all, they specifically engineer castes to have certain traits. Then I started to notice how Mad Men-esque the Hatchery is: the male Alphas have all the positions of prestige and use the women, who are all Betas and work as technicians and assistants, as a free pool of sexual partners. It also felt like every black person we hear about is an Epsilon or Delta.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:16
  • I have to say I think both of the writers you linked sell Huxley a bit short, though. There are some small hints that Lenina isn't as well conditioned as we think, that she might be feeling a version of the same discontent that Bernard is.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:16

1 Answer 1

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I don't think there is any explicit statement in the book to prove one way or another, but I do think there are several pieces of evidence which can indicate the possibility of female Alphas.

When Bernard visits the Director prior to taking Lenina to New Mexico, the Director tells the tale of his own trip to New Mexico:

"I had the same idea as you," the Director was saying. "Wanted to have a look at the savages. Got a permit for New Mexico and went there for my summer holiday. With the girl I was having at the moment. She was a Beta-Minus, and I think" (he shut his eyes), "I think she had yellow hair. Anyhow she was pneumatic, particularly pneumatic; I remember that.

If females could not be Alphas, then her designation as a Beta is less important, almost irrelevant. It is highly unlikely that an Alpha would be going out with a woman from one of the lower castes, so then by definition any woman he went with would be a Beta. If, however, there are female Alphas, it is much more significant because he is thus designating her as the lowest level woman he could go out with.

On one of Lenina's outings with Henry we have:

But Henry's tone was almost, for a moment, melancholy. "Do you know what that switchback was?" he said. "It was some human being finally and definitely disappearing. Going up in a squirt of hot gas. It would be curious to know who it was — a man or a woman, an Alpha or an Epsilon...."

The phrasing here makes it sound like it could be anyone — a man or a woman and an Alpha or an Epsilon, which would include the possibility of a female Alpha.

In the Savage's conversation with the Controller they talk about an all-Alpha society:

"I was wondering," said the Savage, "why you had them at all-seeing that you can get whatever you want out of those bottles. Why don't you make everybody an Alpha Double Plus while you're about it?"

Mustapha Mond laughed. "Because we have no wish to have our throats cut," he answered. "We believe in happiness and stability. A society of Alphas couldn't fail to be unstable and miserable. Imagine a factory staffed by Alphas-that is to say by separate and unrelated individuals of good heredity and conditioned so as to be capable (within limits) of making a free choice and assuming responsibilities. Imagine it!" he repeated.

And shortly thereafter:

Mustapha Mond smiled. "Well, you can call it an experiment in rebottling if you like. It began in A.F. 473. The Controllers had the island of Cyprus cleared of all its existing inhabitants and re-colonized with a specially prepared batch of twenty-two thousand Alphas.

It seems likely that a complete society would include both males and females; thus, if the society was entirely Alpha there would have to be Alpha females.

When the Controller talks about sending Bernard and Hemholtz to an island, we have the following:

One would think he was going to have his throat cut," said the Controller, as the door closed. "Whereas, if he had the smallest sense, he'd understand that his punishment is really a reward. He's being sent to an island. That's to say, he's being sent to a place where he'll meet the most interesting set of men and women to be found anywhere in the world. All the people who, for one reason or another, have got too self-consciously individual to fit into community-life. All the people who aren't satisfied with orthodoxy, who've got independent ideas of their own. Every one, in a word, who's any one. I almost envy you, Mr. Watson."

These people are the ones who are truly able to think for themselves, which would likely be Alphas. And they are described as "men and women", which would mean that there are female Alphas.

In a conversation between Lenina and Henry we have:

"I'm glad I'm not an Epsilon," said Lenina, with conviction.

"And if you were an Epsilon," said Henry, "your conditioning would have made you no less thankful that you weren't a Beta or an Alpha."

This seems to grant the possibility that Lenina, a female, could in theory be an Alpha.

Lastly, right in the beginning of the book, we are shown that the embryos are separated by caste as soon as they are fertilized:

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.

But it isn't until later in the tour where they are shown the part of the process where the embryo's sex is discovered:

Told them of the test for sex carried out in the neighborhood of Metre 200.

This would indicate that the embryo's sex would not yet be known when separated by caste, which should mean that it is possible for there to be female Alphas.

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