The novel opens in the World State city of London in AF (After Ford) 632 (AD 2540 in the Gregorian calendar), where citizens are engineered through artificial wombs and childhood indoctrination programmes into predetermined classes (or castes) based on intelligence and labour. Lenina Crowne, a hatchery worker, is popular and sexually desirable, but Bernard Marx, a psychologist, is not. He is shorter in stature than the average member of his high caste, which gives him an inferiority complex. His work with sleep-learning allows him to understand, and disapprove of, his society's methods of keeping its citizens peaceful, which includes their constant consumption of a soothing, happiness-producing drug called soma. Courting disaster, Bernard is vocal and arrogant about his criticisms, and his boss contemplates exiling him to Iceland because of his nonconformity. His only friend is Helmholtz Watson, a gifted writer who finds it difficult to use his talents creatively in their pain-free society.