Introduction: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – Book Review
Chief Bottler, Director of hatcheries and Conditioning, Director of Predestination, Deputy Assistant Fertilizer-General, Professor of Feelies in the College of Emotional Engineering, Dean of the Westminster Community Singery, Supervisor of Bokanovskification, State Conditioning Centre – I invite you into the world of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
What is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley About?
In this brave new world, babies are essentially manufactured on an assembly line, and while they sleep at nights, they are preprogrammed so that they will grow into people who always accept the status quo, never thinking for themselves, nor questioning things. If someone has a stressful day, to cope, they take a soma pill to dull their senses. Those in charge approve of using Pavlov conditioning on 8-month old babies to prevent them from liking books and flowers. And children are brought up in state conditioning centres.
Is this a world that you would like to inhabit?
What makes a writer think of ideas such as the ones in Brave New World? To understand a work of literature, it helps to understand the context behind the art. What experience caused the author to write the book? In this instance, Aldous Huxley visited the United States in 1926, and he was disturbed by the rise of capitalism and Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line, which was now common in factories. Huxley believed that the conditions under which factory workers were working was dehumanizing. His visit to the US was after World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, but before Stalinism and Nazism took hold.
Brave New World is satirical, set in London in the seventh century AF (After Ford), 632 years after the birth of American Industrialist Henry Ford (Profile of Henry Ford), who invented the Model T car. Brave New World reminded me of George Orwell’s 1984, I felt a sense of hopelessness after finishing the book, and it is a scary place to be as governments increasingly try to control people. Dystopia or Utopia does not work and we have to find a common ground.
“‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.’”
“‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’”
“‘All right then,’ said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’”
“‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’”
This is one of the profound and engaging dialogues in Brave New World, and I cannot help but wonder what you would be prepared to give up for the right of freedom.
In the story, the World State’s Motto is Community, Identity and Stability and there are five classes of people, the intellectual classes, the Alphas and Betas, and the lesser classes – Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. In manufacturing babies they practice ethnic cleansing because social class is predetermined. The elderly are not appreciated for their wisdom because they are considered not to be beautiful. People are in a state of perpetual happiness, where their senses are dulled because of drugs, they play sports, and there is no commitment where sex is concerned because in the community it is recreational. The community is one where monogamy does not exist, and it is frowned upon. And everyone looks svelte – no bad hair day for you!
Bernard Marx is considered an outsider because he is very different from others in the State, and he feels displaced. He takes a trip outside the State with Lenina Crowne and meets John, who was raised as a “savage”. John’s mother, Linda, who once lived in the World State, had John the normal way – though procreation – and not via Eugenics, which is the way of the State. When people do not conform to the State’s way, they are banished to an island, where normal people like us live. Bernard returns to the State with John and Linda. Helmholtz Watson is also a rebel, exercising his rebelliousness by writing forbidden poems.
John is seen as a novelty, because he is different, and he challenges the status quo which makes people uncomfortable. Bernard is weak, cowardly and doesn’t know how to challenge authority, even though he does not fit in or agree with the way things are – he is a product of his upbringing. Bernard changes by encountering John, but not enough for him to evolve as a person. Helmholtz and John create a minor rebellion by disrupting the distribution of soma. In the end John nor Helmholtz has not made much of a difference, and they leave the community separately.
Helmholtz and Bernard go to the same island. After reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, I feel let down, and I feel a sense of hopelessness, and I wonder if the brave new world is where today’s society is heading. But I also think that it is good for us to read books such as Brave New World because they make us anxious, and force us to think about the environment in which we live, and perhaps some of us will stand up and oppose indignities and injustices.
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