|‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley
‘Brave New World’ is set in the future dystopian society of the World State. This new society at first seems very different to our own: children are no longer born, instead they are grown in laboratories, processed in factory style conveyer belts, where they are conditioned as foetuses to live a certain way. The idea of family and loving relationships has been obliterated and pleasure and instant gratification, particularly in the form of casual sex is encouraged.
In the first chapter we are told of the Social Predestination Room, where the embryos are categorised into one of the five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon. We find out that the lower castes have alcohol injected into them to stunt their growth, and that foetuses are also conditioned to do certain jobs and work in certain climates – e.g. miners are conditioned to dislike light, etc. It therefore becomes apparent to the reader that the government has complete control over its citizens – deciding the course their life will take before they are even born (or decanted).
With science used to produce children in this factory like manner, the idea of parents and family in general has been eradicated. Once children are decanted they are brought up in large state orphanages where their conditioning continues through both conscious and sub-conscious methods –e.g. the hypnopaedic phrases that are played to them as they sleep.
The idea of parents is now seen as shocking and the idea of giving birth or using the term mother or father is seen as vulgar and disgusting. There are no real close bonds between human beings anymore – no parents, no brothers, sisters, etc. Furthermore, there is no such thing as monogamy – staying with one partner and the idea of marriage is again either seen as abhorrent or ridiculous. Indeed, one of the mottos of the World State is, “Everyone belongs to everyone else”. Promiscuity is encouraged as a means of satisfaction and immediate gratification/pleasure. However, love is unheard of and has been eradicated as all forms of real emotion, which could make citizens act erratically or unpredictably, which could make them individuals, are seen as dangerous.
To maintain power and stability the government encourages superficial pleasure through promiscuity and constant social activity – there are various sporting games and community activities all citizens take part in to keep them occupied when not at work. Citizens are also encouraged to take soma (a drug which induces happiness) and to consume as much as possible. They are encouraged to buy new clothes, to take part in lots of leisure activities and ever more complex and complicated machinery is always being developed. We are told: “Nowadays the Controllers won't approve of any new game unless it can be shown that it requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games."
Similarities with our world
1. Consumerism/continuous economic growth
Although the society described in the novel may at first seem very different to our own we can see that there are many similarities. The state strives to achieve stability through continued economic growth – this is exactly what any capitalist society (like the UK) has to do – as soon as the economy stops growing we get a recession and lots of unhappiness – just like we are experiencing now. Consumerism (buying lots of things) is encouraged as a way of ensuring economic growth and in our society is seen as a way of increasing happiness.
2. Attitudes to sex - Promiscuity is now much more acceptable in our society, among both men and women and developments in contraception have made it possible. However, it can be argued that this has led to the demise of loving relationships and an increase in superficial/shallow attitudes to sex. Many people would argue that the fact that casual sex is now often acceptable is an indicator of a massive decline in our morality – which is essentially what Huxley is saying. The society of ‘Brave New World’ is one of lose morals and superficial pleasure, there is no real depth of feeling or emotion and therefore a loss of humanity.
3. Drug use - The use of soma in the novel can also be clearly linked to our society’s use of alcohol and other drugs as a way of achieving short-term happiness and escapism from the realities of life.
In many ways, the society presented in the novel can be seen as an extreme version of our own. Huxley takes the values of our society, and uses the novel to criticize them and show this way of life as ultimately false, superficial and valueless.
Loss of individuality
Huxley also highlights, through the novel, the danger of a society where everyone is the same and people have lost the power of individual thought. In this society both science (conditioning and soma) and pleasure are used to control people. Some castes are too unintelligent to be able to think for themselves. However, even the Alphas are so busy taking part in community activities, having sex and/or taking soma that they have no time to think about the reality of their situations. They will therefore never attempt to overthrow the government.
The power of the state
Through the World State Huxley highlights the danger of a government or state with too much power. The result is brainwashed individuals, who cannot think for themselves. Furthermore, we see that even those who do think about challenging the norm are often scared of the consequences – Lenina decides to date other men because she has been dating Henry Foster too much after Fanny warns her that the Director would disapprove, while Bernard is scared of exile.
The citizens of ‘Brave New World’ have no personal freedom, however they do not care as they are superficially fulfilled. Yet, even if they wanted to speak out, like Bernard, they would soon be exiled or reconditioned – we see that Mustapha Mond once criticised the society because like Bernard he understood how it worked. However he is then forced to choose between exile or becoming a World Controller and using his knowledge to control others.
The novel is therefore very critical of governments with too much power and control over their citizens and of countries where there is no freedom of thought/speech.
The incompatibility of happiness and reality
Another key theme explored is the incompatibility of happiness and truth. Most of the citizens of the World State are happy, but their happiness is superficial, drug induced and brought about by conditioning. Those who can think for themselves: Bernard, Helmholtz and John are all unhappy as they realise the deep flaws of this society.
Bernard and John both long for monogamous relationships which involve something more meaningful than just sex. Helmholtz and John both dislike the fact that everything is given to them so easily: women, money, etc. They both dislike the fact that nothing is a challenge. They never have to work hard for anything, thus they never feel the satisfaction of achieving something – all emotions are superficial. There is no real love, pride, happiness or true fulfilment.
Again, Huxley through this theme is warning us of the dangers of a society where superficial pleasures – like sex, consumerism, drinking, etc., are encouraged as oppose to higher ideals like love, friendship and human endeavour (hardwork and discovery).
The dangers of science
Lastly, the novel highlights how science can be used as both a positive and negative force. Disease has been eradicated in the World State, however science is also used as a means of complete government control. Citizens are conditioned from embryos and soma is used to eradicate negative emotions and prevent civil unrest, meaning the government always maintains power and no-one will ever challenge them. The robotic clones produced in the novel highlight how the power of science can be used irresponsibly and have devastating consequences.
Opening of novel
The light was frozen, dead, a ghost - 1
We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers….or future Directors of Hatcheries. - 10
Everyone belongs to everyone else.
They’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age…they’ve got no wives or children or lovers to feel strongly about – 194
When the individual feels, the community reels -81
People are happy; they get what they want and they never want what they can’t get – 193
They say somebody made a mistake when he was still in the bottle – thought he was a Gamma and put alcohol into his blood surrogate - 39
Lower castes always reminded him painfully of his physical inadequacy – 66
“I’d rather be myself, myself and nasty. Not someone else, however jolly” – pg.77
Bernard refusing to take soma while on a date with Lenina.
I want to know what passion is…I want to feel something strongly – 81
Success went fizzily to Bernard’s head, and in the process completely reconciled him (as any good intoxicant should do) to a world which, up until then, he had found very unsatisfactory. - 136
I had six girls last week - 136– Bernard after he returns from the Savage Reservation with John.
I hadn’t been feeling very keen on promiscuity lately. There are times when one doesn’t. – 36
“Lenina Crowne…Wonderfully pneumatic. I’m surprised you haven’t had her” – 37
‘Talking about her as if she were a bit of meat’. Bernard ground his teeth. ‘Have her here, have here there. Like mutton’. - 39
She was a popular girl and, at one time or another, had spent the night with almost all of them - 49
A gramme is better than a damn.
Lots of men came to see Linda. The boys began to point their fingers at him – 111
The strange words rolled through his mind; rumbled, like talking thunder – 114 – John first reads Shakespeare and is moved by it.
Alone, always alone – 118
If one’s different one’s bound to be lonely – talking to Bernard – 119
O brave new world that has such people in it. Let’s start at once – 121
The savage was reading Romeo and Juliet aloud (for all the time he was seeing himself as Romeo and Lenina as Juliet) with an intense and quivering passion. – 160
I love you more than anything in the world – 168
“Whore, impudent strumpet” – 170 – Uses Othello’s words – used on his wife when he falsely think she has been unfaithful – shows how unjust and false John’s view of Lenina is.
Nothing costs enough here – 211
But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want goodness. I want sin. - 211
The Savage Reservation
The dirt, to start with, the piles of rubbish, the dust, the dogs, the flies. – 94
Nobody’s supposed to belong to more than one person. And if you have people in the ordinary way, the others think you’re wicked - 105
At the sight of the young woman, the Savage started, recoiled, tuned pale - 227
Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east….229