Juan A, May 5, 2010 (view all comments by Juan A)
Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World is essentially a cartoon about society. What this novel shares with Mickey Mouse, Popeye, and Elmer Fud is the constant exaggerations that make kids shows impossible. From the personalities of the characters to the ridiculousness of the plot; every aspect is taken to an extreme. However, this is Huxley’s genius. His purpose in taking the possibilities of science and a totalitarian state to an extreme is to comment on the direction in which society is headed. His book makes one question, just because we can do something should we? If we choose to do so, are the benefits worth the losses? With the advancements made in genetic engineering and the growth of government, these questions are more applicable today than they were in Huxley’s time.
Huxley was greatly influenced by the world around him, the ever-changing early twentieth century, when he wrote his novel. The world was in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, a time that brought machines along with entirely new ways of life. One of the leading figures in this era was Henry Ford and his innovative assembly line. These events and personalities inspired the technology in the novel, but the pessimism toward this technology is directly due to the role that technology played in World War I. The ideas toward sexuality seen in Brave New World are most likely influenced by Sigmund Freud, a pioneer in the ideas of sexuality and psychoanalysis. These events and people inspired, or frightened, Huxley enough for him to write a novel in response to the world he saw around him.
His story takes place six hundred years in the future in a seemingly perfect society that preaches, “Community, Identity, [and] Stability”. In order for this machine of a society to exist, there need to be workers to maintain it. People in this society are made, not born. The mere thought of a family is preposterous because the government has assumed this role, creating and raising children. At the top of the social pyramid rest the alphas, the leaders and most perfect people in society. From there the classes descend down the Greek alphabet all the way to epsilon. Each class getting more stupid and of less importance than the last. The lowest classes are the workers of society and thus mass produced by a budding process that creates ninety six clones at a time. All members of society enjoy a life of pure happiness, partially because they are “conditioned” to do so and if that fails they can turn to the soma. This drug has, “all of the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects”(54). Soma, along with peoples ignorance of the past, their sexual freedom, and the regulation of ideas, is what keeps the world in a constant state of happiness. This deceptively perfect society serves as Huxley’s vision of a mad world absent of traditional morals. One he believed our society is headed toward.
The central idea that Huxley conveys with a Brave New World is the abuse or mishandling of power. In the novel, this power is both scientific knowledge, such as cloning, genetics, and conditioning, and the absolute power of the state. Huxley Uses these ideas as a road to guide the reader to the conclusion that just because we, as a society, have the capabilities to do something, such as genetic engineering, it does not mean that we should act. Doing so may carry consequences that outweigh the benefits, draining us of our humanity. In the novel, society has exchanged free will, art, progress, and even definitive human emotions in exchange for shallow happiness. Mustapha Mond explains this situation when he says, “that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art”(220). Huxley does a great job of getting his point across, but this was attained with sacrifice.
Brave New World lacks character and plot depth and believability. Since his story is more of a commentary on society, the world Huxley created is more of a character than the actual characters of the novel. The characters serve the same purpose that puzzle pieces do; they are individual pieces that bring their own weight to complete the work as a whole. Bernard Marx, Lenina Crowne, and John are of secondary importance to the story. They are shadowed by the world itself and are therefore stripped to archetypical characters with basic, yet extreme, personalities and emotions. The plot seems to have fallen behind the importance of the commentary that the book makes as well. Details, such as John’s ability to maneuver through and adapt to a modern world despite living in a primitive reservation his entire life, are highly unbelievable. These sacrifices are made in order to get to the larger meaning of the work, and Huxley does this very well.
In conclusion, Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World is a great book. He took in what he observed in the world around him and used it as inspirations to create a novel that makes an intelligent commentary on the direction that the world is headed. However, this point was made by sacrificing the depth of the characters and plot within the book.
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Heather H, May 2, 2010 (view all comments by Heather H)
The novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a representation of a future dystopian universe. This universe created shows a civilization that contrasts with the rest of humanity. Through conditioning, the population is controlled by Henry Ford, at time famous for creating the assembly line. When the unconditioned civilization is confronted with the conditioned civilization, conflict arises and the major idea of God versus man is highlighted, along with the theme of blindness and motifs of silence and being alone. Together, these elements create the cynical attitude Huxley has regarding this type of culture.
Author Aldous Huxley wrote during Henry Ford’s creation of the assembly line. This influence drove much of the plot of his book. In the book, Henry Ford was one of the controllers of the World State and was a major figure in the conditioning of humans into castes. Huxley comments on the advance of technology and its possible consequences. Also included in his novel is the idea of blindness the population has toward the consequences the controlled and conditioned civilization has on them. Huxley often has the theme of blindness woven into his novels because of his literal blindness he obtained as a teenager from an eye disease. These two events from his life show up in his novel Brave New World.
The novel Brave New World begins at a conditioning center in London. The teachers perform conditioning experiments that allow them to have control over the people. For example, “Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks—already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked” (22). Conditioning is specific for each caste and the people become so controlled they do not know anything other than their conditioning and their soma drug that keeps them secure in their controlled atmosphere. Characters Bernard and Leninia, who are part of the conditioning center travel to the Savage Reserve. They meet John and his mother Linda who are part of an unconditioned civilization. John is excited to become a part of the new world saying, “O brave new world that has such people in it. Let’s start at once” (139). His excitement soon changes when he finds the new world’s lifestyle and morals conflicting with his own.
John’s realization of the conflicting morals and lifestyle becomes apparent in his relationship with Leninia. Her civilization teaches that loneliness is not an option and that being intimate with multiple lovers is customary. However, this goes against John’s religious lifestyle. “And as though awakened by her cry he caught her by the shoulders and shook her. ‘Whore!’” (195). The event of his mother Linda’s death further made John hate the World State society. As she is dying, a group of children are being conditioned to positively accept death. When his rage gets out of hand and he is brought to Mond, they argue about God versus man’s conditioning of society. After a heated debate, John isolates himself. When he is found, an orgy occurs and John participates. When he wakes up the next morning, his regret is overwhelming and John knows he must make choices.
This novel overall was successful in achieving its goals. Through John’s confrontation with the world state, Huxley conveys the consequences of rapid technological advances. John’s initial excitement diminishes when he sees the extreme lack of control people have over their lives. When arguing with Mustapha Mond, he defiantly says, “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want goodness” (240). This confrontation shows the readers the effect of the possible downfalls of new technology. The blindness the civilization has towards effects of immense control is also highlighted. From the control of creating humans, to conditioning them how to think, to the soma drugs, the civilization is completely confined to what leaders like Ford and Mond want the people to think. Because they are conditioned into their lifestyle, they know nothing else. “They don’t know what it’s like being anything else. We’d mind, of course. But then we’ve been differently conditioned” (74). In essence, their conditioning defines who they are, their beliefs, and their entire lifestyle.
Huxley also uses literary elements to achieve his goals. He uses the major theme of God versus Man as a social commentary concerning technological advance. This idea reoccurs throughout the novel, but is specifically emphasized in the conversation between John and Mond. Mond says, “God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That’s why I have to keep these books locked up in the safe” (234). Mond’s idea of keeping knowledge and God from his civilization is shown through this quote, as well as through the motifs of loneliness and silence. Huxley uses the idea of a person being alone as them possibly gaining knowledge and taking control. Therefore, being alone is looked down upon because “it is natural to believe in God when you’re alone- quite alone, in the night, thinking about death…” (235). In addition, Huxley uses the word “silent” on almost every other page, to portray to the reader an uncomfortable feeling. For example, one description reads, “The unpleasant sound was repeated, twice; there was a silence” (241). The uneasy tone illustrates Huxley’s negative attitude towards this type of civilization. Through Huxley’s elements used, he shows his stance on the civilization created through rapid technological advances.
In conclusion, Huxley’s representation of a dystopian future in Brave New World shows Huxley’s negative opinion and fear to this new type of culture. Through Huxley’s background, the plot of his novel, the themes, and motifs, he shows his attitude of contempt for this type of society. Huxley’s novel effectively presents the consequences to the type of future he believed his generation would inevitably experience.
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by Harper Collins,
Aldous Huxley's tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a "utopian" future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.
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