Published on July 3rd, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Long before Orwell’s 1984 there was Brave New World, a work of dystopic fiction that was written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley.
As a work of speculative fiction it depicts a totalitarian world of the future whose oppression is not based on violent restriction, but instead chooses to nurture its inhabitants to make them happy with their slavery.
Several hundred years in the future, the world has embraced widespread psychological conditioning and reproducing humans using their chemical components.
The world is a utopia, there is no poverty and everyone is happy.
The entire beginning part of the book is dedicated to the complex world in which Brave New World is based.
The government (the World State) has large people farms called Hatcheries, which using machinery to fertilise ovaries externally means that there hasn’t been a real human birth in years. This is done to regulate the population, which is capped at two billion and to also keep the citizens as single minded as possible. After the foetus’ have been decanted they are then conditioned into their lives in society.
There are 5 castes of citizen, the three lower ones are interfered with in their… creative process? Which means that they are essentially substandard humans that are made for their job roles. The higher castes are not given anything extra and are higher functioning.
Each caste’s conditioning makes its members believe their group is superior and they enjoy being what they are. The conditioning is done mostly by Hypnopaedia, where they play recordings to the children when they are asleep in order to imprint thoughts and teachings on them. The recordings are usually little ditties and rhyming phrases and older citizens can be heard reciting them on occasion.
Religion and art are all but wiped out, taking its place is Ford, who is revered almost as a god for creating the first assembly line, feelies, which are essentially porn films with sexual inhibitors in the theatre and orgy porgies, which are basically as they sound.
The society is based on controlling people by making them enjoy their lives and living to the excess, even to the extent that they are wasteful, just to keep the economy and need for new things going.
The main character of the book doesn’t appear until quite late, the novel requires a lot of setting up for the framework of the story. Before we meet the protagonist we firstly see the world from the eyes of some of the inhabitants, whose lives revolve around sleeping with each other (with a contraceptive belt being worn) and buying things. Lenina is the focus for the beginning, we see that she is a fairly normal person in the world of the novel, however is still able to infringe upon some taboos such as not having many sexual partners and involving herself in a fairly abnormal man of a higher caste.
She wishes to go to the Reservation in New Mexico where there are still some “savages” living outside of their society.
After reaching the reservation the rest of the novel rests on John the savage. He is the illegitimate son of a higher official and a mistress that was born because the mother became lost on a trip to the Savage Reservation and was unable to return back to “civilised society”. This made very little sense as surely the reservation has quite a number of visitors and she would have been found at SOME point during the 20 odd years she seemed to be there bringing up her child John amongst the savages.
John is found by Lenina and a male companion called Bernard and is brought back with them as part of a scam to threaten the boy’s father in order to get him to halt negative proceedings on Bernard.
John was brought up with savage ideals and only some knowledge of the World State’s beliefs. The novel covers the horror of the “Brave New World” to John.
The title of the book is based on Miranda’s speech after seeing sailors land on the island in The Tempest. Aldous Huxley was a political satirist in several notable magazines such as Vanity Fair and the book reflects his dark humour in that respect. The style of the novel is third-person and is necessary as it flicks back and forth between different characters and also different scenarios.
Huxley was clearly afraid that society would become docile to the point of submission, World War II hadn’t happened and the world was becoming intoxicated with capitalist economy. The novel seems to encapsulate fears of this mixed with the rule of communism. It seems an odd mix, but it blends well in execution.
The novel has been banned several times in many countries since its publication, even now schools are still having to take it off reading lists as parents deem it too subversive.
The book heavily endorses art and free-thinking as part of its philosophy and for the most part much of the opposing values in the World State reflect that. However, regardless of how free love still seems unusual today, I think that the implied aversion to it is somewhat counter to the “free-thinking” message, especially as our monogamist habits come from social pressure and residual religious teachings, something he was clearly rallying against. In this sense the book feels a little dated and even somewhat close-minded.
However, the book remains uncannily modern in all other aspects. I was shocked to discover that this was not only older by 1984 which was published in 1955 but it also predates The Fountainhead and WWII. The language doesn’t betray its era, the science involved with the fertilisation process was sound and you could easily be fooled into believing a well learned man of science from today wrote it. I even noticed the style in which he kept snapping to and fro in a scene in the first chapter felt very cinematic and fast-paced. The book could easily last another hundred years and fool people.
Chilling and thought-provoking, I’ll never pass another week without doubts on my own thoughts and decisions again.
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