Brave New World by Aldous Huxley details a world without emotion, critical thinking, and sin, instead favoring comfort, convenience, and pleasure. This dystopian novel prompts the reader to imagine a world that genetically modifies its inhabits to fit their place in society. There is a clear sense of social division in this novel, but uniquely, the people are actually altered to fit into their role, through their embryos, instead of just being born into a class. Humans no longer have children in this novel, instead, the sexual organs are extracted, and embryos are genetically manufactured. Because of this, humans no longer procreate amongst themselves, causing the government to have complete control over the population.
If you can also imagine a world where the Freudian ideology became the new social code, then Brave New World’s setting would be it. The inhabits of the novel do not have families, nor do they have love. They do not have a mother, because women do not give birth in the novel. It is quite the opposite, in fact, the word “mother” is actually viewed as an expletive and provokes disgust to the listeners. Because of the loss of family and religion, sexual acts become a leisure activity, instead of something sacred. Pleasure is actually used as a means to control the population in this world. It is so normalized, that it is weird if you are not doing so. Also, it is intended to keep the population occupied so that they do not begin to question things. Another act of pleasure in this novel is the drug soma. Soma is reminiscent of a hallucinogen and is the cure all for all emotion in this novel. The people are so removed from handling their own upsetting thoughts or feelings that when they start to feel unhappy in the slightest, they just take the drug to take a “vacation” from life. Combined with sleep conditioning and soma, the occupants of Brave New World do not have any of their own ideologies or any concerns for their current state, instead, they have been conditioned to love being the way they are and the world they are in. From a very young age, the classical conditioning and sleep conditioning began. While the children slept, phrases would be repeated over a speaker until the children actually adopted the phrases as their own.
Another key factor in this novel is mass consumerism and industrialism. Henry Ford, the inventor of the Model T, is considered a god in the novel. They have been bred to continue catering to the ideology that you always buy new and throw out your old belongings. It is a rather odd thought to consider Henry Ford a godlike figure, but hey, it prompts the question of faith and religion. As humans, are we innately drawn to observing some sort of higher power?
If this novel is good for anything, it is that it really causes the reader to think “what if?” It is almost impossible to imagine living in the world of Brave New World and yet, while reading the novel, there are some very real connections to our contemporary world. Mass consumerism, convenience to the point of destruction, isolation from the natural world, loss of individuality, and passiveness are all relevant things in the modern world. While reading this novel, it is a little scary to think how we are slowly moving into a dystopian on our own. You also leave wondering the novel if there is something as too comfortable or too convenient? The novel points to yes, but that is up to your own interpretation.
It wouldn’t be a dystopian novel without resistance to the world, and that is where Bernard Marx and John the Savage come into play. My favorite character in the novel was John the Savage for many reasons. For one, he stays consistent throughout the entire novel. He is a character who is truly wishing for more, no matter where he is—the civilized world or the savage world. He seems to just be out of place, never able to find what he is craving. He doesn’t just try to fit in though, which is what makes him different from the main protagonist, Bernard. Bernard is only left wanting more, because he never got the opportunity to have what everyone else experiences. He is the outsider in the novel, as he never quite fits in to his role as an Alpha society member. (Yes, there are strict classes in this novel. And yes, of course, they are ranked from Alpha to Epsilon). It is revealed though, that he is just wishy washy overall. John, however, is offered everything and wants none of it. John prefers innate human things like love, romance, and pain in a world where there is none of that to be found. Instead, the closest thing that John comes to finding those things is in Shakespeare himself, as he discovered the collected works when he was younger. (Did I forget to mention that art is outlawed in this world? He is one of the very few who even know what Shakespeare is. What a sad world!)
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I was assigned it to read for my British Novel course, and I am happy that I was introduced to it. These types of dystopian novels cause you to think long and hard about the events that transpire in them. Like what would happen if individuality was erased and “everyone belongs to everyone” was the new normal? We wouldn’t know any better if that is what we were deeply conditioned to believe, but it is scary to consider.
I challenge you to read Brave New World and pick out some contemporary parallels between our worlds. The novel also reinforces how important stability and comfort is to us humans, but at what cost? So that is another great question to consider while reading. I hope this article gave you some things to reflect upon and also inspired you to read this novel for yourself! If you do, I would love to know your thoughts on it.