Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley
Brave New World describes a utopian society set in London in the year 2540 AD. In this society, people are content, happy, and believe everyone else is happy. Natural human reproduction has been replaced by the mass production of children in Hatcheries. Once conceived in vitro, children are assigned to one of five castes, ranging in intelligence from Alphas to Epsilons. They then participate in caste-specific sleep learning and intense behavior modification in Conditioning Centers. This learning works through repetition and continued negative feedback. A hallucinogenic drug put out by the government, called “soma”, pacifies people, and allows them to remain oblivious to reality. Spending time alone is looked down upon. The society is very open sexually, as from a young age sex is a social activity rather than a means of reproduction.
This science fiction novel focuses on the story of Bernard Marx, an unhappy Alpha-Plus man who is short, unconventional, and questions much of the world around him. Bernard, who is very much an outcast, falls in love with Lenina Crowne, an average, Beta-class woman who works at the Hatchery. He takes her to a reservation of savages where they meet a young savage named John. John, who happens to be the son of the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, is brought back to civilization by Bernard. John’s desire for Lenina proves to be futile. Back in society, John is treated like a freak, and retreats to a lighthouse in the countryside where he gardens and attempts to purify himself.
Brave New World is a satire on the current state of the world, and on what we aspire the world to be. The society in Brave New World is described as a utopia, but it is likely that it is an anti-utopia, which is a society that was intended to be utopian, but due to a fatal flaw the original concept has become twisted. The utopia created in Brave New World has a number of characteristics that have the potential to be fatal flaws, or qualities that prevent it from being a true utopia. The society is a static, efficient, totalitarian welfare-state. The World Controllers take care of all the important decisions. Individuality is minimized, there is no creativity, and there is a sense of false happiness fostered by the “soma”. Society is bound by castes, it is loveless, and anthropocentric, meaning it treats humans as the most important species. Brave New World demonstrates that in creating this utopia, love, happiness, diversity, and creativity were all sacrificed for the sake of efficiency.
I enjoyed reading this novel and found it fascinating to consider the implications of this utopian society and the way in which it was designed in order to mechanize and simplify as much of life as possible. There is a good amount of satire and references, which were interesting to explore, For example, the names of many of the characters are drawn from history. Bernard Marx is named for the playwright George Bernard Shaw and Karl Marx, a German philosopher and author of The Communist Manifesto.
Why is this book “dangerous?”:
Brave New World, which was written in 1932, is a controversial book that has been banned on numerous occasions. Part of the reason it has been so controversial it the fact that we believe in the enormous potential of technology to help us, but in this novel, Huxley shows its dangers.
It was banned in a school in Montana (1980) because it made promiscuous sex “look like fun” and at another school in Oklahoma ( 1988 ) because of “the book’s language and moral content.” In a school district in California (1993), it was challenged because parents thought that the sexual behavior in the book directly opposed the health curriculum, which taught sexual abstinence until marriage. In a school in Alabama (2000), it was challenged because it described “orgies, self-flogging, suicide” and characters with “contempt for religion, marriage, and family.”