The novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a compelling tale of future society, which is controlled by a totalitarian government that challenges the very idea human individuality. The book takes place in the period of “AF”, After (Henry) Ford, in London, England after The Nine Years War has revolutionized the way the world is run. In this time period of science and technology, humans are no longer born, but manufactured, given lessons as children through hypnopaedic sleep teachings, categorized into five social castes, and given soma pills that take them on happy mental vacations to relieve them of the stresses of everyday life.
The first of the main characters is Bernard Marx, a lower class Alpha who fails to compare to other Alphas in physical stature. He is rumored to have had alcohol in his blood surrogate, making him physically inferior for his social caste. He does not possess typical views on life and questions traditional views on all aspects of life. While on a trip to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico, Bernard meets a primitive man named John. John is an outcast from the Indian culture he is living with. He and his mother Linda return with Bernard to London to experience this ‘brave new world’. John does not fit well in modern society, having all his worldviews derived Shakespearean plays. John soon becomes quite a spectacle because of civilized people’s curiosity towards savages. Meanwhile Linda is considered hideous because of her physical appearance and her motherhood.
At the other end of the spectrum from Bernard is Helmholtz Watson, a professor at the Emotional Engineering College. Watson is the pride of the Alpha class, having superior physical attributes. However he wishes he could make more of his writing and use his time in more worthwhile ways. He and Bernard Marx form a friendship based on their dissatisfaction with society. The last important character is Lenina Crowe, the average, typical Alpha female. Lenina’s views on sex and soma are model opinions of the World State. She is deeply attracted to John, but merely on a sexual basis, while John wishes for a deeper relationship and eventually rejects her.
The modern world portrayed in this novel really is a sad indication of what our world might become someday based on our devotion to science and technology. Even though many scenes in the book can be quite shocking, it is not that far out. The World Controllers (government body) often resemble ideas of communism, the German culture in the years of Adolph Hitler, and the feudal period of the Middle Ages. The communism is supported by such hypnopaedic lessons as “Everyone works for everyone else”. Plus it is no coincidence that Bernard Marx’s character is modeled after Karl Marx, one of the founding fathers of communism. The process by which imperfect embryos are discarded in the cause of manufacturing perfect ones is really an alternate form of Hitler’s genocide. The five social castes are similar to the Feudal Age hierarchy, except that instead of nobles, clergy, and peasants, social classes are represented by Greek letters.
The new methods that are used to control the world populations go to rather sad extremes in order to maintain control and keep everyone happy. One of the most popular techniques is hypnopaedia. Through this process people are conditioned from infancy into late teenage years to accept their social class and deal with many other aspects of life. While giving students a tour of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in London, the DHC (Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning) explains the brainwashing procedure he likes to call conditioning. He shows the students an occasion in which Delta infants are electrically shocked while looking at flowers and pretty picture books. The goal is to mold their instincts to associate these images with terror and pain. Other lessons in caste awareness teach the kids to identify the classes by the color they wear and their function in society.
Another tool the World Controllers use to manage the planet is the limitation of books and science. Since these things stir emotion, and emotion can lead to instability, they are withheld from the people. Instead the World Controllers institute shows called feelies to provide a source of entertainment. Similar to movies, feelies give the people a source of artificial happiness. After John and Lenina attend a feely together, Lenina emerges from the show bubbling with excitement and joy. On the other hand John is rather disappointed, describing the show as horrible and ignoble.
The people have been censored from all knowledge deemed to old or too hard for them to understand. Near the end of the book World Controller Mustafa Mond discusses with John the type of books the people are allowed to read. John is shocked that the beauty and truth of Shakespeare and Othello’s writing is forbidden to the people. Furthermore the identity of God has also been removed from the information given to the citizens. Instead of God people follow Ford. Since the book was first written in 1932, the author chooses Henry Ford to be the new world symbol for the AF years. Mustafa Mond explains how God has not changed, but the people do. This therefore requires a new supreme being for the people to follow.
Brave New World is a compelling story of what the world may someday become because of our desire for science and technology. Some consider it a warning, while to others it is only science fiction. It makes one wonder if the future of our world will ever go to such extremes to ensure happiness. Abolishing our individuality to conform to society? Ridding ourselves of all past famous literature? Taking antidepressant pills everyday to keep ourselves content? Anything is possible for the future, but only time will tell.
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