On a superficial level Brave New World is the portrait of a perfect society. The citizens of this Utopia live in a society that is free of depression and most of the social-economic problems that trouble the world today. All aspects of life are controlled for the people of this society: population numbers, social class, and intellectual ability. History is controlled and rewritten to suit the needs of the state. All this is done in the name of social stability. When one looks beneath the surface of this ‘perfect’ society it becomes evident that it is nothing of the sort.
Eugenics, social conditioning, and anti-depressant drugs have solved many of the problems faced by many modern societies; poverty, class tensions and overpopulation; but at the costs of individuality and with that their humanity. The citizens of ‘brave new world’; are engineered to suite the needs of the state. Individual expression is impossible because everyone is conditioned to think alike. Brave New World is a book about a future that seems more viable and less brave with each passing day as our values become more materialistic and as our faith in God dwindles slowly to be replaced by technology.
Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World to increase our awareness of this frightening future we seem to be progressing towards so we can prevent it from happening. In the futuristic society of the novel, God has been replaced by science and technology as a source substance and meaning in life. As a consequence the words ‘Christ’; and ‘God’; are replaced with ‘Ford. ‘; This is done because Huxley believed that the shift in emphasis from God to technology occurred, to a large extent, with Henry Ford’s introduction of the Model-T. Instead of using the Christian calendar this date is used as the opening date of a new era; the date is After Ford (A. F. ) 632.
This shift in importance is symbolized by substituting the Christian Cross with the Ford T. 2 The motto of the new World State that now controls the world is ‘Community, Stability, Identity. ‘; This motto emphasizes the importance of the society over the individual. Community emphasizes the importance of the individual as a contributor to society. Identity is used to refer to the various castes which divide the society, their various tasks and their class distinguishing uniforms.
Stability is the main goal of the World State. The World state was founded on the principles of controlled eugenics and social conditioning, the elimination of the family, and the belief that homogeneity of thought and behavior all lead to a stable society. The novel opens with a tour of a factory where the unborn citizens of ‘brave new world’; are being created. They are not born viviparously but in an assembly line resembling the kind that Ford first invented to produce cars. A process called Bokanovsky ‘budding,’; is used to produce as many as ninety-six children from a single sperm and ovum.
The diversity of social functions within a society is dealt with by the creation of five different classes – Alpha, Beta and so on. There is no friction between the classes however, like in modern society, because they are conditioned through sleep teaching to grow up thinking that their genetic inheritance and social positions are ideal. Those in the upper levels of the intellectual strata do not resent their inferiors who they give orders to and those who observe others in a superior position pity their superiors because they carry the encumbrance of responsibility that their position frees them from.
The goal of all conditioning is, as the Director of Hatcheries – who guides the reader through the factory – puts it in the first chapter is to make ‘people like their unescapable social destiny. ‘;3 In order to uphold a state of social stability various methods of social control are used. After birth each person goes through a process of ‘conditioning’; that makes them eagerly seek the pleasures of sex and sport and fearfully avoid non-social activities that isolate people from each other. Tastes for beauty are conditioned out of existence.
A taste for books are conditioned out the people of lower castes because they don’t have any practical use in their lives. This is done using a process to a similar experiment by Pavlov, who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell ringing instead of the physical presence of food. For example, Deltas are made to fear books giving them electric shocks and sounding alarms every time they touch books. Children learn to fear activities that have no function to their position in the planned state.
No citizen of ‘brave new world’; is able to express opinions or judgments of their own since it is impossible; for the uniformity that exists on the assembly line where each fetus passes exists throughout the life cycle. A child’s entire mind is shaped by the state; their IQ, education, morals and class awareness. This is done through a process called hypnodaedia; where lessons are repeated several times while a child sleeps throughout the course of their childhood. The lessons that each child receives in their sleep form the mind of the adult that they become.
Citizens of Brave New World are extremely hedonistic, for their sole purpose in life is to pursue activities that provide instant gratification. ‘Feelies’; are a common form of entertainment for citizens of all intellectual strata. They are similar to today’s action-adventure flicks in the way that action takes a front seat to plot and character development; the only difference is that they involve all the senses. Casual sex is common-place and is promoted. Commitment is a non-issue because ‘everyone belongs to everyone else. ‘;4 Monogamy is considered sinful.
Normal’; children are expected to participate in erotic play. In the third chapter a boy in one of the conditioning nurseries was taken to see a psychologist ‘just to see if anything’s at all abnormal,’; because he refused to participate in erotic play. 5 The ideas Huxley drew on in constructing the utopian elements of the novel were taken from ideas expressed by many progressive thinkers of his time. 6 The decline of religion in the early part of the century eliminated the prospect of a final judgment or some other kind of divine intervention in human existence as fears in the minds of many philosophers of the day.
It was common belief in that day that if humans were to be saved, they must not look to unseen and imagined forces, they must look to themselves for guidance; and if not to themselves, but to exceptional members of society. These people, and not the invisible hand of some imagined deity, were to guide the course of humanity. The few people of exceptional intelligence were to be the ones who decided what was right and wrong for the rest of humanity and condition them to form the ‘right’; social structure so that all people become what their superiors wanted them to be.
These assumptions are satirized along with the materialistic definition of what a man is. In a materialistic view man is nothing more than a complex arrangement of chemicals, and his contentment lies in the consumption of other chemical elements: tangible delights and physical activities which require further consumption of material items. 7 Consequently, people pass their time by playing games such as Centrifugal Bumble Puppy and Obstacle Golf, and satisfying their carnal needs by having unattached sex.
Elaborate social engineering could eliminate their desire for something different and prevent them from dreaming of worlds any different than their own. According to this ideology man’s present displeasures and uncertainties could be replaced by the amenities and certainties that exist in a planned materialistic society. Brave New World Huxley’s ironic vision of Brave New World is different from other celebrated utopian works of his time; like Forster’s The Machine Stops and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four.
Huxley’s utopia is successful within the context of the novel while Forster’s and Orwell’s visions of the future failed to live up to the hopes which fabricated them. 8 The irony of Huxley’s vision is that instead of depicting the failure of his utopia (as in Forster’s and Orwell’s case) he depicted his to be one which works well. Huxley’s goal was to emphasize the irony of the complete success of a scientific-sociological vision. This irony reveals to the reader what Huxley thinks man is and the way man should be.
Hulxey believed that man was not only a creature capable of peace, harmony and perfection under certain conditions; but he is also troubled by confusion, fear and a need for individuality. 9 In Huxley’s view man will continue to act in ways that are at odds with the expectations of planners like Mustafa Mond. Future men will continue to fear their own mortality, no matter how many supervised visits they take to the state crematoria when they’re children. No amount of conditioning will destroy man’s need to choose a particular person rather than everyone for a sexual partner.
Nor will pregnancy substitutes be able to act as adequate alternatives to giving birth the natural way. The author also doubted that ‘feelies’; would provide people with the emotional experience people need in entertainment. Furthermore, it is uncertain that their wonder drug ‘soma’; will do anything more than ease stress; for it certainly won’t eliminate them completely. Huxley invented Brave New World to make these points. Following the opening of the novel that introduces us to the possibilities and securities of Huxley’s vision the reader is introduced to Bernard Marx.
Bernard Marx was rather deformed and is shorter than the ideal Alpha height; it is thought that too much alcohol surrogate was used at an early stage of his physical development. Bernard’s imperfection provide the first crack in the utopia of the future. Bernard, going against his social conditioning and protocols of society desires a permanent relationship with a woman. The object of his desire is Lenina, and he convinces her to visit an Indian reservation with him to pursue his wish.
At the reserve they meet a savage, named John who is the son a woman born in the civilized world, and got lost in the reserve many years before. His father turns out to be the director of the hatcheries where both Bernard and Lenina work. His mother has appalled the Indians and even her son in her attempt to remain ‘decently’; promiscuous in the reservation. John is quite literate and is very familiar with the works of Shakespeare; from whom he has learned about behaviors and feelings that had been conditioned out of the minds of all ‘civilized’; people.
John represents what Huxley thought man fundamentally is. John and his mother are brought back to London with Bernard and Lenina for an experiment to find out how savages will react to the civilized world. Bernard brings John to the hatchery where he works and introduces him to his father, the Director. John brings the on-looking workers to a howling laughter when he kneels in front of the director and calls him father. John’s quaint behavior shocks the citizens of London. Lenina is shocked with incomprehension when John refuses to have casual sex with her, and no one understands his grief over the death of his mother.
When John falls on his knees and cries after his mother dies at the Hospital for the Dying in chapter 14 all the nurse says is ”Can’t you behave? ”; as if he had committed a grave indecency. 11 She was worried that he might decondition the children at the hospital who were receiving their death conditioning. She was worried that his crying would suggest that ”death were something terrible. ”;12 163 At this point it appears that John’s views are in direct opposition to those that the World State is built on.
The most important scene of the book is an argument on happiness between the Controller of the World State and John. The Controller, Mustafa Mond, argues that reading Shakespeare is dangerous. ‘Because it’s old; that’s the chief reason. We haven’t any use for old things here. ‘;13 In Mond’s opinion, the tragedy found in the works of Shakespeare and other great writers did not arise from man’s situation; it once arose from the instability of a particular situation that once existed – one that had been eliminated. He added ‘The world’s stable now.
People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they are plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma. ‘;14 This world that is so unpleasant to Bernard is even more unpleasant to John because he has not been conditioned to fit it.
John’s romantic and idealistic views are in strong opposition to those of the Controller and the rest of society. John found himself in a dilemma, he had to choose between the squalor of the reservation and the abject superficial society of the modern world under Ford. He found a third alternative in a disused lighthouse on the south coast of England. There he studied Shakespeare and tried to eliminate his carnal desires for Lenina who he wanted for a lover and not just a sexual partner – like she wanted it.
Despite his solitude and his studying of Shakespeare he cannot get his thoughts of Lenina out of his mind. He turns to self-flagellation to redeem his spirit and absolve himself of his sins for he likens salvation and redemption with self-destruction. The rumors of John’s self-flagellation attract the attention of a filmmaker named Darwin Bonaparte. Bonaparte secretly films John’s self-inflicted scourgings and makes a successful film out of it. This draws the attention of the media and also draws huge crowds of people coming to see the savage perform his odd rituals.
Among the crowd is Lenina. He feels, at the same time, repelled and attracted to her. He yelled ‘Strumpet,’; at her and whipped her, then himself trying to purify himself of his lustful thoughts for Lenina. 15 The next day he chose the ultimate escape; he killed himself. The significance of John’s suicide is that the idealist has no place in a world with an over-dependence on technology and social control. To Huxley the tragic ending was a parable of the individual’s struggle in a mass community. 16 Huxley believed that we live in the age of the mass.
Politicians, salesmen and entertainers aggravate our instincts as individuals and force us to move with the mass. The individual is still protesting as it is pulled along within the mass, though, none the less the individual is dead. In Brave New World as well as Orwell’s 1984, the individual is under the close scrutiny of the state. 17 While the underclasses of both stories can easily be controlled, the person of independent thought or action of the upper classes like Bernard and Winston Smith can cause trouble for the state.
A society full of individuals makes progress difficult to come by and the result is a static state – both of these novels portray a static state. 18 In the novel Huxley satirized the growing materialistic beliefs that were flourishing among the intellects of that time. He worried that these materialistic beliefs and the increased faith in technology would leading to a society like the one in the novel. He wrote the novel to raise our awareness on this issue that so we may avoid it.
Huxley argued, through the context of the novel, that a totalitarian society functioning only to maintain social stability by way of eugenics and elaborate social conditioning would invariably lead to the death of humanity; death not in the physical sense but in the loss of man’s essence. He believed that man’s essence was in his individuality, and once society homogenized it’s citizens, eliminating their individuality, they would cease to be human.