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|Brave New World|
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Leslie Holland|
|Genre||Science fiction, dystopian fiction|
|Published||1932 (Chatto & Windus)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||288 pp (Paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-06-080983-3 (Paperback edition)|
|Brave New World|
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Leslie Holland|
|Genre||Science fiction, dystopian fiction|
|Published||1932 (Chatto & Windus)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||288 pp (Paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-06-080983-3 (Paperback edition)|
Brave New World is a novel written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. – "After Ford" – in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and operant conditioning that combine to profoundly change society. Huxley answered this book with a reassessment in an essay, Brave New World Revisited (1958), and with Island (1962), his final novel.
In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Brave New World fifth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, Robert McCrum writing for The Observer listed Brave New World number 53 in "the top 100 greatest novels of all time", and the novel was listed at number 87 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.
This line itself is ironic; Miranda was raised for most of her life on an isolated island, and the only people she ever knew were her father and his servants, an enslaved savage, and spirits, notably Ariel. When she sees other people for the first time, she is understandably overcome with excitement, and utters, among other praise, the famous line above. However, what she is actually observing is not men acting in a refined or civilised manner, but rather drunken sailors staggering off the wreckage of their ship. Huxley employs the same irony when the "savage" John refers to what he sees as a "brave new world".
Translations of the title often allude to similar expressions used in domestic works of literature in an attempt to capture the same irony: the French edition of the work is entitled Le Meilleur des mondes ("The Best of All Worlds"), an allusion to an expression used by the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and satirised in Candide, Ou l'Optimisme by Voltaire (1759).
Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931 while he was living in Italy. By this time, Huxley had already established himself as a writer and social satirist. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines, and had published a collection of his poetry (The Burning Wheel, 1916) and four successful satirical novels: Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925), and Point Counter Point (1928). Brave New World was Huxley's fifth novel and first dystopian work.
Huxley said that Brave New World was inspired by the utopian novels of H. G. Wells, including A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923). Wells' hopeful vision of the future's possibilities gave Huxley the idea to begin writing a parody of the novel, which became Brave New World. He wrote in a letter to Mrs. Arthur Goldsmith, an American acquaintance, that he had "been having a little fun pulling the leg of H. G. Wells," but then he "got caught up in the excitement of [his] own ideas." Unlike the most popular optimist utopian novels of the time, Huxley sought to provide a frightening vision of the future. Huxley referred to Brave New World as a "negative utopia", somewhat influenced by Wells' own The Sleeper Awakes (dealing with subjects like corporate tyranny and behavioural conditioning) and the works of D. H. Lawrence.
George Orwell believed that Brave New World must be partly derived from the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. However, in a 1962 letter, Huxley says that he wrote Brave New World long before he had heard of We. According to We translator Natasha Randall, Orwell believed that Huxley was lying.
Huxley visited the newly opened and technologically advanced Brunner and Mond plant, part of Imperial Chemical Industries, or ICI, Billingham, United Kingdom, and gives a fine and detailed account of the processes he saw. The introduction to the most recent print[vague] of Brave New World states that Huxley was inspired to write the classic novel by this Billingham visit.
Although the novel is set in the future it deals with contemporary issues of the early 20th century. The Industrial Revolution had transformed the world. Mass production had made cars, telephones, and radios relatively cheap and widely available throughout the developed world. The political, cultural, economic and sociological upheavals of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the First World War (1914–1918) were resonating throughout the world as a whole and the individual lives of most people. Accordingly, many of the novel's characters are named after widely recognised, influential and in many cases contemporary people (see below).
Huxley used the setting and characters from his science fiction novel to express widely held opinions, particularly the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of the future. An early trip to the United States gave Brave New World much of its character. Not only was Huxley outraged by the culture of youth, commercial cheeriness, sexual promiscuity and the inward-looking nature of many Americans, he had also found the book My Life and Work by Henry Ford on the boat to America, the principles of which he saw applied in everything he encountered after leaving San Francisco. There was a fear of Americanization in Europe. Thus seeing America firsthand, and from reading the ideas and plans of one of its foremost citizens, Huxley was spurred to write Brave New World with America in mind. The "feelies" are his response to the "talkie" motion pictures, and the sex-hormone chewing gum is a parody of the ubiquitous chewing gum, which was something of a symbol of America at that time.
The novel opens in London in A.F. 632 (AD 2540 in the Gregorian Calendar). The vast majority of the population is unified under the World State, an eternally peaceful, stable global society in which goods and resources are plentiful (because the population is permanently limited to no more than two billion people) and everyone is happy. Natural reproduction has been done away with and children are created, "decanted", and raised in "hatcheries and conditioning centres", where they are divided into five castes (which are further split into "Plus" and "Minus" members) and designed to fulfill predetermined positions within the social and economic strata of the World State. Fetuses chosen to become members of the highest castes, "Alpha" and "Beta", are allowed to develop naturally while maturing to term in "decanting bottles", while fetuses chosen to become members of the lower castes ("Gamma", "Delta", "Epsilon") are subjected to in situ chemical interference to cause arrested development in intelligence or physical growth. Each Alpha or Beta is the product of one unique fertilised egg developing into one unique fetus. Members of lower castes are not unique but are instead created using "Bokanovsky's Process" which enables a single egg to spawn (at the point of the story being told) up to 96 children and one ovary to produce thousands of children. To further increase the birthrate of Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, "Podsnap's Technique" causes all the eggs in the ovary to mature simultaneously, allowing the hatchery to get full use of the ovary in two years' time. People of these castes make up the majority of human society, and the production of such specialised children bolsters the efficiency and harmony of society, since these people are deliberately limited in their cognitive and physical abilities, as well as the scope of their ambitions and the complexity of their desires, thus rendering them easier to control. All children are educated via the hypnopaedic process, which provides each child with caste-appropriate subconscious messages to mould the child's lifelong self-image and social outlook to that chosen by the leaders and their predetermined plans for producing future adult generations, as well as stopping the lower caste citizens from wanting to be more than they were grown to be.
To maintain the World State's Command Economy for the indefinite future, all citizens are conditioned from birth to value consumption with such platitudes as "ending is better than mending," "more stitches less riches", i.e., buy a new item instead of fixing the old one, because constant consumption, and near-universal employment to meet society's material demands, is the bedrock of economic and social stability for the World State. Beyond providing social engagement and distraction in the material realm of work or play, the need for transcendence, solitude and spiritual communion is addressed with the ubiquitous availability and universally endorsed consumption of the drug soma. Soma is an allusion to a ritualistic drink of the same name consumed by ancient Indo-Aryans. In the book, soma is a hallucinogen that takes users on enjoyable, hangover-free "holidays". It was developed by the World State to provide these inner-directed personal experiences within a socially managed context of State-run "religious" organisations; social clubs. The hypnopaedically inculcated affinity for the State-produced drug, as a self-medicating comfort mechanism in the face of stress or discomfort, thereby eliminates the need for religion or other personal allegiances outside or beyond the World State.
Recreational sex is an integral part of society. According to the World State, sex is a social activity, rather than a means of reproduction (sex is encouraged from early childhood). The few women who can reproduce are conditioned to use birth control, even wearing a "Malthusian belt" (which resembles a cartridge belt and holds "the regulation supply of contraceptives") as a popular fashion accessory. The maxim "everyone belongs to everyone else" is repeated often, and the idea of a "family" is considered pornographic; sexual competition and emotional, romantic relationships are rendered obsolete because they are no longer needed. Marriage, natural birth, parenthood, and pregnancy are considered too obscene to be mentioned in casual conversation. Thus, society has developed a new idea of reproductive comprehension.
Spending time alone is considered an outrageous waste of time and money, and wanting to be an individual is horrifying. Conditioning trains people to consume and never to enjoy being alone, so by spending an afternoon not playing "Obstacle Golf," or not in bed with a friend, one is forfeiting acceptance.
In the World State, people typically die at age 60 having maintained good health and youthfulness their whole life. Death isn't feared; anyone reflecting upon it is reassured by the knowledge that everyone is happy, and that society goes on. Since no one has family, they have no ties to mourn.
The conditioning system eliminates the need for professional competitiveness; people are bred to do their jobs and cannot desire another. There is no competition within castes; each caste member receives the same food, housing, and soma rationing as every other member of that caste. There is no desire to change one's caste, largely because a person's sleep-conditioning reinforces each individual's place in the caste system. To grow closer with members of the same class, citizens participate in mock religious services called Solidarity Services, in which twelve people consume large quantities of soma and sing hymns. The ritual progresses through group hypnosis and climaxes in an orgy.
In geographic areas nonconducive to easy living and consumption, securely contained groups of "savages" are left to their own devices. These appear to be similar to the reservations of land established for the Native American population during the colonisation of North America. These "savages" are beholden of strange customs, including self-mutilation and religion, a mere curio in the outside world.
In its first chapters, the novel describes life in the World State as wonderful and introduces Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx. Lenina, a hatchery worker, is socially accepted and comfortable with her place in society, while Bernard, a psychologist, is an outcast. Although an Alpha Plus, Bernard is shorter in stature than the average of his caste—a quality shared by the lower castes, which gives him an inferiority complex. His work with sleep-teaching has led him to realise that what others believe to be their own deeply held beliefs are merely phrases repeated to children while they are asleep. Still, he recognises the necessity of such programming as the reason why his society meets the emotional needs of its citizens. Courting disaster, he is vocal about being different, once stating he dislikes soma because he'd "rather be himself." Bernard's differences fuel rumours that he was accidentally administered alcohol while incubated, a method used to keep Epsilons short.
Bernard's only friend is Helmholtz Watson, an Alpha Plus lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering (Department of Writing). The friendship is based on their similar experiences as misfits, but unlike Bernard, Watson's sense of loneliness stems from being too gifted, too intelligent, too handsome, and too physically strong. Helmholtz is drawn to Bernard as a confidant: he can talk to Bernard about his desire to write poetry.
Bernard is on holiday at a Savage Reservation with Lenina. The reservation, located in New Mexico, consists of a community named Malpais. From afar, Lenina thinks it will be exciting. She finds the aged, toothless natives who mend their clothes rather than throw them away repugnant, and the situation is made worse when she discovers that she has left her soma tablets at the resort hotel.
In typical tourist fashion, Bernard and Lenina watch what at first appears to be a quaint native ceremony. The village folk, whose culture resembles the contemporary Indian groups of the region, descendants of the Anasazi, including the Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni, and the Ramah Navajo, begin by singing, but the ritual quickly becomes a passion play where a village boy is whipped to unconsciousness.
Soon after, the couple encounters Linda, a woman who has been living in Malpais since she came on a trip and became separated from her group, among whom was a man to whom she refers as "Tomakin" but who is revealed to be Bernard's boss, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, Thomas. She became pregnant despite adhering to her "Malthusian Drill" and there were no facilities for an abortion. Her shame at pregnancy was so great that she decided not to return to her old life, but to stay with the "savages". Linda gave birth to a son, John (later referred to as John the Savage) who is now 18.
Conversations with Linda and John reveal that their life has been hard. For 18 years, they have been treated as outsiders: the native men treated Linda like a sex object while the native women regularly beat and ostracised her because of her promiscuity, and John was mistreated and excluded for his mother's actions and the color of his skin. John was angered by Linda's lovers, and even attacked one in a jealous rage while a child. John's one joy was that his mother had taught him to read, although he only had two books: a scientific manual from his mother's job, which he called a "beastly, beastly book," and a collection of Shakespeare's works (which have been banned in the World State for being subversive). Shakespeare gives John articulation to his feelings, though, and he especially is interested in Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. At the same time, John has been denied the religious rituals of the village, although he has watched them and even has had some religious experiences on his own in the desert.
Old, weathered and tired, Linda wants to return to her familiar world in London, as she misses living in the city and taking soma. John wants to see the "brave new world" his mother has told him so much about. Bernard wants to take them back to block Thomas from his plan to reassign Bernard to Iceland as punishment for his asocial beliefs. Bernard arranges permission for Linda and John to leave the reservation.
John also seems to have an attraction to Lenina, as while Bernard is away, getting the permission to move the savages, he finds her suitcase and ruffles through all of her clothes, taking in the smells. He then sees her "sleeping" in a soma-induced comatose state and stares at her, thinking all he has to do to see her properly is undo one zip. He later tells himself off for being like this towards Lenina, and seems to be extremely shy around her.
Upon his return to London, Bernard is confronted by Thomas, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, who, in front of an audience of higher-caste Centre workers, denounces Bernard for his asocial behaviour. Bernard defends himself by presenting the Director with his long-lost lover, Linda, and unknown son, John. John falls to his knees and calls Thomas his father, which causes an uproar of laughter. The humiliated Director resigns in shame.
Spared from reassignment, Bernard makes John the toast of London. Pursued by the highest members of society, able to bed any woman he fancies, Bernard revels in attention he once scorned. The victory, however, is short-lived. Linda, decrepit and friendless, goes on a permanent soma holiday while John, appalled by what he perceives to be an empty society, refuses to attend Bernard's parties. Society drops Bernard as swiftly as it had taken him. Bernard turns to the person he'd believed to be his one true friend, only to see Helmholtz fall into a quick, easy camaraderie with John. Bernard is left an outcast yet again as he watches the only two men with whom he ever connected find more of interest in each other than they ever did in him.
Encouraged by Fanny, Lenina visits John and tries to seduce him. She disrobes causing John to attack her for being an "impudent strumpet". Lenina locks herself in his bathroom. While Lenina is in the bathroom, terrified and dressing, John receives a telephone call from the hospital informing him that his mother is extremely unwell. He leaves, allowing Lenina a chance to escape.
John rushes over to see Linda and sits at her bedside, trying to get her out of her soma holiday so that he can talk to her. He is heartbroken when his mother succumbs to soma and dies. He is extremely annoyed by the young boys that enter the ward to be conditioned about death and annoy John to the point where he starts to use violence to send them away. John's grief bewilders and revolts the hospital workers, and their lack of reaction to Linda's death prompts John to try to force humanity from the workers by throwing their soma rations out a window. The ensuing riot brings the police, who quell the riot by filling the room with vaporised soma. Bernard and Helmholtz arrive to help John, but only Helmholtz helps him, while Bernard stands to the side, torn between risking involvement by helping or escaping the scene.
Following the riot, Bernard, Helmholtz and John are brought to speak with Mustapha Mond, the Resident World Controller for Western Europe. Inspired by John's questions, Mond gives details about the history of the events that led to the present society and his reasoning why things are better with a caste society and programs of social control. Bernard and Helmholtz are told they are to be exiled to islands. Bernard pleads for a second chance and accuses John and Helmholtz for their predicament. Reduced to grovelling, he is removed by guards. Mond proceeds to explain that exile is actually something of a reward, a chance to interact with other freethinking individuals. He reveals that he too once faced island banishment for conducting brilliant but controversial scientific research; instead of exile, he accepted a position on the Controllers' Council in exchange for abandoning his experiments. Helmholtz embraces the Falkland Islands as his destination, believing that their bad weather will inspire his writing, and leaves to check on Bernard. Alone, Mond and John engage in philosophical arguments concerning God and the morals behind the existing society. It ends with John rejecting the illusionary happiness of Mond's world and accepting his "unhappy" way of life despite its "inconveniences". The next afternoon, Bernard and Helmholtz meet John before their exile. Bernard, now resigned to his fate but also reconciled with Helmholtz, apologises to John for his behaviour. John tells his friends that he asked Mond to exile him with them but was denied. Instead he is told that the "experiment" of him living in civilization will continue. John vows not to be a part of such an experiment and to leave the next day.
John moves to a hilltop "air-lighthouse" (meant to warn and guide helicopters, not ships) southwest of London, near the village of Puttenham, where he intends to adopt an ascetic lifestyle in order to purify himself of civilization and amend for his mistreatment of his mother. To his horror, he finds himself one day enjoying the process of making a bow. To atone, John brutally whips himself in the open. This self-flagellation is witnessed by bystanders, causing reporters, whom John attacks or chases away, to visit three days later looking for a story. That afternoon, in a lull between reporters, John catches himself fantasizing about Lenina, again causing him to flog himself. This time the act is captured by a spying photographer who turns it into a film shown all over Western Europe. The day after the film's release, hundreds of sightseers hoping to witness the curious behaviour themselves arrive at John's lighthouse via helicopters; as the growing crowd chants "We—want—the whip!", Henry and Lenina disembark from one of them. The sight of the woman whom he both adores and loathes is too much: as she attempts to speak to him, John attacks her with his whip. The crowd goes wild with excitement, and – as a product of their conditioning – they turn on each other in a frenzy of beating and chanting that heightens into a mass orgy of soma and sex. Late the next morning, John wakes alone and suddenly recalls that he too participated in the debauchery. Onlookers and journalists arrive that evening but find John's lifeless body hung in the lighthouse.
John – the illicit son of the Director and Linda, born and reared on the Savage Reservation ("Malpais") after Linda was unwittingly left behind by her errant lover. John ("the Savage," as he is often called) is an outsider both on the Reservation – where the ignorant natives still practice marriage, natural birth, family life and religion – and the ostensibly civilised World State, based on principles of stability and shallow happiness. He has read nothing but The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which he quotes extensively, and, for the most part, aptly, though his allusion to "Brave New World" [Miranda's words in The Tempest] takes on a darker and bitterly ironic resonance as the novel unfolds. John is intensely moral according to a code that he has been taught by Shakespeare and life in Malpais but is also naïve: his views are as imported into his own consciousness as are the hypnopedic messages of World State citizens, and he is incapable of grasping that the men of Malpais whose admonishments taught him to regard his mother as a whore were the same men who continually sought her out despite their supposedly sacred pledges of monogamy. Because he is unwanted in Malpais, he accepts the invitation to travel back to London and is initially astonished by the comforts of the World State. However, he remains committed to values that exist only in his poetry, first spurning Lenina for failing to live up to his Shakespearean ideal and then the entire utopian society, asserting that its technological wonders and consumerism are poor substitutes for individual freedom, human dignity and personal integrity. He then ostracizes himself from society and attempts to purify himself of "sin" (desire), but is finally unable to do so and hangs himself in despair.
Bernard Marx – an Alpha-Plus sleep-learning specialist at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Bernard is a misfit. He is unusually short for an Alpha; an alleged accident with alcohol in Bernard's blood-surrogate before his decanting has left him slightly stunted. Bernard's independence of mind stems more from his inferiority-complex and depressive nature than any depth of philosophical conviction. Unlike his fellow utopians, Bernard is often angry, resentful, and jealous. At times, he is also cowardly and hypocritical. His conditioning is clearly incomplete. He doesn't enjoy communal sports, solidarity services, or promiscuous sex. He doesn't even get much joy out of soma. Bernard is in love with Lenina but he doesn't like her sleeping with other men even though "everyone belongs to everyone else". Bernard's triumphant return to utopian civilisation with John the Savage from the Reservation precipitates the downfall of the Director, who had been planning to exile him. Bernard's triumph is short-lived. Success goes to his head. Despite his tearful pleas, he is ultimately banished to an island for his non-conformist behaviour.
Helmholtz Watson – handsome and successful Alpha-Plus lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering and a friend of Bernard. He feels unfulfilled writing endless propaganda doggerel and is restive to the stifling conformism and philistinism of the World State. Helmholtz is ultimately exiled to the Falkland Islands – a cold asylum for disaffected Alpha-Plus non-conformists – after reading a heretical poem to his students on the virtues of solitude and for helping John destroy some Delta's rations of soma after Linda's death. Unlike Bernard, he takes his exile in stride and comes to view it as an opportunity for inspiration in his writing.
Lenina Crowne – a young, beautiful, blue-eyed Beta who is a nurse at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Lenina is promiscuous and popular but somewhat quirky in their society: she normally dates only one person at a time. She is basically happy and well-conditioned but will use soma to suppress unwelcome emotions. Lenina has a date with Bernard, to whom she feels ambivalently attracted, and she goes to the Reservation with him. On returning to civilisation, she tries and fails to seduce John the Savage. John loves and desires Lenina but he is repelled by her forwardness and the prospect of pre-marital sex, rejecting her as an "impudent strumpet". Lenina visits John at the lighthouse but he attacks her, unwittingly inciting onlookers to do the same. Her exact fate is left unspecified.
Mustapha Mond – Resident World Controller of Western Europe, "His Fordship" Mustafa Mond presides over one of the ten zones of the World State, the global government set up after the cataclysmic Nine Years' War and great Economic Collapse. Sophisticated and good-natured, Mond is an urbane and hyperintelligent advocate of the World State and its ethos of "Community, Identity, Stability," being uniquely aware among the characters of the novel of the precise nature of the society he oversees and what it has given up to accomplish its gains. Mond argues that art, literature, and scientific freedom must be sacrificed to secure the ultimate utilitarian goal of maximising societal happiness and defends the genetic caste system, behavioural conditioning, and the lack of personal freedom in the World State; these, he says, are a price worth paying for achieving social stability, the highest social virtue because it leads to lasting happiness.
Fanny Crowne – Lenina Crowne's friend (they have the same last name because only ten thousand last names are in use in the World State). Fanny's role is mainly to voice the conventional values of her caste and society, particularly the importance of promiscuity: she warns Lenina that she should have more men in her life because it looks bad to concentrate on one man for too long, then warns her away from a new lover whom she considers undeserving, yet is ultimately supportive of Lenina's attraction to the savage John.
Henry Foster – One of Lenina's many lovers, he is a perfectly conventional Alpha male, casually discussing Lenina's body with his coworkers. His success with Lenina, and his casual attitude about it, infuriates the jealous Bernard. Henry ultimately proves himself every bit the ideal World State citizen, finding no courage to defend Lenina from John's assaults despite having maintained an uncommonly longstanding sexual relationship with her.
The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning (DHC) aka Thomas "Tomakin" – The Director administrates the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where he is a threatening figure who intends to exile Bernard to Iceland. His plans take an unexpected turn, however, when Bernard returns from the Reservation with Linda (see below) and John, a child they both realize is actually his. This fact, scandalous and obscene in the World State not because it was extramarital (which all sexual acts are) but because it was procreative, leads the Director to resign his post in shame.
Linda – John's mother, decanted as a Beta-Minus in the World State and subsequently lost during a storm while visiting the New Mexico Savage Reservation with the Director many years before the events of the novel. Despite following her usual precautions, Linda became pregnant with the Director's son during their time together and was therefore unable to return to the World State by the time that she found her way to Malpais. Having been conditioned to the promiscuous social norms of the World State, Linda finds herself at once popular with every man in the pueblo (because she is open to all sexual advances) and also reviled for the same reason, seen as a whore by the wives of the men who visit her and by the men themselves (who come to her nonetheless). Linda is desperate to return to the World State and to soma, wanting nothing more from her remaining life than comfort until death.
The Arch-Community-Songster – The Arch-Community-Songster is the secular, shallow equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the World State society.
The Warden – The Warden, an Alpha-Minus, is the talkative chief administrator for the New Mexico Savage Reservation.
These are non-fictional and factual characters who lived before the events in this book, but are of note in the novel:
The limited number of names that the World State assigned to its bottle-grown citizens can be traced to political and cultural figures who contributed to the bureaucratic, economic, and technological systems of Huxley's age, and presumably those systems in Brave New World:
Upon publication, Rebecca West praised Brave New World as "The most accomplished novel Huxley has yet written", Joseph Needham lauded it as "Mr. Huxley's remarkable book", and Bertrand Russell also praised it, stating, "Mr. Aldous Huxley has shown his usual masterly skill in Brave New World"
However Brave New World, also received negative responses from other contemporary critics, although his work was later embraced.
In an article in the 4 May 1935 issue of the Illustrated London News, G. K. Chesterton explained that Huxley was revolting against the "Age of Utopias". Much of the discourse on man's future before 1914 was based on the thesis that humanity would solve all economic and social issues. In the decade following the war the discourse shifted to an examination of the causes of the catastrophe. The works of H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw on the promises of socialism and a World State were then viewed as the ideas of naive optimists.
After the Age of Utopias came what we may call the American Age, lasting as long as the Boom. Men like Ford or Mond seemed to many to have solved the social riddle and made capitalism the common good. But it was not native to us; it went with a buoyant, not to say blatant optimism, which is not our negligent or negative optimism. Much more than Victorian righteousness, or even Victorian self-righteousness, that optimism has driven people into pessimism. For the Slump brought even more disillusionment than the War. A new bitterness, and a new bewilderment, ran through all social life, and was reflected in all literature and art. It was contemptuous, not only of the old Capitalism, but of the old Socialism. Brave New World is more of a revolt against Utopia than against Victoria.
The World State is built upon the principles of Henry Ford's assembly line: mass production, homogeneity, predictability, and consumption of disposable consumer goods. While the World State lacks any supernatural-based religions, Ford himself is revered as the creator of their society but not as a deity, and characters celebrate Ford Day and swear oaths by his name (e.g., "By Ford!"). In this sense, some fragments of traditional religion are present, such as Christian crosses, which had their tops cut off to be changed to a "T". The World State calendar numbers years in the "AF" era—"Annum Ford"—with year 1 AF being equivalent to 1908 AD, the year in which Ford's first Model T rolled off his assembly line. The novel's Gregorian calendar year is AD 2540, but it is referred to in the book as AF 632.
From birth, members of every class are indoctrinated by recorded voices repeating slogans while they sleep (called "hypnopædia" in the book) to believe their own class is superior, but that the other classes perform needed functions. Any residual unhappiness is resolved by an antidepressant and hallucinogenic drug called soma (named for an intoxicating drink in ancient India) distributed by the Arch-Community Songster of Canterbury, a secularised version of the Christian sacrament of Communion ("The Body of Christ").
The biological techniques used to control the populace in Brave New World do not include genetic engineering; Huxley wrote the book before the structure of DNA was known. However, Gregor Mendel's work with inheritance patterns in peas had been re-discovered in 1900 and the eugenics movement, based on artificial selection, was well established. Huxley's family included a number of prominent biologists including Thomas Huxley, half-brother and Nobel Laureate Andrew Huxley, and brother Julian Huxley who was a biologist and involved in the eugenics movement. Nonetheless, Huxley emphasises conditioning over breeding (see nature versus nurture); human embryos and fetuses are conditioned through a carefully designed regimen of chemical (such as exposure to hormones and toxins), thermal (exposure to intense heat or cold, as one's future career would dictate), and other environmental stimuli, although there is an element of selective breeding as well.
The American Library Association ranks Brave New World as No. 52 on their list of most challenged books. The following list includes some notable incidents where it has been censored, banned, or challenged:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Postman added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.
Journalist Christopher Hitchens, who himself published several articles on Huxley and a book on Orwell, noted the difference between the two texts in the introduction to his 1999 article "Why Americans Are Not Taught History":
We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression "You're history" as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself. By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Ur and Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus. Orwell's was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley ... rightly foresaw that any such regime could break but could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works. This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.
Brave New World Revisited (Harper & Brothers, US, 1958; Chatto & Windus, UK, 1959), written by Huxley almost thirty years after Brave New World, was a non-fiction work in which Huxley considered whether the world had moved toward or away from his vision of the future from the 1930s. He believed when he wrote the original novel that it was a reasonable guess as to where the world might go in the future. In Brave New World Revisited, he concluded that the world was becoming like Brave New World much faster than he originally thought.
Huxley analysed the causes of this, such as overpopulation as well as all the means by which populations can be controlled. He was particularly interested in the effects of drugs and subliminal suggestion. Brave New World Revisited is different in tone because of Huxley's evolving thought, as well as his conversion to Hindu Vedanta in the interim between the two books.
The last chapter of the book aims to propose action which could be taken to prevent a democracy from turning into the totalitarian world described in Brave New World. In Huxley's last novel, Island, he again expounds similar ideas to describe a utopian nation, which is generally known as a counterpart to his most famous work.
Looking forward to Brave New World, Huxley's Crome Yellow (1921), Ch V, has Mr Scogan, a believer in "the goddess of Applied Science," looking forward optimistically to "the next few centuries" when "In vaste state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
Brave New World (1980) Directed by Burt Brinckerhoff
Also publications for NSW HSC students.
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