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Brave New World

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This is the article about the novel by Aldous Huxley. For other uses of the phrase, see Brave New World (disambiguation).

Brave New World is a 1932 dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley. The book anticipates developments in reproductive technology, eugenics and mind control that combine to change society. The world it describes could in fact also be a utopia, albeit an ironic one. It is Huxley's most famous and enduring novel.

Huxley's title is itself a satiric reference to Miranda's speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest:

"O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"


Contents

Synopsis

The Brave New World

Set in the "year of Our Ford 632" (i.e. the 27th century), the story describes a society whose motto is "Community, Identity, Stability". Following the devastating Nine Years' War (said to have begun in the 1940s), the entire planet has been united into the One World State, governed by ten "World Controllers". History is forbidden, and only the World Controllers know how the present society was created and what life was like before it. The new society is built around the principles of Henry Ford, and many aspects of life reflect this. The word lord has been replaced with ford. The assembly line process is present in many aspects of life, and the symbol "T" has replaced the Christian cross, a reflection of the Model T car developed by Henry Ford. His famous phrase "History is bunk" has become the fundamental approach to studying the past - as a result, no-one knows of past societies. There are no families, and no-one is born in a natural way. Instead, humans are grown in factories according to industrial quotas. In this society, people are "decanted" into a chemically-enforced and totally conformist caste society. Children are engineered in fertility clinics and artificially gestated. The three lower castes are manufactured in groups of up to 96 clones, and they are chemically stunted and/or deprived of oxygen during their maturation process to control their intelligence level and physical development.

The Alpha caste consists of those destined for leadership positions, with Betas filling professional and administrative posts requiring higher education, but without the leadership responsibilities of the Alphas. These two groups together form the upper castes, with Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons comprising the lower castes, each with a descending degree of intelligence, Epsilons being so stupid as to be described as "semi-morons", and trained to perform the most menial tasks without complaint. People are thus manufactured to fill their jobs, rather than jobs being created for people. Within these classes are sub-groups, plus or minus, which further determines their roles in society (every possible combination appears at least once in the text, with the exception of Delta-Plus). Members of each caste also wear uniforms, the colour of which identified which caste they belonged to. Alphas wear grey, Betas mulberry (purple), Gammas green, Deltas khaki, and Epsilons black.

From birth, members of every class are indoctrinated, by recorded voices repeating slogans while they sleep, to believe that their own is the best class to be in. Any residual unhappiness is resolved by an anti-depressant and somewhat hallucinogenic drug called soma.

In many ways, the society of Brave New World can be considered to be a utopia - humanity is carefree, healthy, and technologically advanced, warfare and poverty have been eliminated, and everyone is permanently happy. The irony is, however, that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating the things - family, cultural diversity, art, literature, religion and philosophy - that are generally considered to be of integral importance to being human. The Brave New World can thus be considered either a dystopia or an "ironic utopia".

Contrary to what modern readers would expect, the biological techniques used to control the populace in Brave New World do not include genetic engineering. Huxley wrote the book in 1932, twenty years before Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. As the science writer Matt Ridley put it, Brave New World describes an "environmental, not a genetic, hell".

Citizens have no awareness of history except for a vague idea of how terrible things were before the inception of the present society. They know that humans used to be viviparous and what parents and birth were, but these concepts are taboo, and "mother" and "father" are this society's equivalent of dirty words.

However, perhaps the most striking element of the society is the behaviour of its citizens. The lower castes, being cloned and conditioned from birth, exhibit a strong group mentality. Even the more individualistic higher castes, who are also conditioned during infancy and childhood, happily accept the strict social mores. Normal behaviour is to be highly sociable, engage in promiscuous sexual activity, avoid negative thoughts and feelings by regular consumption of soma, practise sports and, in general, be good consumers. This is reinforced in the novel by the characters' frequent repetition of tag-lines from their conditioning such as: "Everyone belongs to everyone" and "A gramme is better than a damn" (referring to soma). It is socially unacceptable to spend time alone, to be monogamous, to refuse to take soma, and to express opinions which conflict with those taught during conditioning.

Lenina and Bernard

In the first half of the novel, the two characters of Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx (their names allude to Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and founder of communism Karl Marx) present contrasting viewpoints of this society. Lenina is the perfect (female) citizen, happy and "pneumatic", conformist in her behaviour, fulfilling her function in society, which seems to be to sleep with as many men as possible, but largely incapable of free thought - she does not even recognise her love for the "Savage", as love conflicts with her conditioning. In contrast, Bernard is something of an outsider; intellectually gifted but physically smaller than is typical for an Alpha, he faces (or at least believes he faces) social problems including rejection by women of his caste and lack of respect from lower castes. As a result, he has become a loner and a social misfit, embarrassed when trying to set up dates with women, uninterested in sports, preferring to be miserable rather than take soma, and often expressing non-conformist opinions. Bernard's unacceptable behaviour lands him in trouble with his boss, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning. But nevertheless, Bernard secures his permission to visit the savage reservation in New Mexico to where he takes Lenina on a date.

The Reservation and the Savage

The second half of the novel begins with the visit to the reservation. It is here that the other main protagonist of the novel is introduced. John is the son of two citizens of the Brave New World (he is the result of an accidental contraception failure). His parents - we soon learn that his father is none other than Bernard's boss - were visiting the savage reservation when his mother got lost; she was stranded inside the reservation and gave birth to him there. He grew up with the lifestyle of the Zuni Native American tribe and a religion that is a blend of Zuni and Christian beliefs. However, he is also influenced by his mother's education (she taught him to read) and by his discovery of the works of William Shakespeare. The culture shock which results when the "savage" is brought into the society of the "Brave New World" as he initially calls it, provides a vehicle for Huxley to contrast the values of the society with our own.

The key moral point of the book revolves around two diametrically opposing problems. The first, and most obvious, is that in order to ensure continuous and universal happiness, society has to be manipulated, freedom of choice and expression curtailed, and intellectual pursuits and emotional expression inhibited. Citizens are happy, but John Savage considers this happiness to be artificial and "soulless". In a pivotal scene he argues with another character, World Controller for Western Europe Mustapha Mond, that pain and anguish are as necessary a part of life as is joy, and that without the former to provide context and perspective, "joy" becomes meaningless. The second problem presented in the novel is that freedom of choice and expression, the recognition of (or rather the inhibition of) emotional expression and the pursuit of intellectual ideas, result in an absence of happiness. This problem is shown primarily through the character of Bernard, but also by the behaviour of John in the final stages of the novel. Unable to fully suppress his desire for Lenina, which he believes is morally unacceptable, but also feeling remorse at the death of his mother which he is not allowed to express, he seeks isolation from society.

Resolution

In the last chapter, Bernard Marx and his friend Helmholtz Watson go into exile in the islands, but the Savage is not allowed to go with them. Instead, he is given an old lighthouse in rural England as a home and he tries to start a new life as a hermit, including a regime of privation and self-flagellation. Unfortunately, as he is by now a novel celebrity, he is constantly harassed by paparazzi. Finally, after a video of him whipping himself brings throngs of visitors, including Lenina, he succumbs to an orgy of sex and soma. The following morning, stricken by grief, remorse, and despair, he hangs himself.

In other themes, the book attacks assembly line production as demeaning, the liberalization of sexual morals as being an affront to love and family, the use of slogans or thought-terminating clichs, the concept of a centralized government, and the use of science to control people's thoughts and actions. While Huxley attacks the emergence of socialist and Communist attitudes, he also opposes capitalist consumer society. Indeed, the latter motifs are stronger than the former: in the novel, the legendary founder of the society was Henry Ford, whose writings occupy Mustapha Mond's bookshelves. The letter T (a reference to the Ford Model T) has replaced the cross as a quasi-religious symbol.

The title of the book is a quotation from Miranda in Act V of Shakespeare's The Tempest, when she meets people other than her father for the first time. John Savage is a keen Shakespeare fan, which sets him further apart from the vast majority of humanity in Huxley's dystopia. Like most of the world's past artistic and cultural achievements, Shakespeare's works are banned and unknown in this society to everyone but the World Controllers.

In 1993, an attempt was made to remove this novel from a California school's required reading list because it "centred around negative activity".

Characters

Of the Fordian society

  • At the Solidarity Service: Morgana Rothschild (woman whose unibrow haunts Marx at the Solidarity Service), Herbert Bakunin, Fifi Bradlaugh, Jim Bokanovsky, Clara Deterding (the President of the group), Joanna Diesel, Sarojini Engels, Tom Kawaguchi

Of the savage reserve, particularly in Malpais

  • John, "the Savage"
  • Linda, his mother, formerly of the Fordian society
  • Warden of the Reservation, who himself is not a savage
  • Kiakim, whom John loved
  • Kothlu, who married Kiakim
  • Old Mitsima, who teaches the outcast John about Indian lore
  • Palowhitwa
  • Pop, Linda's lover, whom John detests

Historical characters

These are fictional and factual characters who died before the events in this book, but are of note in the novel.

Satire of 1930s society

As a method of underscoring similarities to his fictional dystopia and his own contemporary culture, Huxley incorporates several sly, satirical references to targets such as the Church of England (which he refers to as a "community sing"), the BBC or British tabloid The Daily Mirror ("The Delta Mirror"), Henry Ford, George Bernard Shaw and Sigmund Freud. Brave New World's London propaganda centre is at Fleet Street, the traditional home of the British press, and the pseudo-religious Arch-Community Songster is based at Canterbury, where the clergical head of the modern day Church of England sits.

Huxley's characters are given names chosen from significant individuals in the World State's past. For example, Bernard Marx refers to Bernard Shaw (one of the few ancient writers left uncensored) and Karl Marx. Because the World State embodies traits typically attributed to opposite ends of the political spectrum, some of the names Huxley coined refer to diametrically opposed individuals or ideologies. For instance, we find a young girl named Polly Trotsky and a woman named Morgana Rothschild, echoing both Communist leaders and a dynasty of bankers. Among these references are the following:

  • Lenina Crowne: Crown is a turn of phrase referring to the monarch and monarchial government; her first name recalls Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Revolution, a radical overthrow of a monarchy. Fanny Crowne is a split that needs no explanation.
  • Mustapha Mond: The head of the local society is named after a particularly modernistic pair, Mustapha Kemal Atatrk and Sir Alfred Mond. The former leader modernized Turkey from Islamic ties while the latter was head of Imperial Chemical Industries, a leader in modern labor relations in Britain—and also happened to be Jewish.

Two characters are named after blends of fascists and industrialists:

Additionally, the word "Ford" is used as a replacement for the word Lord or God; the starting date for their calender is the date on which Henry Ford introduced the Model T, their dates are prefaced by a.f., for After Ford, and in dialogue, the word Ford is used in expressions such as "Oh my Ford!", in a clear substitution for Lord. These details allude to the religious level in which mass industry is treated in Brave New World.

Comparison with Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

Brave New World and George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four are both often used in political discussions of government actions perceived to be authoritarian. However, a key difference between 1984 and Brave New World is that while in 1984 people are kept from knowledge perceived to be "dangerous" by means of continual mass surveillance and coercion, in Brave New World the characters are physically engineered not to desire "dangerous" knowledge in the first place. One could say that while in 1984 the people are dehumanized by the state controlling their natural instincts such as sex or free thought, in Brave New World the "state" infantilizes the masses by giving free rein to basic human instincts such as sex and ceding responsibility to herd mentality.

Both novels incorporate a class of people (in 1984, the "proles" (proletariat) and in Brave New World, the "savages," or those who live on the "reservations") who exist on the periphery of the dystopian society in a state of relative physical squalor, but with little to no societal interference, outside of an enforced state of non-education. While both classes as such are peripheral to their respective milieux, they serve as an important device for delineating contrast between the dystopian society in question and what the author arguably perceives as being a more ideal society.

In addition, the society presented in Brave New World is, to some extent, tolerant of outsiders, in so much as it respects the idea of there being an "outside". While the dystopian world of 1984 is all-encompassing, the world Brave New World includes "savage reservations" and "the islands". The latter are effectively places of exile for freethinkers, but they are also to some extent a "safe haven". No such places exist in 1984.

Brave New World Revisited

Brave New World Revisited (Harper & Row, 1958, 1965), written by Huxley almost thirty years after Brave New World, was a non-fiction work in which Huxley considered whether the world had moved towards 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, but in Brave New World Revisited he concluded that the world was becoming much more like Brave New World much faster than he had ever thought possible.

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 and impact to the original novel, due to Huxley's evolving thought and his conversion to Vedanta between the two books.

Related readings

  • The Scientific Outlook by philosopher Bertrand Russell. When Brave New World was released, Russell thought that Huxley's book was based on his own book The Scientific Outlook that had been released in previous year. Russell contacted his own publisher and asked whether he should do something or not. Russell's publisher advised him to do nothing and he followed this advice.
  • Men Like Gods (1921) by H.G. Wells. Dystopian novel that also was the source of inspiration for Brave New World.
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman, alludes many times to how television is goading our culture to be like what we see in Brave New World, where people are not so much denied human rights such as free speech and expression, but conditioned to just not care.
  • The 1993 movie Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock and Nigel Hawthorne repeatedly makes allusions to Brave New World. Both involve a mechanized future where everybody is kept happy, where undesirable things (those that reduce society's happiness) are banned. A couple of references to the book include the fact that Sandra Bullock's character is named Lenina Huxley, a mix of Lenina Crowne and Aldous Huxley, and a scene where Lenina Huxley tells John Spartan (Stallone's character), "John, you're a savage!", calling John the Savage to mind. At one point in the movie Snipes' character says "It's a brave new world" to Spartan. The movie is otherwise not related to the book.
  • The 1998 made-for-TV movie Brave New World, starring Peter Gallagher and Leonard Nimoy, is an abridged version of the original story. The numerous alterations to the novel include the absence of the Epsilon caste as well as the Plus/Minus inter-caste distinctions, the characterisation of Linda as a "savage" who was seduced by the Alpha DHC, the addition of a Delta who was condictioned by the DHC to kill Bernard Marx, John the Savage falling off a cliff while being pursued by the paparazzi and Mond giving Marx the job of DHC (after the previous one was fired), which he leaves when Lenina becomes pregnant with his child. The film ends with Marx and Lenina raising their child in a Savage Reservation.

External links

Template:Wikiquote

Publications

Template:Isfdb title

  • Brave New World
    • Aldous Huxley; Perennial; Reprint edition (September 1, 1998); ISBN 0060929871
  • Brave New World Revisited
  • Huxley's Brave New World (Cliffs Notes)
  • Spark Notes Brave New World
  • Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (Barron's Book Notes)

fr:Le Meilleur des mondes he:עולם חדש מופלא it:Il mondo nuovo pl:Nowy, wspaniały świat pt:Admirvel Mundo Novo sv:Du skna nya vrld th:โลกวิไลซ์

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