Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley is known for being a descendent of Thomas Huxley, a defender of Charles Darwin [known as “Darwin’s Bulldog”] when the latter published his theory of evolution, as well as an author in his own right. “The Doors of Perception” is a fascinating journal of his experiences on mescaline [which gets its title from Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and is where the band ‘The Doors‘ derived their name from]. Huxley also had a brief stint teaching French at Eton where he taught Eric Blair, later to become George Orwell, which concerns us particularly because the two authors’ famous dystopias complement each other well.
Brave New World” takes its ironic title  from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest“, when Miranda naively describes her wonder at seeing people that don’t belong to the island for the first time:

‘O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.’  Act V, Scene I, ll. 203—6

Huxley satirises London 1930s society, imagining the future six hundred years from then – 2530. Under a national totalitarian state, individuals can live free from war, hatred, poverty, disease and pain. However, as many social contract theories teach us, such as that of Hobbes [see points 3-5], this sort of security comes at the cost of freedom. In order to maintain such a way of life, the Controllers [a small elite] abolish traditional values, replacing them with uniformity as a means of progress.
Human beings are created and conditioned in factories, almost like a production line. This is a relevant idea, especially now with the progress of fertility treatments and the debate over ‘designer babies‘. Even at the cellular level these foetuses are nurtured or tampered with from ‘creation’; there are several categories of people, similar to class divides but biologically setting up castes ‘Alpha’ through to ‘Epsilon’ and nurturing that condition from birth. Thus, ‘Epsilons’ would receive little or no education and probably possess biological deficiencies, going on to work in menial but necessary positions to keep the state running, whilst ‘Alphas’ would be furnished with all tools for education and likely grow up to work for the Controllers, or even be apart of them. This regimented hierarchy is re-enforced through psychological conditioning.
The state uses repeated life-long mantras and subjects the people to mind control during sleep relentlessly, and sexual promiscuity is encouraged from a sickeningly early age as life expectancy is short, despite the utilised technique to fight off disease and deteriorating health. Anything related to past notions of familial affection and bonds has been eradicated; everything is done for the good of the collective state, which takes precedence over the individual and anyone who shows signs of individualism is either wiped out or re-educated.
Compulsory gatherings known as ‘Ceremonies’ are glorified orgies, that are supposed to bring the citizens closer to the deity-like leader concept ‘Ford’, and one wonders whether Huxley was making a snub at Henry Ford, who had become an icon for mass market capitalism. The consumption of a sedative drug called ‘soma’ is advocated on a daily basis, and compulsory during ‘Ceremonies’. It appears that the drug heightens the senses and dulls reason and perception of time, and has a long-term addictive quality and damaging effect on the health. This disturbing feature of the society raises serious questions about the danger of relinquishing liberty, and the loss of even realising a choice is to be had or that the society in which they live is corrupt and unjust.
When an outsider enters the society, the fundamental ideologies that keep the state running are thrown into chaos and questioned. His attempts to understand their strange ideas of what is right, highlight what morality the state is deficient in and how perverse their justifications of repression are. First he tries to adapt, out of necessity, but his possession of free will and the ability for rational thought and debate mean that he simply discovers unpleasant truths, shatters the blissful ignorance of others and loses his own sense of worth.
Sparknotes Summary [because the films are dated]
I consider Sparknotes synonymous with actually studying a text
Almost thirty years after the publication of “Brave New World”, Huxley published “Brave New World Revisited” [don’t worry, it’s not some ghastly sequel], taking a critical view of his own work and exploring whether his ideas where any more or less plausible than when the work had been first published. It’s a fascinating insight to see an author explain and evaluate his own ideas, and Huxley discusses how events that had taken place in the interim effected his perception of “Brave New World”. These events included World War IIand attempting to understand Nazi ideology and scientific experiments, developments in warfare including the atomic bomb, Huxley’s conversion to Hinduism, the ‘Red Scare’ and fear of Communism in the US, Civil Rights and the Korean and Vietnam War. Huxley concludes that the world is moving faster towards his dystopian vision, but he hoped it could be prevented.

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