There are people that see much ahead of their times and act like “prophets” for society. Aldous Huxley is one of such people who discovered signs of future events and the main trends of evolution. In his famous novel Brave New World, he pictures a seemingly perfect society of consumption where super- people have everything they dream about, except genuine love and their own personality.
The book was written in 1932, years before Orwell’s 1984 that covers similar issues. The novel is a reflection of the author’s idea about the consequences of technological epoch that was still at the dawn in the year of its publishing. Huxley describes the world six centuries after, as he believes this time will be needed to reach the situation modeled in the book. Twenty years later, however, he recognizes that his prediction might have been not bold enough because the brave new world rushes at a huge speed. Decades after the publication of the book, it is clear that it resonates with today’s reality as never before. Even Huxley could not imagine how quickly humanity is able to fall in the trap of consumption and pleasures.
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The book describes a totalitarian society where people are no longer born in a natural way. Instead, they are produced artificially in special factories. This is necessary first of all because the world is overpopulated, and secondly, because people are designed in accordance with their future function in society. There are several castes of humans, such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Alpha and Beta are dominating castes who rule the world and consume its best pleasure, while the rest of the castes serve to ensure comfortable living of the superior ones. Epsilon people are created to be mentally retarded so as to ensure that they would never be able to think of other goals than purely mechanical work. Delta people are brought up to hate books and flowers, so their destiny is to live a life that is close to that of animals. Besides, all castes except Alpha and Beta are cloned into a number of identical people. In this way, the author demonstrates how individuality is devalued in the described society.
The government tries to make people as detached from their family as possible, which is yet not difficult to do because there are practically no people left who were born in a natural way. This means they were not nursed by loving parents and they were not taught the basic values of humanity. Moreover, the negative concept of parents is imposed on people by propaganda. If the perception of a father is mostly ironic, the word “mother” is considered to be one of the filthiest curses ever. From childhood people are engaged into sexual games in order to get rid of any strong emotions that are related to relations between a man and a woman. There is no privacy and depth in socially acceptable norms of behavior. Moreover, having attachment to one partner is condemned and ridiculed; people tend to have multiple partners with focus on sex.
In the described society, there is no division into countries, which seems to be a reflection of the utter utopian dreams. There is the World State, which is ruled by a group of officials, called World Controllers. Alpha people are created to become the leaders, so these people all originate from this caste. There are places, however, where small remnants of the old world are preserved accidentally. These places are either distant islands where rebels are exiled or Indian reservations. In this kind of reservation, Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx discover John, a unique person because he was born in a natural way. He looks and acts as a savage to them because he has emotions and moral standards that have been destroyed in the World State.
In this reservation, which is placed in New Mexico, people are different from the ideal society that Lenina and Bernard are used to. Their appearance is not perfect; they can get ill; they can get old and die. The moral standards in the village are quite opposite to what they used to. For instance, John is outcast in the village because his mother Linda, who came from the World State, had affairs with many men in the village. While in the World State sexual promiscuity is welcome, there are moral restrictions in Reservation regarding sex. John is willing to see “the brave new world” about which he had heard from his mother.
In London, John becomes an attraction to the local community because of his strange and wild behavior and vision of the world. He falls in love with Lenina but refuses to sleep with her, though it is quite a casual thing for her. Bernard acquires a new status in society because of John, and now he organizes parties for those who are willing to gaze at the savage. John is increasingly frustrated about the world that he sees, and he is hurt by the death of his mother and the world’s reaction to it. He meets Mond, one of the rulers of the world, and they debate the organization of society. Mond is sure that sacrifice for the sake of stable and cloudless living of society is justified, while John proves that this world is sterile because of loss of love, beauty, and faith. Then John commits a ritual act of whipping himself, which results in a mass orgy of surrounding people. Unable to bear the reality that is so disgusting, John kills himself.
The actuality of brave new word today
It is worth saying that the vision of the “brave new world” presented by Huxley does not look totally unreal today. We are living in the world that is more and more obsessed with consumption. Instead of focusing on deep feelings, people are getting fixated on buying new goods and gadgets. The media brainwash people’s minds, while today’s advertisement looks very similar to “hypnopaedic”, learning in sleep. The drug soma, described in the book, is used to comfort all worries and detach from reality. Today this concept has come true with invention of antidepressants, soap operas and other things that help people forget who they are. There has been also a shift in sexuality, which looks similar to the one described in the book. Sexual liberation has played a controversial role: while giving people more freedom, it does not make people happy because happiness lies in the sphere of emotions. Cloning and in-vitro birth is real today, though it has not yet had such effect as presented by the author. In the novel, Mond realizes that creation of a perfect state can be done at the expense of some sacrifice. The author raises a question whether this kind of a happy life is worth living because it is rather similar to a vegetable type of existence.
Thus, Huxley’s novel is quite relevant and up to date these days when the world acquires more and more features of society described in the book. The author warns the reader that such artificial happiness leads to degradation of humanity. It is normal for a human being to suffer and to love, while the society of consumption kills normal idea of happiness in favor of petty pleasures. Today, we are close as never to the “brave new world”. It depends on humanity whether true values will triumph over fake social models.