Brave New World

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1932. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006. Print.

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"'But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead.'

'But they don't mean anything.'

'They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience.'

'But they're … they're told by an idiot.'

The Controller laughed. 'You're not being very polite to your friend, Mr. Watson. One of our most distinguished Emotional Engineers …'

'But he's right,' said Helmholtz gloomily. 'Because it is idiotic. Writing when there's nothing to say …'

'Precisely. But that requires the most enormous ingenuity. You're making flivvers out of the absolute minimum of steel–works of art out of practically nothing but pure sensation.'

The Savage shook his head. 'It all seems to me quite horrible.'

'Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.'"


Review


Brave New World, one of Huxley's most popular works, is a haunting piece that satirically depicts a supposed future of Ford-capitalist societies where everyone is supposed to be completely and uncomplicatedly happy. One may ask, "How could a society where everyone is without struggle be something to criticize?" Is there something wrong with using biotechnology to create life and further to "correct" it? Not necessarily. However, Brave New World is a cold, heartless place that suppresses the elements of humanity that we currently celebrate. Huxley intended to use this social structure to alienate his audience in order to demonstrate the downfall of the continuation of rapid and often times inhumane progress that many leading countries were partaking in during the time. Those in charge of this Brave New World wholeheartedly believe that true happiness is created through the removal of love and freedom and the implementation of a rigid class system that is demonstrated through appearance - "[t]he lower the caste, [...] the shorter the oxygen. The first organ affected was the brain. After that the skeleton. At seventy per cent of normal oxygen, you got dwarfs. At less than seventy eyeless monsters" (Huxley 14).

Brave New World mainly revolves around the lives of three individuals: Bernard - an upper-level employee in what I like to call a "baby factory," Lenina - one of the few females who is able to produce reproductive cells, and John - a resident of the savage plantation that both Bernard and Lenina visit on vacation. Each person leads a completely different life than the other, and in most cases it is the differences presented that illustrate the lack of humanity that exists in this world. In Bernard's case, his excessive pursuit of a special identity while simultaneously attempting to maintain a sense of belonging amongst his peers gives him an initially relatable mindset. Nevertheless, Huxley shines a negative light on Bernard as the story progresses, allowing the character to show serious flaws through his attitude in regards soma (a sort of extreme antidepressant that roughly every citizen takes) and the "orgy-porgy" meetings (religious ceremonies that contain sexually promiscuous behavior), both common elements of BNW's London that he despises, but continues to partake in, causing Bernard to hate himself mercilessly. This inner hate is taken out on both Lenina and John, who eventually associate less and less with him as he slowly self-destructs. Additionally, Bernard takes advantage of John the Savage through showcasing the foreign emotions and customs in order to gain greater recognition within the Alpha class.

Lenina and John follow equally depressing character development. Lenina, a willfully ignorant citizen, who blindly follows and repeats claims such as the idea that "[e]veryone works for everyone else," never strays from the path she was programmed to follow (Huxley 74). Even when faced with the harsh realities of the world she lived in, Lenina believed in the lines fed to her as a child, refusing to experience freedom even when it was right in front of her. Similarly, John, who grew up surrounded by demonstrations of love and abuse and of sickness and birth, was initially enthralled by the technology and customs of the world that caged him in the reservation. He was fascinated by the sensory shows known as the feelies and the concept of soma; however, he soon became disgusted with the world that surrounded him after being without the freedom of thought that he was used to for so long. Both characters could not - would not - stray from what they had become accustomed to.

I quite enjoyed looking into such different characters in an environment where people were supposed to be quite similar, if not the same, in thought processes and attitudes. It was especially strange to observe such characters, though, because everyone was so unlikeable. I couldn't sympathize with anyone, except John to an extent, which made the internal struggles of Bernard so frustrating. I couldn't stand Lenina's ignorance, and I was unnerved by John's fierce passion for art. Although, I suppose it was Huxley's intention to alienate readers from the people of his faux utopia - these people were created and conditioned to enjoy living as slaves to society. It would have been nice to have a character to relate to and root for, but that would have humanized the entirety of Brave New World.

One of my favorite elements of this story was the nuance and language used in descriptions of characters, places, events, etc. There is this specific passage that I find particularly beautiful. It states, "All alone, outside the pueblo, on the bare plain of the mesa. The rock was like bleached bones in the moonlight. Down in the valley, the coyotes were howling at the moon. the bruises hurt him, the cuts were still bleeding; but it was not for pain that he sobbed; it was because he was all alone, because he had been driven out, alone, into this skeleton world of rocks and moonlight" (Huxley 136). Obviously, Aldous Huxley is a very well spoken man, so this would come naturally in all of his stories, but in this particular instance, I was enchanted by the way the words perfectly flowed, making each description's tone feel intentional and meticulously planned. This allowed the story to progress at a seemingly natural pace; nothing felt rushed or drawn out, making the read itself quite enjoyable. I also adored the extent to which Huxley explained the backgrounds of Bernard and John, two people who were branded as outcasts in their respective communities, giving the reader reason and explanation for their current situation, whereas Lenina, who had no truly character-defining experiences, was given little to no background. There was overall an appropriate amount of exposition to allow for a gradual understanding of the societies of BNW in a way that kept you wondering enough to be completely wrapped up in the plot.

Honestly, the only bone I had to pick with Brave New World was that there was a limited spectrum of characters. I realize this limitation was due to the fact that there was a lack of individuality surrounding the people in BNW's London, but it would have been interesting to hear more about the individuals on the reservation, as opposed to just John's narrative. In this type of story, anyone who isn't one of the main characters becomes part of a nameless horde or an entity, dehumanizing them as a whole.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an atypical dystopian novel. Some of the content is a bit graphic, so let there be a disclaimer of mild sexual content and violence. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, and as of right now it is one of my favorites.

About the Aldous Huxley

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Aldous Huxley, born July 26, 1894, in London, England, was raised by a distinguished upper-class family that consisted of prominent researchers, poets, authors, and educators. However, Huxley was recognized, from a young age, as someone different, showing more alertness and poise than his peers; thankfully, Huxley was praised, not ridiculed, for having these differences, but Huxley clung to the sensation of separateness that comes with being branded as "different."

Huxley's youth was riddled with tragedy. At age fourteen Aldous lost his mother to cancer, and at age seventeen he was struck blind by a disease known as keratitis punctata. Although he was able to regain some sight, Huxley remained mostly blind, only able to read with the aid of eye drops and glasses. Despite this particular setback, Huxley was granted a scholarship to Balliol College at Oxford University where he studied literature. There was a period of this time in school where Huxley lived in Garingston Manor, a gathering place for writers such as Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russel, T.S. Elliot, and D.H. Lawrence. It was at Garingston where Huxley forged deep friendships with these authors and was established as a true intellectual in the eye of the public.

Because of this reputation, Huxley was able to further his literary career, writing articles for periodicals like Vanity Fair and Vogue and publishing collections of poetry. During this time, around 1919, Huxley also married his first wife, Maria Nys.

Huxley continued to write, turning from poetry to novels, and between 1936 and 1968 he published books and delved in filmmaking in his Los Angeles Home (acquired in 1937). In 1955, Maria died of cancer; the following year, Huxley married Laura, his second wife. The two remained married until Huxley died on November 22, 1963, at the age of 69.

More by Aldous Huxley

After Many a Summer
Antic Hay
Ape and Essence
Beyond the Mexique Bay
Crome Yellow
Do What You Will
Ends and Means
Eyeless in Gaza
Grey Eminence
Heaven and Hell
Island
Jesting Pilate
Limbo
Rotunda
The World of Light

Film Adaptations of Brave New World


Brave New World Poster
Brave New World Poster
Brave New World
Brave New World
TV Movie 1998
TV Movie 1980

Aldous Huxley on Brave New World


http://www.huxley.net/ah/aldoushuxley.mp4