Huxley’s bleak future prophesized in Brave New World was a capitalist civilization which had been reconstituted through scientific and psychological engineering, a world in which people are genetically designed to be passive and useful to the ruling class. Satirical and disturbing, Brave New World is set some 600 years ahead, in “this year of stability, A.F. 632”--the A.F. standing for After Ford, meaning the godlike Henry Ford. “Community, Identity, Stability,” is the motto. Reproduction is controlled through genetic engineering, and people are bred into a rigid class system. As they mature, they are conditioned to be happy with the roles that society has created for them. The rest of their lives are devoted to the pursuit of pleasure through sex, recreational sports, the getting and having of material possessions, and taking a drug called Soma. Concepts such as family, freedom, love, and culture are considered grotesque.
Against this backdrop, a young man known as John the Savage is brought to London from the remote desert of New Mexico. What he sees in the new civilization a “brave new world” (quoting Shakespeare’s The Tempest). However, ultimately, John challenges the basic premise of this society in an act that threatens and fascinates its citizens.
Huxley uses his entire prowess to throw the idea of utopia into reverse, presenting us what is known as the “dystopian” novel. When Brave New World was written (1931), neither Hitler nor Stalin had risen to power. Huxley saw the enduring threat to society from the dark side of scientific and social progress, and mankind’s increasing appetite for simple amusement. Brave New World is a work that indicts the idea of progress for progress sake and is backed up with force and reason.
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There were several things that bugged me about it, though. The first thing is the characters -- I'm all about characters in my reading, and if I don't connect with a book, it's likely because I didn't get on with the characters. Brave New World doesn't really have any characters I really got to like. Those that are 'civilised' are too conditioned, too vapid, and the 'savages' are too... intense, partially just by comparison. The focus on pain and self-denial in the 'savage' society is as difficult to get behind as the unthinking, unindividuality of the 'civilised' society. Which is basically the other problem I have: that there are only two extremes. That's partially covered by the misfits who get sent off to live on islands, but not really.
The message about what constitutes humanity, what is really living, is good, though. "But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
Additionally, the writing style was of that strange 1930's-1960's era writing you see occasionally where breezy and overly simplistic prose was fashionable, so I don't want to say it's poor, just that it attempts to be a certain something, achieves it, but I don't care much for it.
Did the people that read this in the 1930's understand he was generally AGAINST the way that world was? Because we pretty much did exactly all those things. Save the loss of family identity and our puritanical ways, both of which I personally could have done without. We have a caste system, indoctrination, ubiquitous pharmaceutical use, the distractions of entertainment and sport, and the hatred of true individualism (as opposed to the knee jerk libertarian fantasy type) and the general mistrust of learning...but we managed to keep the pointless attention on the family (OMG OMG OMG...it's about the kids!), and the deeply ingrained American Puritan history. Terrific.
If they didn't make you read this in school, there isn't any real social or literary reason to begin now.more
It's not that it's bad--just that the characters are a little less-developed than I'd like (they're serviceable, but a little cardboard-cutout-y) and something that I can't put my finger on falling flat for me.more
Huxley made some incredible predictions at the time that seem quite relevant today. We have the equivalent of Deltas and Epsilons working for us in "third world" countries so that we can enjoy a range of useless and quickly disposed of products. We want instant gratification and shallow entertainment and have put at a lower priority the bonds between family and close friends. Nevertheless, within the setting of the book, some of it didn't work for me. For example, based on the World Controller's words there is actually no need to keep Epsilons around since they already have the capacity to reduce the workload of the Epsilons by half and presumably it would be possible to reduce it even further. Another thing was the apparent lack of any driving force for increased consumption, besides - I presume - giving Epsilons more work to do.
Regarding the writing, at times it was brilliant but at times it wondered off. Perhaps it was also the uninteresting, flat characters (another symptom of living in this brave new world?), but I felt that some part of the story could have been left completely out. On the other hand, I believe the Savage was not sufficiently utilized to stir things up and create the potential for change that would actually test this society. Perhaps Huxley didn't believe that this society could fail such a test even if it came, I don't know.more
In case there is somebody questioning the world as it is there is no torture and re-education [like in 1984] - these people are sent to isolated islands to live with other ... individuals would be the right term I guess. And this may be the only ... humane aspect of Huxley's future society.
This is a horror story of where individual is left no room to develop and grow - (s)he is defined by his/hers genes and very brutal molding process. Most terrifying is the approval of and indifference to this procedure by the rest of the populace.
Unlike 1984 where science is almost expelled from every pore of the life Huxley shows a world where science is dominant - another extreme that leads to the same result - society where people are treated as herd animals [except, of course, the precious few].