Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World written in 1932 presents a portrait of a society which is superficially a perfect world. In this satiric novel, Huxley makes fun of science and religion, using his idea of the future to attack the present. This pessimistic story of the modern world opens in London some 600 years in the future, specifically in 632 A.F.. Through the use of irony and detail he shows how the advancement of science affects human individuals. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley makes evident that the misuse of science results in a dreadful society.
Huxley’s heritage and upbringing had a significant effect on his work. Huxley was member of a family that included the most distinguished members of that part of the English ruling class made up of the intellectual elite (Barron’s 1). Aldous’ father was the son of Thomas Henry Huxley, a great biologist who helped develop the theory of evolution (1). Throughout Brave New World the reader can see the evidence of the conflicting attitude toward the intellectual authority assumed by a ruling class. In addition, Huxley’s own experiences made him isolate from the class into which he was born (1). Even as a small child he was considered different, showing an alertness and an intelligence, which his brother called superiority (1). He drew on that feeling of separateness in the characters of Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson, who are members of the elite class but have problems
because they are different from their peers. Huxley was unable to do the scientific work he had dreamed of due to an eye illness that made him nearly blind (2). However, his scientific interests remained with him and used them in many books, particularly Brave New World (2). The reader is conveyed by Huxley’s vision of a Utopian future based on science and technology. Undoubtedly, his ancestry and the environment he was raised up in, influenced him in creating this novel.
The illustration of the apparently perfect world resembles the title of the book. At one point in the novel the title is brought up by John the Savage, when he is asked to go to London and in response he says: “Oh brave new world that has such people in it” (Seltzer 2). He remembered these words from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”, which once was found in the reservation where John lived ( 2). He really was enthusiastic , but when he is in London it disappoints him. Furthermore, “In this modern world all aspects of the population have been controlled: number, social class, and intellectual ability are all carefully regulated” (8). Even history is controlled and rewritten to meet the needs of this society (8). This new world is a startling image of Huxley’s vision of Utopia. In addition, unhappiness is one of the feelings that are not allowed in the world which Huxley creates (Barron’s 7). Two quick and easy ways of feeling good are Soma, the wonder drug, and the “feelies”, a common form of entertainment
Brave New World is a satiric projection of popular values and associated uses of science in the real world of 1932. By the time Huxley started to write Brave New World, the tremendous political, economic, and philosophical changes taking place in Europe and America contributed to his disillusionment (Smith 4). Big businesses used and misused the individual and man became important as a producer and a consumer (4). These shows that industry exploited the individual by molding him according to its image and likeness. On the international and political scene, there was the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the dictatorship of Mussolini in Italy, and the Nazi Party in Germany (Coulehan 3). “He realized that communism and facism place the state above the individual and demand total allegiance to a cause” (3). Recognizing the danger he demonstrated the end result of this tendency in his fantasy. Furthermore, this book presents a satiric dystopia which describes a possible horrible world of the future (Smith 6). Huxley was concerned with the events happening in this time period because he saw them as real threats to man’s freedom and independence (6). His bitter satire results from his conviction man is unwilling to do something about these threats even though he has the power to elude them. The events of
1932 inspired Huxley to create this darkened satire which became a serious warning, because if we use science as an instrument of power we will probably apply it to the human beings in the wrong way, producing a horrible society.
The details illustrated by Aldous Huxley give the book more credibility on the scientific advances he introduced. In the beginning of the book, we see the Director of World Hatcheries lead the new hatchery students on a tour of a Conditioning Center in London where babies are produced in bottles and presorted to determine their class level(Gitzen 239). People are conditioned from birth not to love one person, and since marriage does not exist they have many lovers (240). These details show the standards they hold in this world. In the novel Bernard Marx is a character who struggles with this society (242). He is a very small person for being an Alpha and is dissatisfied with this way of life (242). Bernard is seen as a rebel, “an individual”, because he stands up for his rights and battles against the order of things. Moreover, when Bernard goes to the Reservation he meets John the Savage and takes him to the new world in which the Savage becomes a celebrity (243). But, the differences between the two worlds cause John to commit suicide because his values and morals clash with those of the new society (243). John was unable to accept life founded on conformity and the pleasure principle. His suicide shows the hopelessness of life in the
brave new world. Huxley’s use of detail reveals how the technology employed develops into a distressful society.
The use of irony in Brave New World demonstrates the falseness of a set of ideas and feelings held to be true by a number of characters and by the society in which they live. Suffering is a feeling that does not exist since it is a carefree and problem free civilization (Smith 7). Citizens perform their tasks without complaint and are rewarded with material comforts, leisure activities, and guiltless sex (7). Outside of their work people spend their lives in constant pleasure. In addition, women enjoy promiscuous lives since they are born sterile by design, and those who are not are trained by the “Malthusian Drill” to use contraceptives properly (Allen 5). This is the reason they have sex with any partner or with any partner who wants them, since they know that “everyone belongs to everyone” (5). Promiscuity is a virtue in this society and makes sex become a matter of indifference. Furthermore, religion has become meaningless and instead they have emotional rituals to achieve group solidarity (Barron’s 9). The Solidarity Service introduces bizarre elements, like erotic dancing, to suggest that religion is either a sublimation of sex or a return to childishness (9). The belief in God has disappeared since it prevents the installation of the perfect society. Huxley’s image of modern life is an ironic and satiric prognostication of the general scientific ideas people had in 1932.
The way in which Huxley emphasizes the tremendous advancement of scientific knowledge and practice is through his concept of genetic engineering in which he shows the complete control of the individual from the time of conception. Through genetic engineering his new world breeds prescribed number of humans artificially for specified qualities (Barron’s 7). People are created on an assembly line and categorized into their area of profession (7). This creates a community full of human clones completely devoid of personality. In addition, this community is structured towards order and stability, and away from individualism (Allen 4). All people are meant to respond identically without thinking and if a few are made imperfectly, they have to be sent away so they won’t “contaminate” others (4). In this novel technology requires a sacrifice of human individuality. Moreover, the new way to be born and raised in this society has destroyed the family concept (Barron’s 7). The parental relationship of a father and mother to a child has become a dirty and improper idea and consequently this lack of family keeps the different classes in their place (7). Things that create problems in the society’s class structure, such as the desire of parents to want something better for their children have been eliminated with the family. In this novel the reader is keenly aware of the dangers genetic engineering poses to the quality of life.
The misuse of science is clearly shown through the conditioning
process. After human beings are “decanted” from the bottles, people are psychologically conditioned mainly by hypnopedia and “sleep teaching” in order to do the society’s needs (Smith 8). By repeating phrases over and over while the children sleep, the government can condition each person to accept his role in the world around him and to behave in what the government deems to be a safe manner (8). This practice makes the individuals respond in a predetermined way. Moreover, conditioning is used to ensure that each class is happy with its type of work and its place in society (Gitzen 243). For example, Epsilons are supremely happy running elevators (243). The new world tries hard to ensure that every person is happy in order for stability to be achieved. Also, children are conditioned at hospitals for the dying and give them sweets to eat when they hear of death occurring (Lawrence 62). This conditioning eliminates the painful emotions of grief and loss, and the spiritual significance of death (63). This world insists that death is natural and not an unpleasant process. Through this technique science is being exploited since it creates a society with no individual freedom.
This novel is a warning that attempts to make man realize that since knowledge
is power, he who controls and uses knowledge handles power. The advancement of science affects human individuals since man’s unqualified praise of science is wrong and their misuse of science is evil. Science and technology are man’s servants and man is not supposed to be adapted and enslaved to them. Brave New World describes our lives as they could be in the none too distant future, if the present obsessions persist for standardization according to the sciences.