Price of Balance in Aldous Huxley’s Novel Brave New World
David Grayson once said that “Commandment Number One of any truly civilized society is this: Let people be different”. Difference, or individuality, however, may not be possible under a dictatorial government. Aldous Huxley’s satirical novel Brave New World shows that a government-controlled society often places restraints upon its citizens, which results in a loss of social and mental freedom. The conditioning of the citizens, the categorical division of society, and the censorship of art and religion carry out these methods of limiting human behavior.
Conditioning the citizens to like what they have and reject what they do not have is an authoritative government’s ideal way of maximizing efficiency. The citizens will consume what they are told to, there will be no brawls or disagreements and the state will retain high profits from the earnings. People can be conditioned chemically and physically prior to birth and psychologically afterwards.
The novel, Brave New World, takes place in the future, 632 A. F. (After Ford), where biological engineering reaches new heights. Babies are no longer born viviparously; they are now decanted in bottles passed through a 2136-meter assembly line. Pre-natal conditioning of embryos is an effective way of limiting human behavior. Chemical additives can be used to control the population not only in Huxley’s future society, but also in the real world today. This method of control can easily be exercised within a government-controlled society to limit population growth and to control the flaws in future citizens. In today’s world, there are chemical drugs, which can help a pregnant mother conceive more easily or undergo an abortion. In the New World, since there is no need to make every female fertile, only “as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos … develop normally. The others get a dose of male sex hormone … Result: they are decanted as freemartins…” (Huxley, 10). Freemartins are sterile females who sometimes grow beards. Physical conditioning can also be used to prepare the unborn embryo for its predestined future. The future rocket-plane engineers receive physical conditioning where a “special mechanism kept their containers in constant rotation … To improve their sense of balance” (Huxley, 14). The conditioning is Huxley’s message to the world “that you could dominate people by social, educational and pharmaceutical methods” (Bedford, 249). The babies can be preset on a course of life before they even take their first breaths, taking away their freedom to choose their future destinies.
Psychological conditioning of the citizens continues after birth. The mind is altered to accept the moral education of the government. Two processes the New World uses to control human judgement are the Neo-Pavlovian process and hypnopaedia. The Neo-Pavlovian process is named after Ivan Pavlov, a Twentieth Century Russian scientist who experimented with conditioned reflexes in dogs. The children, during early childhood, are trained to like and dislike certain aspects of life, nature, and science so that they can consume the maximum resources. Babies receive electric shocks in the presence of flowers and books so that they will “grow up with what the psychologists … call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers … they’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives” (Huxley, 18). The conditioning of the children forms a barrier in their minds so that they are never free to decide for themselves, but are always bounded by the instructions of the state. Hypnopaedia is another form of psychological conditioning. It is used to teach moral education. While they sleep, the children of the New World are drilled with moral education such as “when the individual feels, the community reels, [and] …cleanliness is next to fordliness” (Huxley, 98). These phrases are repeated thousands of times throughout childhood “till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions … the mind that judges and desires and decides…” (Huxley, 25). Psychological conditioning in the New World is much like the television programs of today. The programs repeatedly tell their obedient worshippers to consume name brand material and to follow the lifestyles of the characters in the programs while the true masterminds slowly take away their devoted members’ hard-earned wealth. The psychological conditioning limits the mental freedom of the citizens so that they are never at liberty to decide what they want for themselves.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “all men are created equal”. Equality, however, fails to exist in the imperfect society created by humans. Just as there are social classes in today’s society, citizens of the World State are categorized into distinct social classes (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon) before they come into existence. The social classes, in turn, set a standard of prejudice. The people do not have the freedom to choose who or what they want to be, they have no choice but to follow the tracks preset for them.
Stability is a goal in every society. It may be achieved by the cloning of citizens. Advances in biological research in the New World allow one embryo to separate into ninety-six individual embryos by means of the Bokanovsky Process, an advanced method of cloning. Embryos destined to be the lower classes (Gamma, Delta and Epsilon) are cloned, and the cloning ensures social stability of the lower classes. “Essentially … bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development … the egg responds by budding” (Huxley, 4). This creates a standardized form of operation, with “ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines” (Huxley, 5). The Bokanovsky Process provides social stability by having dozens of identical twins to work, eat and live together, where there would be no brawls or conflicts. As the Director of Hatchery and Conditioning says, “Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability” (Huxley, 5). While the Bokanovsky Process outlined in Huxley’s novel may have seemed improbable when he wrote the novel in 1932, the scientific advances in genetic engineering have taken a giant leap. In “July 1996, a team of Scottish scientists produced the first live birth of a healthy sheep cloned from an adult mammal”. The cloning of the citizens forms a standardized population with a lack of social freedom and no liberty to shape their own paths of life. The cloned sheep, Dolly, brings the modern world one step closer to Huxley’s eugenic state.
The establishment of a social caste system, where everyone belongs to a certain group and obtains certain powers, limits citizens to mingle only with those of their own caste and produces a set of prejudice between citizens. The Alpha and Beta citizens live in small houses and apartments in the suburbs surrounding the city, while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons stay in “huge lower-caste barracks” (Huxley, 64) inside the city. This classification of citizens exists even in the modern world, where the well-to-do businesspeople live in higher-class suburbs while the lower class factory workers huddle in cramped downtown apartments. The social caste system, along with the conditioning of the citizens, creates prejudice among those who represent difference. Bernard Marx, an Alpha citizen, has a physical deficiency. He is short and small, “eight centimeters short of the standard Alpha height” (Huxley, 57), and is often neglected for his deformed figure. While Marx is sharing an elevator with two coworkers, “Henry Foster and the Assistant Director of Predestination rather pointedly turned their backs on Bernard Marx” (Huxley, 29). Bernard himself says that, “I am I, but wish I wasn’t” (Huxley, 57). This self-hatred indicates that even in the most ordered, stable society injustice still occur in the form of discrimination. The right to choose no longer exists in an autocratic society where social freedom is eliminated by the distinct categorical division of citizens.
“History is more or less bunk” (Rae, 53), said Henry Ford. This ideology is taken to extreme measures in the World State and many totalitarian nations where censorship of art and religion completely conceals the past and eliminates the freedoms of thought and speech. People live in the present with no knowledge of history, and those who explore certain new, prohibited ideas are censored.
“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known”, said Oscar Wilde. Individualism, however, is not permitted in the World State where “everyone works for everyone else” (Huxley, 81). Many pieces of literature are eliminated, and censorship is applied everywhere to attain stability. Without the books to give the people ideas, and with the conditioning of the mind, no one would attempt a revolution or an uprising. No one in the World State would recognize the title Othello or the name William Shakespeare, no one but the people who make the rules – the World Controllers. In history, many novels, books and films have been banned because of their content and their presentation of ideas. The state did not give excuses for their actions, and the citizens simply accepted. In the World State, not only are the old books gone, the new ones are also censored. The World Controller residing over Western Europe writes, after reviewing a book, “…The author’s…conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and…dangerous and potentially subversive…Not to be published …The author will be kept under supervision” (Huxley, 160). In Quebec, during the Great Depression, Maurice Duplessis made a new law where “anyone who allowed his domicile to be used to propagate communism or Bolshevism ‘by any means whatsoever’ could have it padlocked for up to a year” (Berton, 427). The censorship of ideas forms a barrier in the citizens’ minds, which halts the progression of human quest for knowledge and suppresses the freedom of thought and imagination.
Homer Simpson once said; “God has no place within these walls, just as facts have no place within organized religion”. The freedom of belief can be destroyed with a dictatorial government controlling society. Huxley’s Brave New World illustrates how religion can be sacrificed for stability, where religion is no longer needed to satisfy human desire:
… why should we go hunting for a substitute for youthful desires, when youthful desires never fail? A substitute for distractions, when we go on enjoying all the old fooleries to the very last? What need have we of repose when our minds and bodies continue to delight in activity? of consolation, when we have soma? of something immovable, when there is the social order? (Huxley, 213)
God now “manifests himself as an absence; as though he weren’t there at all” (Huxley, 214). By not allowing the citizens to believe in something holy, something beyond imagination, the state is restricting the faith in her citizens and taking away the freedom to dream and believe. Henry Ford is glorified in the World State for his induction of the mass production method and “the introduction of Our Ford’s first T-model … chosen as the opening date of the new era” (Huxley, 46). The Big Ben is renamed Big Henry, the crucifix is replaced by the symbol T, and the Charing Cross Rail Road Station in London changes to the Charing T Rocket Station. Ford is the basis of religion in the World State just as Christ is in many modern religions. The people’s minds can easily be manipulated by the state into believing anything, but the prolonged brainwash of the citizens creates a suppression of creativity, which results to a direct loss of mental freedom.
The stable world of a government controlled society appears to be a Utopia, where everyone is happy and lives in harmony, but the price paid is comparable to the superficial happiness that the citizens receive. Without the freedom of choice, the citizens do not actually realize the joy when a task is accomplished. Without having to work for a goal, the people do not appreciate the pleasure once the goal is achieved and do not actually understand the true meaning of happiness. The price for Utopia, in a word, is freedom.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. London: Flamingo, 1994.
Bedford, Sybill. Alodus Huxley. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.
Berton, Pierre. The Great Depression. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990.
Rae, John. Henry Ford. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969.