Aldous Huxley and his Brave New World: Just a Few Observations

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This is my first posting on my first blog…

I am about to write a paper that contemplates the dystopian futures of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, and then link them to the distorted truth demonstrated by certain fads in popular culture, such as reality television.

Huxley creates a society where all aspects of truth are hidden by World Controllers who are ruthless in their pursuit of a happy and stable world.  Horrified by the violence of the “Nine Year War”, the surviving world population were determined to have peace–at any cost.  The cost was their freedom and individuality.  Huxley paints a beautifully bleak rendering of a world where everyone is smiling, satisfied, well-fed, employed, and over-sexed.  However, they are also high on “Soma” which alters their perception of reality and prevents them from seeing the gilded cage in which they live.

When I say that the truth is hidden, it is actually either erased or forgotten by the people who have now lived in their post-war society for many generations.  The trend is to embrace what is new and abandon what is old.  Citizens are encouraged to buy new things regularly, and dispose of older possessions; to use the newest technology; to enjoy the latest forms of entertainment.  However, all that is old is not necessarily useless, and this is where the society in Huxley’s novel begins to fail.  The history of Mankind has been wiped clean and the people started again.  But forgetting Mankind’s past also meant forgetting Da Vinci, Mozart, Shakespeare, and all the great artifacts of Man including the Pyramids and the Parthenon.  These things that mark the history and development of Man were destroyed and torn down until nothing remained.  Thus, people have no frame of reference, and seem completely alien to the reader.

Because natural childbirth has been outlawed, and children are mass-produced in a factory-like laboratory, the family unit is a thing of the past.  In fact, family, mother, father, son, daughter, these concepts are now considered obscene or “smutty”.  There are no love/romantic relationships.  They are considered unnatural and subversive.  The motto is “everyone belongs to everyone else”, and this is strictly adhered to by the citizens, and supported by the Controllers in the form of free birth control and sex aids.

Because “love” is a thing of the past, no one really knows anyone very well, and although there are friendships, there is no intimacy.  Therefore, no one mourns the loss of anyone else.  Life is not as valuable, and the once important ideal of “human dignity” is forgotten.  This means that the natural urge to explore one’s life through the eyes of another, as in romantic love, and to create a brand of immortality by creating offspring has vanished.  Medications and genetic engineering prevent Huxley’s people from aging, and children are desensitized to death from an early age.  Therefore the truth that we are born, we live, we age, and we die has become distorted.  The truth that we love and grieve, laugh and cry, fear and take comfort is also distorted.  The truth that we give our hearts or bury our parents has been eliminated.  The citizens of Huxley’s world never weep or experience sadness.  They only ever experience a deluded, robotic happiness.  Actually, they don’t truly “feel” anything at all.

All children are genetically engineered to fill roles in Huxley’s strict caste society.  Alphas are the first caste, followed by Betas, Gammas, and the lowly Epsilons.  Where the Alphas are engineered as superior in every way–physically, intellectually, creatively–the Epsilons are purposely stunted–poisoned in their “test-tubes”–to be nearly mindless working drones.  The Alphas rule, and the Epsilons labor.  From an early age, all castes are indoctrinated during their waking and sleeping hours to live in submission to their “happy and stable” society, to work when they should work, play when they should play, sleep when they should sleep, and never attempt to be anything else or search for something more.  To investigate personal truth is forbidden–no one is permitted to be alone for periods of time, and simply spend a few hours in thought painting a picture, or writing a poem.  Solitude is subversive.

The synthetic drug “Soma” is a clever way for the Controllers to suppress individuality and truth.  This is the “happy and contented” drug that is provided to all citizens.  Soma creates an artificial feeling of belonging, safety, and giddy happiness.  People take “soma holidays” sometimes for hours or days.  There are no after effects with this drug–no hang over.  It is the only intoxicant in the world, and it is absolutely ubiquitous.  Citizens take soma and they don’t need anything else.  Even the Epsilons who work in the mines feel that life is wonderful with the help of soma.  In Huxley’s universe, any time one of the characters become something close to unhappy, he or she takes a gram of soma, and all is right with the world once more.  In essence, people have forgotten what actual truth is.  Soma has replaced the truth with impermanent satisfaction.

Okay.  That’s it for now.  On to Hunger Games.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Aldous Huxley and his Brave New World: Just a Few Observations

  1. I’ve never actually read “Brave New World”, so this is interesting. It reminds me a lot of a book we read in high school in Germany, “Ypsilon Minus” (Y Minus) by Herbert Franke. It doesn’t look like it’s ever been translated into English, unfortunately, else it would be a perfect comparison with BNW for you. Franke must have taken some of his ideas straight from Huxley; in his fictional society, everyone is classed by alphabet (Roman, not Greek), and the main character is downgraded to Y- status when he becomes rebellious.

    Also interesting that the drug that is used is “soma”. Isn’t that Greek for “body” (as in “psychosomatic illnesses”)? Was Huxley making some comments about losing your soul for the sake of your body, the spirit/flesh dichotomy, that sort of thing?

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    • Thanks Amo. I have heard of the Franke novel–but my German’s a little rusty. Soooo… 😉 Instead, I am reading Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. And perhaps Orwell’s “1984”. My reading list is becoming too large to handle right now, so I might have to drop “1984”. However, I think the Bradbury novel is a good comparison novel anyway.

      “Brave New World” is a good read, and even though written in 1931, except for a few things like the absence of computerization etc, you’d never know it. It’s so ahead of its time–which is probably why it’s still read. I recommend it.

      As for the Soma. I see where you’re going. The book says that soma is a fine balance of Christianity and alcohol. (Not an exact quote). So, I am thinking it is a temporary replacement for the soul. A false individuality. If you google soma, it is an ancient Vedic drink used in Hindu ritual–not quite sure yet. Still researching. But–I think a case could be made for the “losing your soul for the sake of your body” aspect too. You say you haven’t read the book? Lol.

      Thanks for your post.

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      • Hah, a balance of christianity and alcohol? That’s funny.

        Not that you need any more books to read, but have you considered Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”, and/or Margaret Peterson Haddix’s “Among the Hidden”? I haven’t read either of them, but they were the big thing in YA dystopia before “Hunger Games” came on the scene. Lowry got a Newbery for hers. Just a thought!

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  2. Bruce logan

    Wow, pretty messed up Linda, is that Huxley book based on our home life as kids??? Lol. Seriously, it’s pretty deep and almost depressing to read that blog.

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    • The dystopian future is supposed to be “messed up”. That is it’s purpose. One of the things this type of literature does is address certain social concerns. For instance, George Orwell wrote his book “1984” at the beginning of the cold war. If you read the book, the description of “Big Brother” is fairly similar to Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin–that kind of moustached, dark, piercing eyes type. So, Huxley is talking about automation in the 30s, when he wrote his book. It’s the idea of administrator-humans as obsolete, and then going a step farther and automating humans also–removing their hearts and minds. Huxley is asking the reader of his time to decide the value of a man and to reassess the assembly line mentality. It’s a warning–how would you like it if it was this way? Like Rod Serling said, “There’s a sign post up ahead. Next stop…” well, you know.

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