Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“In Huxley’s darkly satiric yet chillingly prescient imagining of a ‘utopian’ future, humans are genetically designed and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded and as a thought-provoking yet satisfying entertainment.”
Thoughts: Brave New World is one of those classics seemingly everyone has read, if only because it has been among the leading books banned by libraries and schools since it was first published in 1932. However, in a case of not learning from what one reads, there are enough similarities between Huxley’s envisioned “utopia” and today’s world that are downright frightening. Huxley’s world is just as relevant, maybe even more so, today than it was eighty years ago. That is just plain scary.
Either Huxley was a genius or life truly does imitate art because there is so much in Brave New World that hits too close to home. As this was a book club selection, the first thing that people noticed was the focus on instantaneous gratification. In Huxley’s world, waiting four hours for something is a travesty. Sound familiar? In this day and age of instant news coverage, ordering everything possible online, FedEx and next-day delivery, text messages, chat rooms, social media, and everything else, we are quickly becoming a society that is disgusted by news taking more than a few minutes to be verified, by packages that take more than a day to arrive, by food we actually have to take the time to cook or wait for someone else to prepare. Huxley’s commentary on this fixation is better suited now than when he first envisioned this dystopian future and is almost depressing to behold.
It does not take a huge stretch of the imagination for readers to be able to recognize more than a few bits and pieces of today’s society in Huxley’s fictional one. The focus on technology and idolization of mass production is another aspect that hits a little too close to home, except in today’s age, we could be worshipping Our Jobs instead of Our Ford. Feelies and the scent organ are similar to the 3-D and even 4-D movies that are in abundance these days, with feelies all-too similar to haptic game controllers and keyboards. As for soma, is there any doubt how popular such a drug would become, especially if it were legally sanctioned and provided no hangover? These similarities are the most chilling aspects of Brave New World.
It is so easy for a reader to get caught up in Huxley’s world without paying attention to the message he is trying to make about what one sacrifices in order to create and live in such a world. There is plenty of food for fodder when one is able to set aside the horror of this new world. Bernard’s and Helmholtz’s inability to conform are indications that all is not well, while John’s inability to cope with his new surroundings is the most blatant reminder of all that was lost to make the new and improved. The sterilization of the world diminishes the true nature of humanity, and everything for which humans have worked over the past centuries is naught.
Psychology, sociology, technology, and a healthy dose of imagination all combine to create the chilling image of a future society in which there is no religion, no family, no messiness, and no fuss. Its warnings are more true today than Huxley could ever have imagined. Therein lies the power of Brave New World.
Acknowledgements: Mine, all mine.
Very well-said. I do agree that plenty of people in power prefer the ignorance of its citizens to protect themselves and their own positions, but use the excuse of protection of their constituents to legitimize their claims. It i s infuriating.
Brave New World definitely hit home for me. It made me realize that we, as society are going down a dangerous path in the way we avoid even a glimmer of pain, struggle or discomfort, be it emotional or physical. As Shmoop points out, this book also provides very interesting commentary on education and how it can brainwash an entire generation towards a certain mode of thought. When you think about all the arguments regarding creationism, sex education, etc between school boards and politicians, you realize that just like the leaders of Brave New World, plenty of people in power would rather have a generation grow up in complete ignorance than give them access to information that will enrich and protect them in the future.
I think what is scariest is how quickly our society has changed. When I read this the first time around fifteen years ago, social media didn't even exist other than very slow e-mail. Instant messaging was just being introduced. The book definitely did not have the same impact then as it does now.
Thanks, Jenny! I read this the first time about fifteen years ago; it definitely did not have the same impact on me then as it had this time around. In fact, I had forgotten quite a bit of the novel from that first time. I think the power of dystopian novels lie in our ability to see our current society within the fictional, as it forces us to evaluate our society and values.
Excellent review, especially the comparisons. I remember mentally doing that with the Handmaiden's Tale. I think I tried to read this when I was very young and put it down because it didn't make much sense. Today would be a different story. Thanks for recommendation.