In the future, who's to say what direction society will turn to? Will the desire for simple, comfortable living overcome the need for knowledge and scientific progress? Will man-kind loose it's ties to individuality and creative expression? Will the masses be subdued through hypnotic means? In Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, the future will be just that.
Brave New World is based of the idea of a dystopian society. Dystopia is the antonym of a utopia, a word defined as: Â a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions. So from that, the picture of a Dystopia can be formed as a society of un-ideal conditions, especially in the idea of society, as Brave New World shows. Brave New World is set in "the year of our Ford 632" (1), in London under the governing of the World State and in these years, children are no longer born. In fact, speaking the words "mother" and "father" are considered an appalling obscenity. Human life is now being created artificially through the use of complex chemistry and machines to imitate the nurturing and development that an egg must need to be birthed as a child.
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However, only a certain few of the fetuses will be developed to be completely healthy and normal, or as the caste system in Brave New World calls, an Alpha. Alphas are the highest ranks of society, whereas the rest (Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon) are lower. The others undergo interference with physiological development to make them into lesser beings. The Gamma, Delta, and Epsilons however, are birthed through the "Bokanovsky Process", in which an egg "will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings where only one grew before."(6). These three castes are destined to fill roles of society like house-keepers and factory workers. The Alpha and Beta classes however, will be individuals.
Once they have matured and "decanted" the infants will begin "conditioning" to shape what thoughts that caste is supposed to have about every element of their social class including their morals, behavior, social routine, prejudices, collective outlook, ect. This was mainly achieved through the use of "hypnopædia" in which the young subject would listen to pre-recorded messages during sleep in order to mold their mind. One message entailed:
"Alpha children wear grey. They work so much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with the Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I'm so glad that I'm a Beta"(27)
As seen, each member of each class was completely comfortable in their position in society. Each caste received the same housing, food, and soma, a perfect drug that can send users on "holidays" that take one away from the troubles of the outside world and into the confines of a happy mind if high enough doses are taken. All of society also participates in promiscuous sex that is not only accepted, but encouraged from early ages. The hypnopædic messages "everyone belongs to everyone else" (90) and "everybody's happy now" (75) were often repeated as words of advice and condolences.
If an individual were too interested in a certain member of the opposite sex and began to only see them consistently, alarms were raised in people's minds. Individuality was also strongly discouraged by society and is seen by peers as terrible and outrageous. One Alpha-Plus member of Brave New World's society, Bernard Marx, displayed the symptoms of a "troubled" person; he spends time alone, doesn't take soma, and his desires in the opposite sex are focused in on one instead of many, as society recommends. Lenina Crowne is the object of Bernard's affection and uses him as an "interesting" break from her normal relations. She goes with Bernard on a visit to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico where humans continue to live untouched by the World State.
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The reservation is home to the Indians of that area who have continued to live the same way they had before the World State took control of all civilization. The savages are untouched from the brainwashing and conditioning that the current population is raised with and have a very different view of what "normal" is. While Bernard is here, a savage named John is introduced. John returns with Bernard and Lenina to London to see the "Brave New World" that had been described to him.
Once in London, John is aware of an incredible culture gap that exists between the World State's citizen's views and John's own (which are mainly influenced by the only piece of literature he ever owned, a Shakespeare volume). John becomes increasingly more disgusted with this new society until he finally moves out into an abandoned lighthouse secluded from the public's view. He decides to live off of the land and be free from all ties to civilization through a hermit's lifestyle. But sadly, his solitude becomes interrupted when a photographer comes across his land and releases his privacy to the rest of the world. The next day, thousands of people show up to the doorstep of John's land and demand to be entertained by his strange beliefs and rituals. John, now incredibly frustrated with his continually failed attempts of solitude, snaps. He uses a whip to beat a member of the crowd, which excites the spectators more and more until they climax in a soma induced orgy, in which John participates in.
The novel ends the next day when John, remembering what he had participated in the night before, hangs himself to atone for his wrongdoings. I found the ending to be a bit abrupt, and I didn't quite realize what had happened at first, but once I figured out the metaphors, I felt sorrow for what the savage had to go through with his time in this new society, and I felt anger at what society itself had turned into.
I found my favorite part of the book to be when Mustapha Mond, the World Controller and highest power of the World State, explains to John before he leaves why society has now been engineered this way and why it is necessary in order for mankind to stay comfortable and happy without the need for individuality and progression. The monologue is very well written and even made me understand how happy everyone in a world like that would be, even though it is completely without justice and freedom.
In the current scientific world, the sort of genetically structured culture that is shown in Brave New World could definitely be possible. Genetic engineering has become more and more advanced over the past decade, and though humans continue to be birthed now, who's to say that 100 years from now, they will begin to be "decanted", as Brave New World suggests? Brave New World serves as both a glance into the future of genetic engineering and as a warning of a dystopian future that may exist as a byproduct of such practices.
This book is highly recommended by me for any fans of dystopian literature and philosophy. There is a huge amount of detail gone into the description of how this type of society functions, yet the current human qualities that John, the savage, exhibits very much appeal to the reader in place of the outlandish and incredible practices and beliefs that are commonplace in Brave New World's society. It is one of Aldous Huxley's best works and it deserves your full attention as a novel that everyone should read.
This novel is both relevant to biology and is a great read, keeping you interested even after the book is through. Huxly is famous for his bleak looks into the future of mankind, and the prospect of a society in which freedom is completely unobtainable is indeed a chilling notion.