When my friends and I recently came to the realization that Americans have come to believe that the pursuit of happiness has become an inalienable right and that such pursuit means “I shouldn’t have to feel pain”, well, we thought we were being profoundly original. Apparently Huxley in this dystopian piece on what the society he lived in might look like at it’s full out extents realized this way before we did. (Darn you Aldous!) Written in the 30’s it’s almost eery how close the world he created in Brave New World is to our own. (Eery and frightening because his work was meant to be satirical!)
Eugenics, Media/Technology controlling society, State Propaganda, Consumerism, Industry made Gods, Corporate Corruption, even cheap throw away clothes ala Walmart- its all in there and it scares the bejesus out of me because this scary world is us!
The story is told mainly around Lenina, Bernard Marx (names look familiar? They should), & John Savage. Lenina is a child of the state- altho slightly odd in that she prefers monogamy instead of "everyone for everyone". But not as odd as Bernard who is as smart as an Alpha (the top caste) but looks like an Epsilon (lower caste). He sees how programmed everyone is to believe what they believe and doesnt like it. He also doesn’t like Soma Holidays (euphemism for dropping a pill and escaping reality for awhile.) This puts him at odds with The Director who administrates the “hatchery” (ie test tube baby factory) and conditioning center (place where all children are conditioned to live in a peaceful society- mostly through subliminal hypnosis.) The director sets about to have Bernard sent off to Iceland for his abnormal thinking only to be foiled by his own hypocrisy.
You see fathering or birthing a baby by means other than test tube is considered vulgar, embarrassing and pornographic. But guess what skeleton The Director has in his closet? A son fathered unbeknownst to him. When Bernard stumbles across the Director’s son on a Savage Reservation- places deemed unfit or too expensive to “civilize” – Bernard finds his means of averting his Icelandic exile. In the process he becomes a media star- through bringing John Savage, the director’s forgotten child, to civilization.
At first John is excited to meet this brave new world, however he quickly becomes disillusioned by fame and the weirdness all around him. Even Lenina, the pull to bring him into civilization is not enough as, despite her own small peculiarity of desiring monogamy, cannot fully comprehend John’s need for individuality in her World State of mind. In the end he gives into societal demands- and unable to live with himself, takes his own life.
There’s so much in this book, I’ve really only brushed the surface, but you get the idea:
"We can make a new one (sic* person) with the greatest ease-as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself.- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Ch. 10"
I think I’m drawn to books such as these because, for some reason, I’ve always felt like I didn’t quite fit in- not in build and not in thinking. When someone’s different, they’ll always feel alone because society will always gravitate to what’s familiar and ostracize what is not. On occasion I like the idea of being reminded that it’s ok and even desired to be an individual. Brave New World was one such reminder.