Johnny's Reviews > Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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Apr 29, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: dystopia, ap-literature, male-protagonist, science-fiction, books-i-ve-taught, england
Read from April 15 to 29, 2011

My head is still spinning from this utterly fantastic book. (I'm not quite sure how I got out of high school and college without having read it!) Written almost a century ago, Huxley's novel is eerily prophetic in its depiction of a culture that promotes promiscuity as "virtuous" and that pushes individuals toward chemical happiness. The narrative naturally includes all of the standard dystopian literary elements: Bernard is the underdeveloped Alpha who becomes "elated by the intoxicating consciousness of his individual significance and importance" in spite of the government's attempts to eliminate individuality; Lenina is his unquestioning love interest who willingly embraces the propaganda that sustains society's status quo; and John the Savage is the outsider who provides an alternative perspective to the shallow perfection of the World State. Unlike feeling tired after so many decades of reinvention by other authors, the story is invigorating in a manner that is far more easily preserved than some of its contemporaries, such as George Orwell's 1984, which although equally as brilliant suffers from a title and setting that has dated it for the past thirty years.

Beyond the precision with which Huxley predicts our reality from the vantage of the early twentieth century, what is so scary about the book is its honesty in depicting what utopian societies truly require: a prominent figure claims that "the secret of happiness and virtue [is] making people like their un-escapable social destiny." The novel suggests that humanity requires a caste system, whether formalized as it is in the World State of Brave New World or conveyed as subtext as it is in our own world. Admitting the static nature of those social positions however is antithetical to the ideals that promote capitalism in the Western world and would likely lead us inevitably down the path to this "brave new world" in which babies are born in test tubes and chemically engineered to fulfill their future line of work. The commentary here though provides for an inescapable contradiction. The perceived perfection of the World State is actually a flaw, supposedly only because we have history and our own reality to which we can compare it. Near the novel's closing, a government official details his belief that "actual happiness always looks squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand." Perhaps this is precisely why our current society soldiers on in the face of such vast disparities in social justice and economic representation.
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Reading Progress

04/22/2011
47.0% "How have I never read this totally brilliant book before?"
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message 1: by Michael (last edited Apr 29, 2011 05:26PM) (new)

Michael Brave New World is the only book I've read three times.
(Correction: I've read "The Sun Also Rises" three times, too.


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