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Brave New World
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New School Classics- 1900-1999 > Brave New World: Spoilers

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message 1: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9439 comments Mod
Don't read if you don't want to know.


Rick (williarw) Maybe because I'm a psychologist, but I was interested in the Neo-Pavlovian conditioning rooms and the elaborate process of ingraining beliefs of each subtype (e.g., Alphas, Betas, etc.). Huxley clearly believed that such efforts were possible and, just as clearly, felt they were doomed to fail. One of my favorite quotes re: Epsilons: "His conditioning has laid down rails along which he's got to run. He can't help himself; he's foredoomed."

An example of a prediction which has seemed to come to fruition: conditioning children to love only sports that require equipment so that everyone will consume and encouraging people to gratify their needs..."But industrial civilization is only possible when there's no self-denial. Self-indulgence up the the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise, the wheels stop turning."

Huxley seems to be predicting a dystopian future, but at the same time, it is not clear that he wants things to stay as they are. It seems that he is arguing that extremes in any direction are problematic.

I had not read this book before and I am certainly glad that I did now.


Pink | 6556 comments Rick wrote: "Maybe because I'm a psychologist, but I was interested in the Neo-Pavlovian conditioning rooms and the elaborate process of ingraining beliefs of each subtype (e.g., Alphas, Betas, etc.). Huxley cl..."

Very nicely put, not sure that I have much to add to that right now. I'm glad you liked the book, I only discovered it earlier this year and it turned out to be one of my favourites. I think the utopian/ dystopian concept within it are very interesting.


Rick (williarw) I agree! It is a book that gets you thinking.


message 5: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments The conversation from which that quote about the Epsilons is extracted, Rick, was exceptional. That Chapter, or maybe it was two chapters, in which Savage and Mustopha Mond, and Watson and Mond, talk, was worth the price of admission, alone.

Yea, also glad I read it. The nd was devastating, tho. And completely predictable. Mond Isn't mentioned again, at then end of the book, but the horror that he really is, despite the mild mannerisms, and talk of sacrificing himself for the happiness of others, seems unmasked, by the consequence of his decision to send John back to 'civilization', so that he can still be studied.


Rick (williarw) I agree MK. That section of the book was my favorite. I was not so thrilled about the ending, in fact, I didn't like it. While I get the point that suicide is the ultimate demonstration of free will, it seemed to me that it was an act of cowardice and a failure to consider other options. Plus, such self-loathing about sexual desire was an implication of the path that Huxley seemed to favor.


message 7: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments That's so interesting, Rick. I hadn't considered that Savage's act was the ultimate expression of free will. But I suppose that is true, Ian' t it? I was locked into seeing its predictability, given his flirtation with it, back in the New Mexico Reservation, and his forced return to 'civilization' and the spectacle he became. Do you think, given Savage' s own 'conditioning' (beatings and ostrasization by peers and elders, as a kid and later, because of Linda's promiscuity), that he had the capacity to consider other options?


The self-loathing and self-flogging about sexual desire was as creepy as the drugged imbecility of 'civilization', no doubt! You think that Huxley favored that path? That's interesting to think about. I wonder.

btw, did Savage kill Lenina? I wasn't certain, but it seemed like he might have.


message 8: by MK (last edited Dec 11, 2013 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments That Epsilons quote, and Savage's 'conditioning' have been knocking around in my mind, as I'm going about my day. It brings up the question of nature vs nurture. Were Savage's actions also 'foredoomed', bc of his social conditioning? The Epsilons' conditioning referred to in that quote might refer to both social conditioning (nurture), and heredity / in vitro conditioning (nature), but I think it mostly refers to the nature part, bc the Epsilons are Epsilons at 'decanting', bc of the poisoning they receive from fertilization thru decanting.


Rick (williarw) Hey MK, my read was that Savage didn't kill her and he was disgusted with himself for almost killing her.


message 10: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments ahhh, thx Rick


message 11: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9439 comments Mod
Thanks to Rick, MK, & Pink for keeping up on the reading this month. Sorry, I've just been trying to finish some other books. Didn't mean to ignore you all -- but you've done a nice job of keeping the conversation going. I've still got half the month. Hope to be into this book soon.


message 12: by Kat (last edited Dec 17, 2013 08:29AM) (new) - added it

Kat (superkatness) | 162 comments Since we've been talking about Pavlovian application...the conditioning employed in the embryonic stage of human life is, to me, Huxley's comment on the conditioning with which we are unconsciously subjected to in our various cultures and societies; even our language and our ways of putting thought into words is a form of conditioning, and we cannot escape from it. The most we can do is to be aware of it and understand why. We can transcend some of it, but not all. The difference between us and the embryos is that we are not governed by a uniform intelligence above our own; we have access to the knowledge of it even if we cannot fully transcend it. Which begs the question: is life, growth, a gradual transcendence? Is knowledge merely an attempt to extricate oneself from the strictures of a conditioned society, an unconsciously controlled existence?


message 13: by Kat (last edited Dec 17, 2013 08:39AM) (new) - added it

Kat (superkatness) | 162 comments This should probably be in the "background" thread, but for those who have also read Utopia and Men Like Gods: I view H.G. Wells' Men Like Gods as an attempt to explain the Utopia in Thomas More's vision. I think Wells did not like Hythloday's a priori explanations for everything in Utopia, and sought to create a parallel character (Mr. Barnstaple) that asked questions which were lucidly explained by the Utopians. More's Utopia did not explain how things came to be, how society formed and supported the type of economic, political, religious, educational, judicial, and social roles that governed the place. His purpose was not to explain how, but to show a different possibility, to open a discourse on the idea of different systems, to ask questions that the readers must answer within themselves, to challenge his audience to examine, question, and hold accountable the current institutions of the time, encouraging them to perceive the world in a new perspective; that it was even possible to perceive the world in different ways. Utopia did not offer answers, but questions that must be asked and addressed. He also showed that the Utopian civilization was not ideal, but in fact had fatal flaws, as does reality. Wells' response was to write a Utopia where all the answers were given; to fill in the hows which More purposefully left uncomfortably blank. However, his Utopian vision fails miserably, as one cannot eradicate the human condition. It simply does not work. More did not exalt himself to claim that his Utopia would work, while Wells did. This caused Huxley to respond with a dystopian counterpart, Brave New World, and explain the failings of both; why a Utopian society is not possible, flawed or not, and that the human condition of control, greed, addiction, and the negative will prevail.


message 14: by Kat (new) - added it

Kat (superkatness) | 162 comments Also, something I found interesting in Chapter 4: I have to wonder if all of Bernard's "otherness" was, at its core, merely a result of his lack of physical prowess. And if so, does that necessarily refute all of the decisions he made in the novel? Is it possible-or correct-to simplify the complexities of his psyche to the one fact that he simply was not as tall as the average Alpha? Or, does his singular "defect" function as a catalyst to ask questions of his society and culture which churned within him at a subconscious level? Did his "defect" unleash the non-programmed humanity in him? It had to have already been there. I guess the question really is, was his lack of height a potent enough personal problem that it was the only way the questioning of society could have been brought to the surface of his consciousness, or would he have been "different" anyway? Further, does this render any of the plot pointless?


message 15: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9439 comments Mod
Thanks, Kat. Spoiler thread or background thread. It doesn't really matter ~ just not the non-spoiler thread. :)

Cool stuff, I got to consider your questions a bit more before I can answer any though.


message 16: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kat wrote: "Since we've been talking about Pavlovian application...the conditioning employed in the embryonic stage of human life is, to me, Huxley's comment on the conditioning with which we are unconsciously subjected to in our various cultures and societies; even our language and our ways of putting thought into words is a form of conditioning, and we cannot escape from it. The most we can do is to be aware of it and understand why. We can transcend some of it, but not all. The difference between us and the embryos is that we are not governed by a uniform intelligence above our own; we have access to the knowledge of it even if we cannot fully transcend it. Which begs the question: is life, growth, a gradual transcendence? Is knowledge merely an attempt to extricate oneself from the strictures of a conditioned society, an unconsciously controlled existence? "

I keep losing my comment :-p. Struggling with intermittent internet connectivity today (grrr)

Trying again:

Great stuff, Kat, all three of your comments. Some of it is beyond me (because I haven't read the Wells novel, or Utopia, but I'll take a stab :-D.

In your first comment, on knowledge and transcending the conditioning you are born with and into, I don't know, but it is a hopeful, optimistic way of considering human condition, so I'll buy into that view of knowledge.

The only think I was puzzled about in your first comment, was the thinking about Huxley's embryonic manipulation as a comment on our social conditioning. In Brave New World, Huxley employed a barrage of methods of conditioning, embryonic manipulation, subconscious conditioning (the voiceovers under their pillows, as children), and overt conditioning (the circles of joining - I forget their name; the flowers and picture books shock lesson; the 'death conditioning' days; and of course, the drug induced 'vacations').

It seemed to me that the embryonic manipulation was an early comment on eugenics, and the rest of the stuff related to the parameters we construct for ourselves, as a society.


message 17: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kat wrote: "This should probably be in the "background" thread, but for those who have also read Utopia and Men Like Gods: I view H.G. Wells' Men Like Gods as an attempt to explain the Utopia in Thomas More's vision. I think Wells did not like Hythloday's a priori explanations for everything in Utopia, and sought to create a parallel character (Mr. Barnstaple) that asked questions which were lucidly explained by the Utopians. More's Utopia did not explain how things came to be, how society formed and supported the type of economic, political, religious, educational, judicial, and social roles that governed the place. His purpose was not to explain how, but to show a different possibility, to open a discourse on the idea of different systems, to ask questions that the readers must answer within themselves, to challenge his audience to examine, question, and hold accountable the current institutions of the time, encouraging them to perceive the world in a new perspective; that it was even possible to perceive the world in different ways. Utopia did not offer answers, but questions that must be asked and addressed. He also showed that the Utopian civilization was not ideal, but in fact had fatal flaws, as does reality. Wells' response was to write a Utopia where all the answers were given; to fill in the hows which More purposefully left uncomfortably blank. However, his Utopian vision fails miserably, as one cannot eradicate the human condition. It simply does not work. More did not exalt himself to claim that his Utopia would work, while Wells did. This caused Huxley to respond with a dystopian counterpart, Brave New World, and explain the failings of both; why a Utopian society is not possible, flawed or not, and that the human condition of control, greed, addiction, and the negative will prevail. "

In your second comment, I'm at sea, not having read either of those books. But, your conclusion resonates. If I can relate it to a modern movie (heh), the Matrix trilogy draws similar conclusions - the dude at the end, explaining all to Neo, says they tried many iterations of the Matrix, including ones where all the humans were happy, but they failed. The only thriving simulated worlds they created were the ones where some humans were dissatisfied, and striving for something to attain, or accomplish.


message 18: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kat wrote: "Also, something I found interesting in Chapter 4: I have to wonder if all of Bernard's "otherness" was, at its core, merely a result of his lack of physical prowess. And if so, does that necessarily refute all of the decisions he made in the novel? Is it possible-or correct-to simplify the complexities of his psyche to the one fact that he simply was not as tall as the average Alpha? Or, does his singular "defect" function as a catalyst to ask questions of his society and culture which churned within him at a subconscious level? Did his "defect" unleash the non-programmed humanity in him? It had to have already been there. I guess the question really is, was his lack of height a potent enough personal problem that it was the only way the questioning of society could have been brought to the surface of his consciousness, or would he have been "different" anyway? Further, does this render any of the plot pointless? "

In this last one, I think the lack of height relative to the other Alphas was for sure a major source of Bernard's sense of otherness. But, I don't think, in the novel, it's the only cause (being physically 'less' than your peers). A little boy, near the beginning of the novel, who didn't want to engage in erotic play, and ran away, seemed to speak to this. Huxley didn't indicate the boy was physically inferior to his peers (I don't think), but the teacher who hustled the boy off to psych services said that sometimes it happens, that a child doesn't have interest in erotic play.

The other example of being different in mind, rather than in body, was Bernard's friend. The physically fabulous Alpha he was friends with, who got any girl he wanted etc etc, but nonetheless, felt different than his peers.

And of course, the islands that Mond talked about, populated by people who rejected their conditioning, where Mond himself almost was sent, and where Bernard and the friend were sent, near the end of the novel.

So no, I don't think that physical differences leading to a sense of separation was the only thing that could induce questioning of the society.


message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 13 comments wow just finished this one...so much to think about. I know I read it in the past but I almost might have been reading it for the first time and am glad I did. I am going to have to forgo extended commenting for a couple of days as its Christmas Eve and much to do....but I will say this....the conversation between the controller and the Savage was amazing. More later.


message 20: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 13 comments Oh and Merry Christmas all who celebrate


message 21: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9439 comments Mod
Thanks Sue


message 22: by Daisy (last edited Dec 27, 2013 03:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Daisy (bellisperennis) The above comments deserve more thought, on my part. I just finished this book. They are revelatory and thought provoking.

In another thread Kathy wrote: “This thread is to discuss the author or other background for the book.” Thank you for the wonderful background thread.

One of the “Discussion Questions” in the Background thread regards the use of Shakespeare. "When John first starts reading Shakespeare, he discovers that the words make his emotions "more real" - they even make other people more real. Talk about the power of language in the book.”

It was a surprise to me when, at a certain point in my reading, I realized that Shakespeare was primarily the crux of John’s “book” education (compared to his native community education), being one of the two books he grew up reading. And, that Shakespeare provided one of the frameworks for John’s view of the world.

The stark juxtaposition of the language of Shakespeare within the writing style that Huxley used for this book is impressive. (I have not yet read any of Huxley’s other works but now I would like to read Literature And Science). Shakespeare is poetry compared to the accurate and precise language style within which it is cradled. The Shakespeare quotes were a periodic enhancement and reminder of the sterile environment of this utopian world that Huxley depicts.


message 23: by Daisy (last edited Dec 28, 2013 07:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Daisy (bellisperennis) Above Kat points out that in response to the writings or More and Wells, Huxley tries to explain:

Kat wrote: "why a Utopian society is not possible, flawed or not, and that the human condition of control, greed, addiction, and the negative will prevail. "

While I was reading this book I had wondered why these human failings had not been worked out with solutions as part of the "utopian plan" within the context of this book.

But, it's a nice addition that along with these failings in human nature there are also more noble sentiments which MK mentions.

MK wrote: "striving for something to attain, or accomplish."

And, I would also add, the desire to "create.

Huxley does, however, treat this issue in that there are the islands for the dissatisfied.


Katerina | 23 comments Rick wrote: "I was not so thrilled about the ending, in fact, I didn't like it. While I get the point that suicide is the ultimate demonstration of free will, it seemed to me that it was an act of cowardice and a failure to consider other options."

It seems to me that Huxley investigated and took away the other common solutions that people turn toward. Art is dismissed in the conversation with Mustapha Mond because art requires passion which is counter to happiness. (Art can also be accommodated, as Helmholtz Watson demonstrates, on an island.) Science is constrained because it disturbs equilibrium but technology has also been shown to be part of the problem. Mond doesn't dismiss religion outright. He even acknowledges that there quite probably is a God. It is this point that Huxley seems to consider in the final chapters - the Savage's relationship to God. Mond says, "God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice." So the Savage escapes to the lighthouse and attempts to justify himself before God. He purges his system, tries asceticism, and flagellates his body, but these offer him no help or hope. All that is left is the rebellion of suicide.

While I don't agree with the version of God that Huxley portrayed, it seems that he was using this portrayal to remove religion as a solution. What I haven't been able to figure out is what he accomplished by it. What vision did he really have for the future? Surely it wasn't this hopeless or pointless?


message 25: by Rick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick (williarw) Well said Iris. The hopeless vision was disturbing and, to me, pointless.


message 26: by Bob, Short Story Classics (last edited Aug 01, 2015 07:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
I finished this a short while ago and was saving my thoughts in case it won the September 2014 Revisit the Shelf Poll. No luck, so I figured I'd post my short review anyway.

First I thought the book was exceptional and Huxley was a first class thinker/writer. To say he was ahead of his time is a slight under statement. I will have to read another of his books.

My Review


Samantha Sipper | 7 comments I thought it was a good book also. An interesting concept of how society might function. Problems still found their way into everyday life. I think I would hate a utopian life, but still it is an interesting read.


message 28: by Pink (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pink | 6556 comments I'm glad so many people have been enjoying this.

Has anyone read his Utopian novel Island? I've had it on my shelf for a while, but haven't got around to it yet. I think it will be interesting to compare it with this dystopian story.


Vatsa | 49 comments Pink wrote: "I'm glad so many people have been enjoying this.

Has anyone read his Utopian novel Island? I've had it on my shelf for a while, but haven't got around to it yet. I think it will be in..."


From the blurb for it, i don't think the story will be great. I dint like story in brave new world too, but the idea is great. So maybe i will give it a try.

I liked the story in 1984 better though i think Huxley's world is more probable and more scary too- u are in chains and u loke it!


Philina | 1562 comments I agree and disagree with Vatsa:
1. From a narrative standpoint 1984 is indeed better I think. It follows a clear protagonist and his narrative arc.
2. Regarding world building and the world itself BNW is far superior in my opinion. It's much more complex and philosophically more interesting.

Some observations of mine:
1. My favourite parts: the beginning and the conversation of John and Mond.
2. What's the point of spending so much time with Bernard in the beginning? I thought he was the protagonist, but in the end he was kind of only the vehicle to discover the Savage. I expected more from him.
3. It's a pity that we didn't get more info on the world itself. I would have loved that! What I really missed was some more history, e.g. how Ford changed the world. Or why did they leave the savage reservation?
4. A dystopian pseudo-history book novel would be awesome! Like the World of Ice and Fire for the Brave New World.


Melanti | 2384 comments I re-read this last year for a different group's discussion.

One thing that I remember is that I didn't like how John was so easily able to understand Shakespeare. If you think about it, he's basically teaching himself, and Shakespeare's notorious for making up words or using words in ways they aren't generally used. IF you think back to learning Shakespeare in school for the first time and how confusing it was - can you imagine trying to figure that out without any sort of guidance?

And some of Shakespeare's plays require other knowledge to really understand. Especially plays like Othello where there's a long history of racial tensions that come into play.

I'm saying that he wouldn't have been able to understand Shakespeare at all, but I think a lot of the nuances would be lost on him.

Phil wrote: "I2. What's the point of spending so much time with Bernard in the beginning? I thought he was the protagonist, but in the end he was kind of only the vehicle to discover the Savage. I expected more from him...."

If this is the part of the book that I'm thinking of, I think Huxley is using Bernard to explain the world to the reader... An infodump, in other words. It's one of the banes of sci-fi - especially classic sci fi.


Melanti | 2384 comments For those of you who liked this and (especially) 1984, you might try We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Huxley denied having read We but there's some similarities, and Orwell admits that We was his inspiration.

And We was a response to the Crystal Palace portion of Notes from Underground which was a group read from earlier this year.


Philina | 1562 comments Melanti wrote: "If this is the part of the book that I'm thinking of, I think Huxley is using Bernard to explain the world to the reader... An infodump, in other words. It's one of the banes of sci-fi - especially classic sci fi. "

I don't think infodumps are a bane! I actually love most of them and (as mentioned before) would have loved a "pure infodump" book in form of the history of the Brave New World.
I just think Bernard isn't necessary for the infodump:

The first part (the stundents being guided around the embryo conveyer belt) served as an infodump, I believe. As did the conversation of Mond and the Savage. Bernard happend between these two.

I think as most of the fact info was already given in the beginning and the answers to "why?" given in the conversation Mond/John, Huxley could have cut most of Bernard and did the whole thing in a "more elegant" narrative. Maybe start with John after the infodump and let him be discovered by Bernard from his perspective.
I know this is complaining on a very high level, so don't hate me ;-) ! I gave the book 4 stars!!!


message 34: by Vatsa (last edited Aug 19, 2015 09:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vatsa | 49 comments Melanti wrote: "I re-read this last year for a different group's discussion.

One thing that I remember is that I didn't like how John was so easily able to understand Shakespeare. If you think about it, he's bas..."


I don't think he really understood all the nuances of it because of the reasons you state. But he understood enough of all the love involved, u know, like in Romeo and Juliet.. And in any case, it's possible to quote from it without fully understanding.

If he doesn't know anything about civilized world (apart from what his mother told) what does it matter if he read books from 1500 or 2000 or 2100? It would all be equally exotic to him, though, ofcourse, not to us..

That said, i've not read Shakespeare fully, so I beg pardon if I'm wrong..


Philina | 1562 comments Vatsa, wouldn't Shakespeare be closer to his world in the reservation than to the civilized world? Thus, it should be more exotic to civilized people than to him.


Vatsa | 49 comments Phil wrote: "Vatsa, wouldn't Shakespeare be closer to his world in the reservation than to the civilized world? Thus, it should be more exotic to civilized people than to him."

Ya, you are right! At least he knew some basic concepts like god, mother, family.. So he was in a better position to understand Shakespeare than most people at that time..


Melanti | 2384 comments I get what Huxley was trying to go for - artful vs prosaic speech - it just didn't work for me.

I suppose he could have not really understood all of what he read, but that wasn't the impression I got from reading the novel. And I'm just really, really picky about my sci-fi making sense in context. And this one aspect doesn't make sense to me - whether or not it fits in thematically with the rest of the book or not.


Anetq | 326 comments Didn't like it much - the philosophical discussion is interesting, but the book doesn't get to its point very elegantly, I think.

But BTW: Am I the only one thinking there's a Jesus metaphor in the end: The Savage sacrificing himself for for happiness/salvation (in this case maybe entertainment) of the masses. (The metaphor seems obvious as he's been practicing the crucifixion all his life...)


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Anetq, you may be right.


message 40: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth | 67 comments Melanti wrote: "I re-read this last year for a different group's discussion.

One thing that I remember is that I didn't like how John was so easily able to understand Shakespeare. If you think about it, he's bas..."


I think John would have understood the racial tension in Othello. Don't forget he was considered a outsider to the Indians on the reservation and Shakespeare covers the whole gambit of human emotions - anger, fear, revenge, love etc. He would have understood all these emotions more so than the people who had been living in "civilized" society.

I had read this many years ago and had forgotten alot of it so I'm glad I got to read it again.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments I find it interesting that John identified more with what excluded and ostracized him.

However, I guess John was still a product of the environment that banished himself and his mother, even if he was prevented from participating in the life of the community.

However, I can't imagine having to spend every waking hour with other people. That sound hellish.

John, in London, rejects "civilization" being with people every moment of the day. I can't help but wonder if John had been allowed to be a part of the community and to participate, would he have been happy there either? He would have had to conform there as well.

Perhaps John would still be a nonconformist if he had been accepted by the Indians--did not wish to conform with how they--the Indians thought one should live one's life, what one should believe and value.


David (nusandman) | 5 comments Just finished this weekend. Enjoyed the book quite a bit. More than I imagined as my only previous Huxley was The Doors of Perception. This was much more accessible than that. The entire concept of creating different levels of society by breeding and training was fascinating. Glad I finally read this one.


message 43: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
This is our June 2017 Revisit the Shelf Reread. It was the poll winner for the December 2013 New School & was reread in August 2015. The first two readings have not generated an abundance of discussion, 42 total posts.

This is the Spoiler discussion thread.


message 44: by N. (last edited Jun 07, 2017 07:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

N. G. G. Ellis (ngge) I guess I'll kick the revisit comments off. First, I really enjoyed the the book. Huxley's take on the future felt resonant even 85 years after the book was written.

Someone commented previously that Huxley's sympathies were with John. I was wondering if others agreed that one particular character or set of ideals is portrayed as preferable.

I think the obvious choice for sympathy is John (and free will) but I felt that neither John, Bernard, nor Helmholtz actually make a good case for free will in the context of the book. Indeed the conversation with Mustapha Mond seems to purposefully avoid any upsides of free will.

What's more, several scenes establish John's violent nature and the sexism inherent to his romantic aspirations (a surprising touch from a book published in 1932). As much as I sympathized with the prescient notion of John being hounded by a fanatical mob that misunderstands and degrades him, I found the idea of choosing between John's idea of what the world should be like and the World State depressing.

Did anybody see more hope in the book than I did? Did anyone find one or more of the characters and their world view more sympathetic than I did?


Francisca | 368 comments I'm afraid I don't see much hope in Huxley's vision... I remember the first time I read this, maybe five years ago, I thought it was a brilliantly relevant depiction of the perils of our society. My copy of the book even had a letter at the end from Huxley to Orwell, thanking him for the manuscript of 1984 and explaining why he thought that the oppressive society both envisioned would be gradually and peacefully "self-inflicted". (He also rather pompously claims that the only thing he didn't predict was nuclear fission...)

But on rereading I think the overall sensation I had was of disgust for everyone. All of them seemed doomed by their own flaws — Bernard his egoism, John his inability to dominate his desires, even Helmholtz his placidity... and with the exception of John's wild attempt at the end, none of them really try to improve, become better. The stability Huxley imagines society seeking seems reflected in the stability of personality of the people in society.


Francisca | 368 comments I think that's part of what makes Huxley's vision of the World State so oppressive: he makes it so that there's no real alternative, no escape


Kathleen | 3806 comments Maybe Huxley was trying to show that Bernard's and John's flaws came from their struggles with being outsiders, and one of his warnings was the perils that come from society's tendency to suppress (and create hangups for) outsiders/individualists/those who might provide alternatives and escapes.


Paula W | 552 comments I gave it 5 stars. I haven't written a review yet, but I have an idea that I am not sure has been covered in this thread. Unfortunately, I am having a bit of trouble putting it into words.
The closest I think I can come to what is going on in my head is this: We are all conditioned in some way or other. I think the author was trying to say that. A godless society seems awful only because we have been conditioned to believe in God. Lack of consent and orgies seem awful only because we have been conditioned to believe in independence and bodily autonomy and monogamy. The savage was seen as savage because he wasn't indoctrinated with all the mind control, but he was indoctrinated with other things -- namely, Native American customs and Shakespeare. He even ended his life out of shame because that's all he knew to do. All Shakespearean heroes die in the end, right? He definitely wasn't written as a perfect character; John was violent and actually fairly weird. There was even this gross sexual thing with his mother, where Lenina and his mother were often blended in his thoughts.
Ugh, I don't know if this is making sense. But I came away thinking that John was not the better of the two opposing cultures. He was simply indoctrinated and brainwashed in another way.


message 49: by N. (new) - rated it 4 stars

N. G. G. Ellis (ngge) I think I can get behind the idea of Huxley pointing out that everyone is brainwashed in different ways, it does feel like a major theme of the book.

Having said that, I feel like Mustapha Mond undermines his point. Mond seems to have more actual free will than the people he controls, which means what? We are all programmed except for a small enclave who get to choose how they want to live, what's important and how the rest of society will live? That may be a good point but it doesn't feel like what the rest of the book is trying to say.


Paula W | 552 comments Nate wrote: "I think I can get behind the idea of Huxley pointing out that everyone is brainwashed in different ways, it does feel like a major theme of the book.

Having said that, I feel like Mustapha Mond u..."


I disagree. Mustapha makes it clear in later chapters that he doesn't completely agree or believe in the system. So why does he make the decision to give up science and free thought? Perhaps it is because he chose power over all that. Which means, as an Alpha who is given "a larger bottle", he is a victim of the same system as everyone else.


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