The Author and His Times
Aldous Huxley was born to an elite and intellectual family on July 26, 1894. His family consisted of writers and scientists, and he felt obliged to have the same success. When he was younger, he showed more intelligence and insight than the rest of the children. He also, however, had a rather large head which kept him from walking until he was two. His large head also gave him the childhood nickname of “Ogie”, which was short for Ogre (Brave New World P.S. 3). In school he was interested in becoming a scientist. However, at the age of sixteen, he contracted an illness which rendered him almost completely blind. In one of his letters to George Orwell, he stated that, “Since poor sight makes it necessary to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four”(Brave New World P.S. 12).
His condition did not stop him from graduating from Oxford with honors; however it did stop him from serving in the military during WWI with his friends. He was married twice and had one son, named Matthew Huxley. Aldous wrote about forty- seven books during his lifetime, but his most popular are all novels. He wrote a few of the books while experimenting with drugs such as LSD, which he believed allowed a person to achieve an expanded mind. However, the influences that affected him were not all drug related. Other things and events that may have influenced him include his mother dying of cancer when he was fourteen, his life in England and his social status, his visit to America, and his beliefs about drugs and insanity.
Form, Structure, Plot, and Point of View
The novel flows in chronological order, however, it often switches between two or more conversations, which can be confusing. The novel starts with Henry Foster guiding a group of young scientists through the lab where embryos are decanted. He explains the processes and shows them how the infants are conditioned to like and dislike certain objects based on their class. Outside the group sees Mustapha Mond, one of the world leaders, and he tells them about History. In the girl’s bathroom, Lenina is being berated by her friend for having an exclusive relationship with Henry Foster. It is strange because in this world “everyone belongs to everyone else” (Brave New World 43). She admits, however, that she finds Bernard Marx. In another part of the building, Bernard is furious at Henry and the Assistant Predestinator for treating Lenina and talking about her like a piece of meat. Later, Lenina accompanies Bernard on a trip to the Savage Reservation.
There, they meet Linda, the Director’s ex-lover, and her son John. The sight of the aged people and mothers revolts both Bernard and Lenina. When they return to their home, Bernard pulls some strings and the two savages are allowed to live with them. Linda revolts the other women and the Director resigns when she says that he made her have a baby. Linda then locks herself in her room taking soma holiday after holiday, which would eventually kill her. Meanwhile, John has made Bernard quite popular, and he is able to get more girls. However, the live in London revolts John, and when he refuses to attend a party, Bernard’s social success instantly plummets. Bernard introduces the boy to his friend Hemholtz. The two like each other, but john is laughed at when he recites Shakespeare.
Lenina becomes obsessed with John, and tries to seduce him. It does not work, and he responds with more Shakespeare. After he makes a call and finds out his mother is dying from the soma. When the lower class boys who are getting their death conditioning say that she is ugly, John loses it and starts a riot. This is probably the main conflict, because John, Hemholtz, and Bernard are arrested and sent to Mustapha Mond. In his office, John and Mond discuss the World State’s Policies. Mond explains to john why art, religion, and science have been done away with. An argument breaks out, and Hemholtz and Bernard are sent to a far away island. John lives in a light house. When word gets out of his location, he is met by several London citizens. He reacts by taking out his whip. An orgy takes place, and in the end he hangs himself for submitting to the World State Society.
Bernard Marx is a male Alpha who was mistaken for a lower class when he was decanted. It resulted in him being smaller than the other alphas, which is his source of insecurity. He does not take interest in sports like the other normal people, and has unorthodox beliefs about relationships and community events. In a conversation about Bernard between Lenina and Fanny, Lenina says, “Bernard’s an Alpha Plus. Besides, he asked me to go to one of the Savage Reservations”… “But his reputation?”… “What do I care about his reputation?”… “They say he doesn’t like obstacle golf… and then he spends most of his time by himself- alone” (Brave New World 44-45).
Lenina was being questioned by Fanny about her seriousness on having relations with Bernard because of his reputation. However, he is in love with Lenina and would love to have a relationship with her, but his unorthodox mind is furious at the way she treats herself and is treated by other men. His character is surprisingly human for the new world. He feels jealous and lovesick; things that people like Mustapha Mond say have been eliminated. However, Bernard really just wants to be like everyone else, and is therefore seen as a hypocrite.
It is not known what class Lenina belongs to, but she is thought to be an Alpha or a Beta. She is a vaccination worker at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. She is very promiscuous, except for her four month relationship with Henry Foster. She is attracted to Bernard and his strange appearance, and becomes obsessed with John and his strange behavior. She is desired by many men, and Henry even says, “Lenina Crowne… oh, she’s a splendid girl. Wonderfully pneumatic. I’m surprised you haven’t had her” (Brave New World 44). She is the image of the World State’s Policy; she relates to people through sex, and cannot understand John and Bernard’s alternate way of thinking.
John is the son of Linda, the Director’s ex-lover which took her to the Reservation, and then lost her. He reads Shakespeare, and loves Lenina. He was alienated from the rest of the Reservation children, much like Bernard and the World State. When John goes to the World State, he is alienated even more, and is looked at like a museum item. He worries about his mother taking so much soma, and when she dies and the lower class trainees say she is ugly, he starts a riot. However, when he first arrives in the World State, he is happy to finally see the place his mother loved and missed so much. When he arrives he says, “O brave new world that has such people in it” (Brave New World 160). So at first he really likes London. However, when he starts to learn more about the place he is in he becomes disgusted, and when he is drawn into an orgy, he hangs himself for conforming to such a society.
Sex in Brave New World is depicted as something that even children should be able to do. It is so important to the World State that two-thirds of Women are sterilized, and the rest have to use contraceptives. Abortion is necessary for failures to use them, if the women wish to stay a part of society. Being a mother is considered an obscenity, while being a father is not as bad, but is still absurd to the people. In a way this is similar to our own world, where women who are promiscuous in any way are considered dirty or unclean, while men are free to sleep around, and are even congratulated by their friends for doing so.
The book, however, takes sex to the next level. Children run around naked and interact with erotic play. It is considered as normal as using soma and participating in orgies. At the beginning of the book, Lenina says, “Everyone belongs to everyone else” (Brave New World 43). This lets the reader know what to expect from the characters as far as their sexual relationships are concerned, and it also lets the reader catch a glimpse at what the World State is about.
Throughout the book, the view of sexual relationships is different only for John and the Savages. The savage women beat John’s wife for sleeping with their men, and Linda has no idea what she has done to deserve it. John, on the other hand, from reading Shakespeare learned to be sexually passive, and earn the love of a woman with chivalry instead of seduction.
This other view is confusing to Lenina, who sees nothing wrong with the way she acts. John tries on many occasions to get her love, but instead is only met with lust. He tries Shakespeare to no avail, and is very frustrated with the way London’s people think and act. Towards the middle of the book, Lenina says, “but it was fun… wasn’t it?” after she and Bernard slept together. He was feeling bad about not waiting, while she was confused and told Fanny that she found him to be odd. At the end of the book, after John has participated in the orgy, he says, “Oh, my God, my God!” (259), and hangs himself for conforming to such a society.
The author makes his writing more interesting by switching between conversations that are happening simultaneously. It shows that their world is very busy, and moves at a fast pace. However, it also tends to confuse its readers because they forget who is talking about what, and the rest of the conversation that a certain group of characters are discussing. Besides switching between conversations, the author uses his diction to make the writing more interesting. His word choice shows that the more intelligent characters are telling the story, as opposed to the lower class Epsilons and Deltas. The language was formal, and gave a feeling of sternness and confidence. The novel was not at all poetic, but it got its point across with formal language and very educated word choice. The scientific procedures seemed to be accurate and valid; as though they could someday be real.
The recurring motifs of sex, the word pneumatic, Ford instead of God, references to Shakespeare and alienation play important parts in the novel. The word pneumatic is used throughout the book as a way to describe both Lenina and a chair. For Lenina, it is a reference to her skin, and for a chair, that it is airy or has air pockets in it. Though it is unusual for a person to be called pneumatic, it is not unheard of. The use of Ford instead of God means that the new world is completely rid of religion. The word Ford is used instead to show that religion has been replaced by technology. Three of the characters; John, Bernard, and Hemholtz, are subject to alienation throughout the book. John is an outsider in both the savage village and the World State, Bernard is too small to fit his position, and Hemholtz is too smart to even be an Alpha Plus.
They are all treated poorly because of their differences (except Hemholtz who is very popular with the women). Sex is probably the most recurring motif because the World State is abundant with free love and open relationships. Everyone belongs to everyone else, and it is wrong to see only one man for a long period of time. The last motif is Shakespeare, which inspires and drives John to act the way he does. He can recite lines from Shakespeare with no trouble, and tries to make Lenina fall in love with him, instead of her just trying to seduce him. In a way, Shakespeare is how John understands the world around him, so he is very lost when he gets into the World State. He feels like he is the only true human, with human emotions and wants.
Memorable Quotes/ Personal Response
Overall I enjoyed the book to an extent. The story was interesting, but the way it was written bored me and it was hard to follow the switching of conversations. Its strength lies in the story itself, while the weakness is in the execution (the way it was written). It really reminded me of 1984 by George Orwell. It has a different view on how the world will end up, but both worlds are controlled by certain people, and population control is in place. The biggest difference is that one encourages sex, and the other forbids it. I would recommend this book to people who like to read.
Some quotes that stood out to me include: “Cleanliness is next to fordliness” (110), “We had Elementary Sex for the first forty minutes… but now it’s switched over to Elementary Class Consciousness” (27), and “I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin” (240). The first is another version of a saying that we use, the second refers to the children being exposed to sex very early, and the third refers to the fact that even though the population is conditioned, some still have the ability to revert to human mind sets.
“Aldous Huxley – Biography – The Author And His Times.” Aldous Huxley – Biography – The Author And His Times. Web. 8 May 2012.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946. 8 May, 2012. Print.