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Brave New World Critical Lens Essay

“I have freedom,” you say? Do you really? Perhaps, in some ways, you do. But in the end, you’re just another puppet being controlled by invisible strings whether you know it or not. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said. In society, man is “chained” and controlled by the government, by pressure of conforming to the social norms, by wealth and social class, and by one’s desires and emotions. Prior to birth, man is not restricted by such factors but that is merely a fleeting moment as he is slowly exposed to more and more of the world. I agree that “everywhere [man] is in chains,” but on the contrary, I believe man is already chained from the start—that man is never free. In the novel, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, babies are “decanted” and conditioned to play out their predestined roles in the World State. As early as the embryonic stage, babies-to-be already have their fates determined for them. In addition to conditioning, a drug called soma that induces a false sense of happiness dominates these people’s lives. As long as there is society, there will be shackles.

Subjects of the World State were pre-separated into specific caste levels through processes such as the Bokanovsky Process, hypnopaedia, and Pavlovian conditioning. As mere embryos, they were already being trained for their predestined fates. By the time they reached the end of the “assembly line,” freedom did not exist anymore. They were enslaved to society. They were conditioned to strictly love and enjoy the aspects of their own castes and dislike the aspects of other castes. “We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers… (13)” stated the Director of Hatcheries matter-of-factly. How can man be born—or in this case, decanted¬—free if he can’t even make his own major life decisions or think for himself?

Aside from conditioning, World State citizens so easily obeyed the government because they lived in such a “perfect” world that there just wasn’t anything to complain about. Generally, they didn’t have any problems in regards to sickness, death, desires, old age, passion, relationships and other issues that were often associated with an “unstable” society. “People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. (220)” If anything “bad” happened, all they had to do was take a tablet. “And do remember that a gramme is better than a damn. (55)”

The World State government kept their people in “bottles.” “’Each one of us, of course…goes through life inside a bottle,’ stated Mustapha Mond. (222-223)” The government expected everyone to act according to the standard of infantile behavior—of simple satisfaction, ignorance, and lack of self-restraint and they condemned anyone who acted otherwise.

Citizens of the society were encouraged to take soma when distressed and attend social events and activities and so on. It was through such ways that the people were kept distracted and obliviously controlled. These “socialized human beings” were so ignorant of the shackles around their limbs that they didn’t even try or think to take them off.

When a man is born with chains—metaphorically speaking, of course—he is unaware of them. And if he is unaware of them, then there is no way for him to escape them. Such is the case with the people of the World State. They are conditioned to accept and even enjoy whatever path that is laid out in front of them. In this illusion of a perfect world, everyone is happy and without a care as the government does all the thinking for them. Ultimately, people of the World State are permanently trapped in a stage of “infancy”—even upon their deathbeds.


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