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Brave New world is Aldous Huxley’s fourth novel. It is a science fiction novel based in “this year of stability” AF632 (632 years after the Ford Model T was first put into mass production). It is about one mans attempt to try to fit into society which has a very strict but widely accepted way of conducting oneself. By trying to fit in, Bernard Marx brings back a savage (John), from a North American Savage Reservation a place where people live without science in a poor but simpler way of life to supposed ‘civilisation’.
At first John is awed by this spectacle of innovation and technology but then with the premature death of his mother caused by Soma (a drug distributed freely by the Government to control the public). His original admiration makes him see this ‘Brave New World in completely different light.
This book was published in 1932. It conveys – in a satirical way – Huxley’s views on the society of the 1920’s – 1930’s where people were beginning to loosen their puritanical views and ways of life.
This novel is Huxley’s way of raising his concern about the rate of change in society. I feel that he wanted the people in his day to be shocked by the practises in AF632 so they would slow down the social change. This enforces a lot of people’s ideas (York Notes) that this is a book of ideas.
This novel is based on using ideas and themes, rather than character plot and setting.
The fact that this novel is set 600 years after publication does not affect the main running of the story, it is just a platform for Huxley to put across his philosophies and is a way to make stronger, the metaphors and images believable. For example the graphic portrayal of babies being ‘decanted’ – poured form a bottle, like alcohol which has been fermented for a purpose – rather than born, is much more believable in a science fiction novel. Therefore Huxley is able to make the reader think realistically about the situation rather than dismissing it at first glance. So it allows the reader to have a second thought and read more in depth. It is clear that Huxley’s strengths lie in the messaging and ideas rather than a fiction writer. This is quite reasonable to assume because his early work consisted mainly of novels, which he later referred to as vehicles for his ideas and in 1972 he released his volume of essays, ‘Proper Studies’, to express his philosophical and social views.
In Brave New World control has emphasised dramatically to express Huxley’s views. Soma is a drug, which makes all your troubles go away, and propels users into ecstasy. This is used as a method of controlling the public and keeping social order. Soma is a metaphor, which relates to the savages of Samoa off the coast of New Guinea. The culture there is similar to that of Brave New World, in that the people were in a community of a whole and not in families with mothers and fathers and which childbirth was the work of ancestral gods. These ‘ancestral Gods’ are what thee people of Brave New World would take to be people like Henry Ford who changed industrialism an a sensational way – that of mass production and standardisation – and unwittingly worship them in a religious manner. Huxley tries to demonise Soma so that we will look upon it as a scourge and tries to enforce the idea that having control of our senses is highly important and almost sacred thing. For example soma causes the premature death of Linda (the savage’s mother) this enrages the savage to start throwing Soma capsules out of the hospital window which results in a hoard of Deltas to attack him in mindless zombie-like fashion. This is one of the key moments in the book and Huxley has used John the Savage to raise his concerns about society directly and show how people can get carried away without thinking of the consequences of their actions.
Other than Soma, society is controlled by rigid social prejudices, which have been engraved in the publics’ minds through the years of social conditioning. This social conditioning – teaching people philosophies, feelings and reactions to things through intense repetition while asleep – is one of the ways that Huxley makes us think about how propaganda and our social stigmas can be used to influence our views and the way the media can be manipulative to use us for its own ends. In Brave New World the people are moulded to socialise with people of their own caste, like the things that would benefit society, and co-ordinate themselves so that they have the socially beneficial role. This relates to how we in every day life are pressured by society, the media and organisations to buy certain products, have the particular image appropriate to ones class.
At the very top in Brave New World things are kept the way they are by the use of totalitarianism, and the effect of this, is that anybody who goes against the grain of society gets shunned by their caste and in extremes will be exported to a far colony in order to maintain social stability. Here, Huxley is criticising governments and organisations for being too powerful and corrupt.
Being alone in Brave New World is looked on as a taboo. The view is that if are not around people or are having several partners then you are a social outcast. In the 1920’s there was a cultural unease due to a loosening of morals. I feel that Huxley, by taking the morals of the time, turning them upside down and blowing them out of all proportion to achieve a supposedly ridiculous state of morality, is breing overtly satirical to shock the public and is attempting to slow this change in morality. He uses John as a mediator in the book so that people will grasp Huxley’s philosophies and not mistake his point of view. I doubt that Huxley, when writing Brave New World would have expected that in seventy years time, some of the way out scientific aspects of the book, like babies being engineered for a purpose would ever have become a realistic possibility. But this is precisely what Brave New World is trying to warn against before it becomes a possibility. I believe that Huxley believes life is a thing that should not be tampered with and pre-ordained by external factors like social class, upbringing, differences and social pressure. He believes it is up to the individual to have the final say in their standing on morality and decisions in life.
Aldous Huxley has used the theme of individuality to express how he feels about the way society treats individuals. Brave New World has no singular focus on one particular character. Having a decentralised character scheme allows individuality to be expressed on a range of levels to show how oddities are viewed by society. Bernard Marx is excluded from society because he is shorter than the average Alpha Plus male and he acts differently to other people. He has a dislike of Soma because firstly, it does not have the effect on him that it has on other people and secondly, Soma reminds him of his social impotence. For example in Brave New World ‘solidarity services’ are held as a substitute for religious ceremony involving the intake of Soma. Once the service is over a picture of Bernard’s feelings is built up. “He was as miserably isolated now as he had been when the service began – more isolated by reasons of unreplenished is dead satiety. Separate and unatoned, while others were being fused into the greater being”. This shows how he has been made to feel like an outsider. It expresses Huxley’s thoughts on how society as a whole can make people feel isolated, alone and suicidal.
Brave New World is a brilliant example of a novel that is so clogged thick with ideas and imagery that it does not have to rely on the characters and plot. The characters in Brave New World are relatively flat, they are there as a tool for Huxley to voice his opinions satirically and plainly depending on the character. The plot is fairly drab and does not hold any unforeseen twists, it is obvious that Huxley has paid less attention to making this a smooth running novel and has concentrated more on the message of his work. Huxley’s use of imagery and ideas is highly thought provoking. He uses themes of control, morality and individuality to change the way we think about society. His very satirical and didactic tone is a key factor behind Brave New World’s effectiveness. As a result I have been left with widend view of society and my awareness of the social temperament of the 1920’s and 30’s.
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