Even from the opening chapter, the book is appalling. This “perfect” society that the leaders in Brave New World have created is free of rebellions and dissonance, but at the same time people have been stripped of their individuality and freedoms. Instead of being born into a family, babies are manufactured through a new process called decanting. As far as family goes, the word isn’t even in the people’s vocabulary. When asked to imagine what “living with one’s family” in chapter 3, the author includes that “They tried; but obviously without the smallest success” (Huxley 36).
The World State’s motto includes three parts: community, identity, and stability, although defining these words may be hard using today’s standards.
COMMUNITY: The people of Brave New World live in houses, but have no real understanding of loving or reliable relationships. This part of the motto must mean that everyone lives in harmony since they are brainwashed from an early age to be happy with their place in society and never rebel.
IDENTITY: So far, there is no concept of individuality in the society of Brave New World. Identity is based on class and physical appeal. Class is also emphasized by the specialized jobs given to each group, with the lowest class also receiving the least brain power during decanting. Lenina is exceptionally pretty, making her more accepted in society.
STABILITY: This part of the motto is repeated the most within these three chapters. Every new invention just adds to the stability of society, including the Bokanovsky Process described as “one of the major instruments of social stability” (Huxley 7).
In another instance, Huxley notes that nobody wondered about old age anymore since people didn’t get old, instead staying consistently (aka stably) young.
At first glance, Brave New World contains an extremely controlled population stripped of their own thoughts: “Old men in the bad old days used to…spend their time thinking-thinking” (Huxley 55). But upon further examination, could Huxley just be writing an exaggeration of our own times? For example, we teach nationalism to children through reciting the pledge every morning until it is engraved in their memory.
Current cultural understandings that differentiate girls and boys keep genders separate. Acceptable girls’ clothing can be pink, sparkly, and have unicorns images. Boys’ clothing at any store would never include unicorns, instead incorporating images of sports or vehicles. Baby gender is revealed using pink or blue, but why these colors?
One thing that struck me in the reading was the gross depiction of their religious ceremonies in chapter five, part two. The practices during the ritual are a mockery of real religions. For example, they drink from a bowl of ice cream to represent the coming of Ford, and one of the women in the room says that she will “drink to the imminence of His Coming” (Huxley 82). Ford is not a real religious figure, and the participants of ceremonies in the Brave New World do not really hear his footsteps as they say they do. The government simply makes them think they do so that they remain loyal to society and the common religion.
Helmholtz, Bernard’s roommate, feels like he is missing something by continuing to use only the knowledge given to him by the government. He wants more, but to be smart is actually to have “mental excess”, and that would mean sticking out from everyone else more than he already does (physically and mentally).
Bernard has his own struggles with being an Alpha. He is smaller than the rest and that alone makes him self-conscious as an outsider. In addition, Bernard’s mind is less subjective to the hypnopaedia fed to him at an early age, and even during the Solidarity Service when everyone exults Ford, he feels alone and ponders why, something the government is afraid of since they keep giving out rations of the mind-numbing soma drug. Bernard also doesn’t feel right in crowds, liking to be alone more. Oddly enough, with all his effort to fit in, he mentions he is happiest when he is not on soma and lost to his own thoughts: “I’d rather be myself…Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly” (Huxley 89).
Lenina is surrounded by smart men who tell her things she would never think up herself, leaving her to wonder if she is truly content with her life. While trying to console an unhappy Bernard, she quotes a rhyme from her youth hypnopaedia. In response, Bernard asks her if she is truly happy, and argues, “Wouldn’t you like to be free and happy…in your own way…not in everyone else’s way” (Huxley 91). Lenina wants to be free and have everyone like her, but Henry treats her like a “thing” and Bernard is unhappy when they sleep together on a first date.
Even the Director has his own moments of nonconformity. He shares with Bernard a personal experience in which he went to the Savage Reservation, lost his girlfriend, and suffered through tremendous pain, something almost unheard of in the utopia of Brave New World.
c.) Individuality vs. Conformity is present in our world, even if it is less so than in Brave New World. Stereotypes define people before we even get to know them, but stereotypes can be crude and offensive. Race, gender, and social group labels can end up making people feel less than they really are. Eventually people may give up on trying to defy the expectations of their grouping, instead falling into the trap of conformity. Much like this, Bernard feels he has a mental excess that “could produce…the voluntary blindness and deafness of deliberate solitude” (Huxley 69). He gave up on being different and took soma to feel “happy”, those who fall into stereotypical categorizing give up on being different.
Although the savage reserve was a strange, out of place location compared to the “civilization” of Brave New World, even stranger is Lenina’s reaction to the new place. She has been conditioned to enjoy the luxuries of civilization and when she arrives at the reservation she feels sick by the smell alone. In addition, she is repulsed by the old age of the savages, since the people are not chemically manufactured to stay young for longer than naturally possible. When Lenina watches an old man climb down a ladder, she cannot comprehend why he doesn’t look “normal”: “‘What’s the matter with him’…Her eyes were wide with horror and amazement” (Huxley 110).
The biggest problem Lenina faces is Linda, who is described as “So fat. And all the lines on her face, the flabbiness, the wrinkles…” (Huxley 119). But really, there’s nothing wrong with Linda from a modern perspective. Conditioning has made Lenina feel no pity towards the poor old woman. Instead she tries to stay as far away from Linda as possible due to the old woman’s physical appearance. This is different from our society, where even if we dislike someone, we are still expected to be polite to them.
On the Savage Reservation, there is less reliance on drugs that alter emotion. Instead, the people are left to freely feel pain and true happiness, both of which civilized people are unaccustomed to feeling due to soma. Soma numbs emotions and is a way of giving up when faced with a challenges. In the World State, people are encouraged to take the drug, and it has become a part of everyday life. The government likes soma because it keeps subjects from thinking too hard, instead substituting pleasure and laziness in place of knowledge. The savages’ equivalent of soma is mescal, which also numbs emotions but leaves the user sick with the peyotl afterwards. With soma, there’s no drawbacks or consequences, which also makes it more appealing to the users.
The World State also relies on pregnancy substitutes in order to keep their population from reproducing. Family is such an important aspect of our society, and with family comes love as well. These things are stripped away from the people of civilization in Brave New World, so they fill their emptiness with mood-changing drugs and short-lived pleasures. On the Savage Reservation, pregnancy is part of their society and allows for families and true love. The civilized people do not understand what they are missing, though, instead believing their society with fake happiness is better than what the savages enjoy. For example, Linda, after spending so many years on the reservation, tells John about her old life in the World State where everything was perfect: “everything so clean, and no nasty smells. No dirt at all–and people never lonely, but living together and being so jolly and happy…much happier, and the happiness being there every day…” (Huxley 128).
Detrimental ways in which our society accepts artificial means to alter feelings are alcohol, pain medications, antidepressants, and drugs, more specifically illegal ones. Some prescribed medications are meant to relieve pains in a way that will increase our comfort, but occasionally these are abused and end up relieving pain past the extent to which they are prescribed.
Sometimes altering feelings can be a way to feel more like everyone else. John illustrates this when he says that “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely” (Huxley 137). To cover up emotions that lead to feeling alone or unloved, people go to detrimental, artificial means to feel better or forget their despair altogether. Changing yourself to be happy is not the best practice. The best way to feel emotions is to feel them all yourself, without the use of artificial intervention. But, nevertheless, these mood-altering substances are available and utilized in our society like in Brave New World.
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