Brave New World is a strange and satirical novel about a futuristic civilization of custom-made humans in a hypnosis-bred community. Babies are mass-produced in test tubes and the planetary motto is ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ Children are raised in groups using mind control and electroshock therapy and as adults they are then conditioned to be content to fulfill their specific roles in society. Everybody agrees that they are happy this way, as Lenina, one of the more interesting main characters who is a vaccination worker, remarks: “[Yes]. Everybody’s happy now.”
In such a standardized, totalitarian society where happiness is built on the values of order and process above all else, Bernard Marx stands, our one unorthodox protagonist. We follow his story right from his journey with Lenina to the savage reservation (a non-controlled place called Malpais) through to his return back to civilization with John the savage, who happens to be the illicit son of the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning. Here, the pace picks up as John questions this brave new world free of war, illness, poverty, and pain. His actions form the basis for the plot.
It may not be all too far fetched to conceive of a world where norms and values have so changed as to allow people free range of physical pleasure without commitment, and where soma, the legal drug of choice, is regularly consumed. ‘A gramme is better than a damn,’ the people say, part of the exaggeration Huxley attempts to portray of the society of his day and his disdain for mass culture. I automatically equated soma with such recreational drugs as ecstasy and marijuana, which at certain points were popular within certain demographics in our very own culture, albeit being illegal.
There is a very absurd yet entertaining type of humor that prevails throughout the story, such as society’s rejection of monogamy and parenthood, and Helmholtz’s comical response to Romeo and Juliet. Parenthood is described as ‘obscene’ and ‘smutty’, and Romeo and Juliet is experienced as a joke unto itself where Juliet is portrayed as ‘the idiotic girl’ who does not know how to have an open relationship. It is this humor that keeps us going, as the plot is less than exciting. Also noted was the Controller-moderated approval of only games that increased consumption by the people, which sounds eerily familiar when compared to our very own consumer-based world.
As for the idea that a society based on such conveniences can provide lasting stability seems unrealistic to me, because people ultimately question authority, and it seems superficial that nobody does, save the few that are ejected to foreign islands in the ending. Surely this state of ignorant bliss can only be temporary.
In all, we encounter the recurrent theme that life has more value than the simple and mindless institution of well-being and happiness, which I certainly agree with. If Huxley’s purpose was to convince us of this, he succeeds quite well in doing so. The text is an enjoyable read, despite being rather dense in language. I would recommend this to any sci-fi enthusiast.