The innovative, futuristic world conjured by Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World proposes that even the most ideally modelled and mediated society is capable of exhibiting flaws. Huxley’s provocative work provides the modern day reader with food for thought as the advancements in bioengineering, he seems to suggest, created in his dystopian society are already becoming a reality within our own lifetime. It may be that Huxley wrote this novel to warn us of the dangers that such things as cloning, stem cell research and the like could hold for our society. Through his novel, he fabricates a biologically controlled, sterile society where aging is never ugly and death has no profound emotional effects.
Huxley’s novel opens with a vivid tour of Central London’s cold and surgical “Hatchery and Conditioning Center”, where social values and communal roles are fed to an assembly-line of bottled “individuals” that will shape them into a social hierarchy, or caste system. Whether “Alpha-Plus” social elite, or “Epsilon Semi-Moron”, each mass produced class is programmed to carry out their intrinsic social duties in ignorant bliss, knowing not of the world they are missing beyond their caste. Within this new pseudo society that Huxley calls the “World State”, the emphasis is on control, and this is symbolized in the motto of “community, identity, stability” which helps to maintain social order. From bottled foetus to mature adult, the tried and tested processes of socialization engrain conforming values that fabricate a society in which discomfort needn’t ever be experienced.
When a young “savage” from Malpais is introduced to Huxley’s “Brave New World” by Bernard Marx, a disgruntled “Alpha-Plus” member of society, an unsettling sense of fabrication and falsehood emerges. Raised in a primitive community, John (the young savage) developed a romanticized idea of society through the eyes of a Shakespearian volume. In a community where pleasure is found in obtaining the material and superficial, John finds himself alienated amongst this sterile, consumerist society with which he shares virtually no common values with. In this society internalized conceptions of morality are warped as open sexual relations are encouraged, and guilt and emotion have absolutely no relevance. “Ending is better than mending”; mantras engrained into everyday life promote newness as a source for happiness. And yet, if the material and superficial still cannot satisfy, “a gramme is always better than a damn” to take you on a mind-numbing soma holiday when life gets too hairy. This “perverse” way of living couldn’t be farther away from John’s Shakespearian ideas about happiness, love, and emotion.
Huxley’s totalitarian society allows for the mediation of happiness and stability from the conveyer belt to the crematorium, but in contrast with the romanticized ideas of a savage, it is hard to imagine how true happiness can be felt in a society that is void of a full spectrum of emotion (both good and bad). The grim conclusion to this novel suggests that our pursuit of a technologically mediated society may be leading us towards a bleak future as well. As Controller Mustapha Mond states, “one can’t have something for nothing”, and Huxley’s Brave New World begs the question of how far we are willing to go in the pursuit of technology if community, individuality, and stability are at stake.