Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World” propels us into a fascinating dystopian society. Consumed by vanity and perfection, this chemical society is conditioned into what they believe in, and are constantly and quite happily subdued through recreational drug use and promiscuous sexual activity. The concept sounds great from a distance, however, this society lacks something that I believe many of us take for granted: freedom.
Was this Huxley’s way of predicting what he saw for the future of our society? Although many of Huxley’s elements are extreme in the fullest sense, some events in our recent history have some striking similarities. Huxley envisioned a super-modern world that reflects many of the issues that have since become part of contemporary society. The “better living through chemistry” that was touted in the 1950’s gave us our own brave new world where contraceptives became easily accessible, allowing a world where seemingly consequence free sex could exist. Anti-depressants and other stimulants, prescription or otherwise, are able to subdue bad feelings and control unwanted behaviours, often allowing us to run away from our true feelings to a state of contentment, much like Huxley’s soma. In more recent years, new media technologies have evolved into something much like feelies, though perhaps less intense. New media has however allowed people to remove themselves from their current situation, and become totally immersed in something else entirely, similar to the way we escape into television or the Internet. So many of our senses become engaged.
Our contemporary society may be less enamored with the concept of utopia than that in Aldous’ novel, however, we have known through our own bloody history the horrors of totalitarian “perfect” societies, courtesy of Adolf Hitler and other dictators. Many of the names Huxley chooses to use are combinations of various political and philosophical icons of the times that surrounded him when Brave New World was written, many of which hold contrasting ironies between the character and the icon in which their name was taken. While the majority of Huxley’s characters are relatively flat and almost robotic in nature, there are a few who do not fit in this category. John, ironically known as “the savage”, is a dynamic character who experiences an upbringing with multiple elements. John immerses himself in the “uncivilized world” around him, filled with traditional morals and values, while his mother Linda is from the “civilized world”, and holds strong to those morals . This brave new world is introduced to him firsthand as a result of a visit from Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne, who take John and his mother Linda back to London with them. Upon their arrival, John’s initial excitement quickly diminishes when he realizes the flaws in the society, including a lack of creativity, individuality, kindness and compassion; the same flaws that were originally observed by Bernard Marx, who ironically becomes consumed by the popularity that has surrounded him due to his return back with “the savage”.
Through Brave New World, Huxley uses his intellectually perverse sense of humour to critique mankind by over satirizing an idea of modern society. His concepts are thought provoking and challenging, and his descriptive nature and style of writing successfully engages the senses, giving the reader a truly unique experience. This novel is captivating, insightful, and provocative in the truest sense of the word.