Sex, Drugs, and Engineered Utopia: A Brave New World

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A Brave New World was written by Aldous Huxley in 1932. It is a speculative science fiction novel that portrays an engineered population dwelling in a hyper-organized, caste system based society, where each person is born to their assigned duties, procreation takes place on the assembly line of the Hatcheries and Conditioning Centre, and sex and soma, an opiate-like drug, are the recreational activities of (sleep taught) choice. Natural birth is taboo, as well as the ideas of family and monogamy. Everyone is attractive. Death is a planned event to aid in controlling the planet’s population and to keep resources plentiful. All people are happy. Well, unburdened at least.

A wrench is thrown into the Utopian machine when the character of odd, antisocial Bernard Marx returns from a trip to an Indian reservation with a man, John the Savage, the son of his boss (who had recently condemned Bernard to a job he doesn’t want) and an abandoned, wrecked woman, Linda. John has lived as an ostracized member of the Indian community, humiliated by his drunken, promiscuous mother and desperate to belong. Back home, Bernard pimps John out as a celebrity talking monkey, only to lose control of the situation. Spoiler alert: the story does not end well.

When I first read this book in high school I enjoyed it far more for the humourous, satirical bent to the novel, as Huxley elbows the promises of utopian idealists in the ribs, from communists to capitalists, scientists to religious leaders. This time around, the piece feels far more contemptuous, a reactionary piece of fiction; it seems darker, more cruel. Still reeling from the First World War, in the midst of rapidly advancing technological endeavors and appalled by the culture of American-style capitalism, Huxley’s disgust and fears haunt each paragraph. My adolescent self had only seen the novel as a simple mockery of the society that we lived in, but now I see it as the an illustration of the cold need to control human behaviour and feed the consumer-based idea of  “happiness”, a purchased feeling that is not an emotion at all but rather a lack of contradictory or critical thought.

There are no hero’s in Huxley’s book. The author teases the reader into thinking that this fictional dystopia can be cracked by the actions of a few men and women, but then shows us how these actions only reinforce the society as a whole. Huxley’s world is too far gone to be saved, as illustrated by the brutal, unforgiving ending of the story. Hopefully the world of the reader can still has a chance.

Jordan Harbord

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