Masterpieces #17: Brave New World

Brave New World
About Brave New World (1932)
Brave New WorldFar in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his 
distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

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Aldous Huxley – Brave New World (1932)

While 1984 is probably the most famous of the dystopian novels my personal preference for the best book in this area is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Written in the early 1930s Huxley’s vision of the future, like Orwell’s, has some elements that are likely to come true given the direction modern society is heading.

The novel is set in London in AD 2540 but time in this society is known as A.F. (After Ford, as in Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company) so the year is actually A.F. 632, or 632 years after the introduction of Ford’s first Model T in 1908.  There are no marriages, parents, relationships or emotional ties here. Children are manufactured in labs, divided into groups and grown with specific roles and careers already pre-determined by their genetic structure. Opposition to such ways of life is taboo and there is little danger of rebellion as everyone is happy. To avoid stress and anxiety the population, kept to a strict limit to ensure continued supply of resources, are given soma pills, which induce hallucinogenic effects without any damaging impact on the user. These drug induced experiences keep the population happy and loyal to the World State.

The fly in question is Bernard Marx who is something of a loner and has no friends save Helmholtz Watson who joins Bernard in being critical of the World State. While Watson simply desires to be doing more, particularly writing poetry, and is frustrated by the restrictions bestowed by the World State, Bernard is simply struggling with his inferior physical appearance and though he lashes out at social activities and the other expected norms of society he would happily be indulging in them all if it wasn’t for his feelings of worthlessness. Bernard finds himself attracted to Lenina Crowne, a woman who is criticised for her lack of promiscuity despite being desired by many men. The small cracks in the society of Brave New World are augmented when Bernard tries to impress Lenina by taking her on a trip to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico where a frightening discovery awaits.

Huxley’s novel is very detailed and complex, particularly when describing the background to the World State. The earliest part of the book with the introductory segments will be the most challenging for many readers but having negotiated this section there is one of the great novels waiting just round the corner. This dystopian society is impossible not to picture in your mind, so precise and vivid are the images Huxley conveys on every page. That he can make a society akin to our own in the Savage Reservation seem more like a prehistoric land is a terrifying prospect. The human race is certainly advanced but this future society is far ahead of ours with human emotion almost subdued in favour of scientific and technological advancements.

If you have read or are going to read 1984 then you really should read Brave New World as well. As dark as Orwell’s novel is, I think Huxley’s is by far the darkest dystopian novel I have ever read. This Brave New World, one that can be perceived to be better in advancements than previously but at the expense of humanity, is far more repugnant than our currently flawed society.

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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