Samstag, 10. September 2011

Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

Brave New World Part I 

Brave New World was Aldous Huxley´s fifth novel, written in 1931, and was ranked fifth in the list of the 100 Best English-language novels by the Modern Library in 1999. As I myself read the book, I can only recommend it and it´s almost unbelievable to me that this book was written in 1931. 
In this book, Huxley portray`s a futuristic society. On the surface, it appears as a perfectly structured, pacifistic, seemingly happy society ( as almost every single member of it proclaims "everybody´s happy now!").  But from the very beginning the reader notices that there is something wrong. As Huxley is a very satirical writer, he reveals the pillars and morals of the society in a hilarious tone. He begins with the description of a laboratory, where humans are produced in a way, that reminds the modern reader of in vitro fertilization, which today is not uncommon in western society. However, in the Brave New World, embryos are not only fertilized, but also born and educated in the laboratory. "Viviparous Reproduction", literally having sex and getting a woman pregnant, seems obscene to the people in the Brave New World.  
Yet sexual activity is strongly supported, even in early years. As nobody has family relations, strong emotional bonding is forbidden. Promiscuity ( to have various partners to have sex with) is asked for by the state. The idea that sexuality of children was considered as "wrong" in the past (more or less our present) seems unbelievable and laughable. Nevertheless, women are firmly instructed to perform contraception when they have sex. They have so called "melthusian belts" with contraceptive equipment. If you think about it, this really seems very sophisticated, above all if you take into account the time in which this novel was written: In the 1920s and 1930s, when Huxley lived, abortion and contraception were strongly condemned by the general public. Contraception could be practiced only secretly by women. Sexuality of children seemed (seems?) also as obscene and was strictly condemned by the parents. 
The importance of leading monogamous relationships, marriage starting a family and having children, were morals that played an even larger role at the time Huxley wrote this book than they do today, though they have already been questioned then. 
The Birthrates are controlled by the state in order to prevent overpopulation. 
As you are produced in the laboratory, your skills, mindset and looks are also predefined. This way, a caste system is created. The types go from Alpha to Epsilon. They also receive different education depending on the role they shall later play in society. In order to prevent jealousy causing an upheavel the types get hypnopoedia. Hypnopoedia is a fictional way of mind control and conditioning modeled after the pavlovian process (in reality, as I found out, people cannot be conditioned to these extremes, I will explain later on). 
As you read on, this utopia gets visited by a "Savage", John, who was viviparously born and raised in the wasteland in a village of indigenous people that live separately from the World State. Tourists from the World State can make controlled visits to the villages. As a result of a natural catastrophe a woman from the BNW gets stuck there and bears viviparously (!) a child, John. As his mother´s morals differ from the morals of the indigenous people, he is considered as an outsider. His mother is considered as whore. When he gets the chance to visit the World State, where he hopes to fit in, he is at first euphoric. 
At first glance, he loves the society his mother was born in, though that soon changes. 
He is a huge fan of Shakespeare and there is this theory about the title of the book: 

Miranda's speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act V, Scene I:O wonder!How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!This line itself is ironic; Miranda was raised for most of her life on an isolated island. When she sees other people for the first time, she is understandably overcome with excitement, and utters, among other praise, the famous line above. However, what she is actually observing is not men acting in a refined or civilized manner, but rather drunken sailors staggering off the wreckage of their ship. Huxley employs the same irony when the "savage" John refers to what he sees as a "brave new world."(Source: Wiki)

Next: Drugs, Brave New World, and so on. 


  1. I recently got my hands on Brave New World and 1984, and I've heard nothing but good things about them.

  2. Brave New World is almost scary in how spot-on it is! The child-sex and sleep conditioning into classes were the most disturbing things, in my opinion. But that's why I love dystopian fiction. Because it's disturbing.

    Yes indeed.