Sunday, April 8, 2007

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

"O brave new world," he repeated. "O brave new world that has such people in it. Let's start at once."
"You have a most peculiar way of talking sometimes, " said Bernard, staring at the young man in perplexed astonishment. "And, anyhow, hadn't you better wait till you actually see the new world?"

Brave New World, where do I begin. I'd have to agree with what a friend of mine said about this book. It should not be read in high school. I think that it's point would be missed. At face value, it's a fascinating read. Huxley's world is so upsettingly vivid that it lures the reader in and makes one turn pages continuously. What's even more fascinating is the social commentary beneath the outward appearance of the novel. And I think that would be missed among adolescents.

Brave New World is the story of a world that has come to be after the "nine years war." In this world, individuality is no longer welcomed. Humans are no longer born in the traditional sense of the world. They are grown. Mankind has been reduced down to genetic manipulation and is created on an assembly line. Mankind comes in various ranks. There are the best of the best, golden and chiseled, and there are the worst of the worst, the fetuses who are injected with alcohol while they are growing. Whether the best or the worst, each person serves a very specific function to the new society.

There are so many disturbing aspects of this book. Mother is a word that causes people to blush since there are no mothers anymore. Love is disgusting and unfathomable yet sex is encouraged even as children during "erotic play" time. Contraceptives are carried around on a belt worn by women. Relationships do not exist beyond sex. People are discouraged from ever being alone (after all, one may have time to think). And if one ever gets unhappy, all you do is take a soma, a hallucinogen that makes everything o.k. God does not exist.

"But if you know about God, why don't you tell them?" asked the savage indignantly. "Why don't you give them these books about God?"

"For the same reason as we don't give them Othello: they're old; they're about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now."

"But God doesn't change."

"Men do, though."

God has become nothing but a myth that society mocks and laugh at. God has become replaced with the term "Ford". I must say that Huxley had excellent insight into what the invention of an automobile could lead to. The book is filled with "Oh Ford!", "The year of our Ford", and "his Fordship." I can't help but think of the first commandment and the story from the bible of the golden calf. "You shall not worship false idols." Huxley has given us the extreme of worshipping false idols and shows societies tendency to replace God with material possessions. The soul of a human has been replaced with chemicals, "groupthink", genetic engineering, and false happiness. What we are left with is an empty shell; a robot that looks like a human. Sex exists to make people happy, not to reproduce. If reproduction occurs, there are whole buildings dedicated to abortion. Motherhood is not welcomed in this brave new world. And what a brave world it is to make so many assumptions.

These are some of my initial thoughts on the novel. I can't do it justice with a simple blog post. Huxley has created a masterpiece that was relevant from the day it was published and will always remain relevant. It is a telling example of what the loss of spirituality can do and of the necessity of so many emotions that we perceive as negative.

This book was read for the banned books challenge. It's ashame that people ban books such as these. Yes it's disturbing, but it's message is one that should be heard by all. It warns of the dangers of banning books that make one think. It shows the power of the human mind that is actually able to think out of the box. It opens one's eyes to the dangers of being just like everyone else. It's a book that should be required reading, but maybe not in highschool. Save this one for the college years.

I loved the cover to this edition. It drew my eye right away. Greg Kulick did the cover design and illustration. It's the Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition and it is packed with extras in the back. I recommend this one!


Bookfool said...

Wow, excellent review. I hope I can get to this one, soon. I have several advanced readers and a group read I've got to get to, first, but it's on the stacks. Love that cover.

Chris said...

Isn't the cover great? I think you'll like this one. Very intriguing. Good luck with all the reading!

Literacy-chic said...

Did you catch the names? Bernard MARX, LENINa, I'm forgetting some of the others. It's a curious meld of Capitalist-worship and Communist-remembrances, suggesting, perhaps, that the differences between the two are unimportant. I'd love to know your take on the ending. My dissertation director and I have discussed it--it's what makes undergrads hat it, at least where I teach. Which is a shame; I think the ending is brilliant in its nihilism. Of course you realize, too, that it's the literacy that I'm captivated by (not going to say any more--dissertation spoiler!). But what do you think? Think this influenced Fahrenheit 451 at all? ;)

Chris said...


Oh yeah, I caught the names. One of my favorites was Darwin Bonaparte. I think this had a HUGE influence on Fahrenheit 451. I see what you mean. Fahrenheit 451 seems to just hint on a tiny part of the vast insanity of Brave New World. Literacy wise, the ending was my favorite part of the book. Mustapha Mond's dialogue with John was brilliant. It was written so well. The end overall was upsetting for me. Mustapha knew what God could offer to the world and still abandoned him. It's like all this stuff opened up and everything was in the air, yet nothing changed. Instead, they're shipped off to an island where they will never be a threat again, and they're fine with that. It's good to see people like Bernard who can almost escape the conditioning, but it's sad to know that nothing will change in the grand scheme of things.

John's situation really upset me. To be thrown into that chaos after leading what we know today as a normal life...well, somewhat normal...without conditioning is a better term. He was like a monkey at a zoo to everyone. Very upsetting. To see the complete and utter lack of sympathy shows how warped the world had become. John lost everything (including his mother and his own life) because of the cruelty and lack of understanding of the new world. Even Lenina, the person who I thought just might come around, shows no remorse or understanding at the end of the book. jeesh.

I could go on but I'm getting late for class. I could still use a few days to sort my thoughts out on the book. It was so well written, I enjoyed his writing and will check out a few more of his books.

Have you read Brave New World revisited? And if so, it is worth it to follow this one up?

Literacy-chic said...

I have not actually read the sequel. I likely need to, I just haven't had the chance. What's great is that the characters at first seem 1-dimensional, but then are revealed as more complex. Or seem more complex (like Bernard or even John) but then are shown to be narrow. Mustapha and Helmholtz Watson seem actually to be the most profound characters, by a weird twist. After all, what does John use his literacy for but justification for his own intolerance? Huxley was a profound thinker. Some of his essays are quite good--like Orwell's. Anyway, glad you liked it! It is justifiably a classic!

Chris said...

Have you read anything else by Huxley? I'd really like to read more, but he's written a bunch! Don't know where to go next.

Bookfool said...

Thanks, Chris. I'm having a better month than last, so far (knock wood it stays that way).

Just an FYI, several people have commented that 20th Century Ghosts is going to be published in the U.S. in October, so you can save your pennies and buy it on the home turf, if you can wait. :)

Carl V. said...

Great review! I really knew nothing at all about this book other than that it had been on the banned books list. Sounds like a fascinating read.

Chris said...

Bookfool, Thanks for the tip! I can wait, I have so much to read right now to get me going until then.

Carl, I didn't know anything about this book either. I was very pleasantly surprised with it! I think you'd love it.

school-girl said...

Im a student in middle school. But im in an honors program at my school, and we read brave new world. And your right, i didnt understand the reason it was wrote. I didnt enjoy reading it either. It was okay. It was better than Fahreinheit 451, I'll give it that. But i find both of those books unfascinating, so its true, young adults dont understand it well. Maybe its just me, maybe im just not intelectual, like i should be, like my class mates are. Oh well.