I have to say that, for all that I’ve heard about, and was looking forward to this book, I was extremely disappointed. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a classic, and with very good reason, but I was left http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0061767646&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrwanting more. In fact, I was so shocked by the end of the book that I had to keep turning the page to see if there was more. There I sat, expecting to finish the chapter, when all of a sudden Boom! The entire novel was ending, and “Brave New World Revisted” was beginning. It was weird. It’s not that it was a bad book. It was a very good book, but for reasons that were different than I’d hoped. I’d hoped that I would like it more.
Now, the value in this novel lies above and beyond the realm of entertainment, obviously (if it were purely for entertainment, kids wouldn’t have to read it in high school–heh heh). It tells the story of a “brave, new world” in which everyone is created in a factory and conditioned from infancy to be content with their lot in life. Society is stratified, and each group is color-coded (which is just disgusting). There is no seeking of beauty, truth, knowledge, or god. People only seek pleasure and consumption, and profit. They are encouraged to throw things away when they break and buy new, rather than to fix and recycle. It’s capitalism run rampant, out of control and even more wasteful than it is today. A lot of the technology Huxley invents is an interesting combination of futuristic and antique–the imaginings of a man in the 30s about what would be possible hundreds of years in the future. Much of it is weird and really difficult to understand. He doesn’t explain technologies so much as build a story around them and make the readers judge for themselves what they mean. Something interesting to note is that some of his fantasy technology is actually a reality today–like creating babies in test tubes.
When a character unlike anything this “brave, new world” has ever seen is thrown into their midst, they don’t quite know how to react. He has been raised on a reservation in New Mexico, where none of this “Fordian” technology or way of life has every penetrated. He therefore does not cope well with modern society when he is brought to it, and remains an outsider and a freak. His free-thinking and old-world values do not help him much, however, and do not serve to change anything. As for the other characters, they’re robotic and bland (because they have been conditioned by their elders to be that way), and the end of the novel gives little to no clue about what happens to them. The reader gets the impression that the segment of time being written about is just a blip in the otherwise unwavering line of society’s perfect routine. It’s actually quite a frightening book, with its morals that are so backwards from our own–for instance, family is not valued, and monogamy is frowned upon and even feared as antisocial. Children are not born anymore, but created in a factory. In this society, everyone belongs to everyone else. It works, even works well, and everyone believes that they are happy. But as an outsider looking in, the reader sees clearly that all is not perfect and happy, simply monotonous and sad.
As I read it, I could not help but compare Brave New World to George Orwell’s 1984, which is something I urge all readers to do. Having read the preface to this edition of the novel, I learned that George Orwell was actually a student of Huxley’s at Eton in England, and was therefore heavily influence by Huxley’s writings. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0452284236&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrI must say that I enjoyed 1984 slightly better, though it too was melancholy and rather hopeless. Both are novels about dystopian societies, where everything is just about as bad and oppressive as can possibly be. In their attempts to create perfect societies–utopias–in which every man, woman, and child is perfectly content and well-served, humans have instead created tyrannical worlds where no one is free. Perhaps the sole reason I like Orwell’s work better than I do Huxley’s is this: Orwell’s characters are aware of the oppression and misery, and do their utmost to rebel and find happiness in whatever small ways they possibly can, while Huxley’s characters are absolutely oblivious to the fact that their lives are awful, and do nothing to break the bonds of their slavery to society’s dictations. Brave New World is so unutterably wearying because no one knows that they are living empty, meaningless lives, and no one is capable of free speech or even free thought.
If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it. There wasn’t anything in particular that made me love the novel, but I feel that it’s an important glimpse into one of humanity’s potential futures. Let’s hope our world doesn’t end up this way.