Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World.
The novel is introduced by a French paragraph by the contemporary Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdiaeff, which contemplates the relativity of reality and the nature of utopian novels.
(written in 1946, first published in 1950)
The author retrospectively comments on his work. He offered the Savage two alternatives, an insane life in Utopia and a primitive life in an Indian village. Now he would add the option of sanity, or common sense. The focus of the work was not the advancement of science, rather the impact of this advancement on human beings. The author discusses the need for social stability and expresses the hope that people will learn from their mistakes, specifically that the two World Wars will be followed by a prolonged period of peaceful existence. At the same time the author predicts the rise of totalitarian regimes and considers the future development of the threat of nuclear energy. He concludes that the book develops all these thoughts and even if the reasoning is brought here to the extreme, the basic tendencies remain faithful to reality.
"Chapters I to XVIII"
The "Brave New World" Characteristics
Babies in Bottles: The place is Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The year is A.F. 632. The Centre's Director, or D.H.C., shows students around the place where human beings are produced and endowed with qualities necessary for the job they are predestined to perform. Babies are bred in bottles, conditioned, decanted, and looked after by nurses, all in the same institution. "Mother" is a dirty word and "father" is thought a joke. The laboratory uses a variety of drastic means, including electric shocks, to impress a set of carefully selected sentiments on the minds of the children. Children are taught hypnopaedic lessons, that is they listen in their sleep to voice records repeating catchwords to be memorized.
Social Castes: Human beings are divided into several groups according to their future role in the society, each of them marked by a letter of the Greek alphabet and distinguished by the colour of their uniform. The highest caste are Alphas, who perform the most complex tasks in laboratories, the lowest are Epsilons, who are employed as unqualified workers. Each individual is taught to be happy with his allotted status and instructed by the proverb "everybody's happy now". Each caste is differently conditioned, that is trained for specific skills, so that two workers appointed for two different tasks are not interchangeable. Identical people are employed for identical tasks: for instance a single conveyor belt is operated by a series of identical twins, the twins are however not produced by twos but by dozens from a single ovary.
Social Policies: The society is based on production and consumption, people are programmed so as to produce goods and purchase them. Emotions are abolished, promiscuity is encouraged, the motto is "everyone belongs to everyone else". Most of the population is sterile and takes hormones, fertile women are drilled to take contraceptives. There is no individuality, no variety, everyone serves as one cell of the social organism. History and traditional religion are viewed negatively, both are replaced by the cult of Ford who is worshipped by Solidarity Services reminiscent of church services. Everything negative can be cured by "soma", a universal drug without side-effects. Soma is also used simply for mood enhancement, for going on a "soma-holiday".
The Overview of the Plot
Lenina and Bernard: The beautiful Lenina Crowne seems to be emotionally involved with Henry Foster, one of her colleagues working for the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. She has been going out with him only for some four months, which is considered an unhealthy inclination to monogamy. In order to comfort the worries of her friend Fanny Crowne, she goes out with Bernard Marx, another of her colleagues, for a change. Though they all belong to the Alpha-Plus caste, Bernard Marx is rumoured to have had alcohol added in his blood-surrogate by mistake, which is a process done with lower castes only. As a result of this affliction and possibly as a consequence of his psychologist job, Bernard does not conform to the world he lives in and seeks for freedom, passion, and emotion. Lenina, on the other hand, is perfectly conventional.
Linda and John: Lenina and Bernard go for a holiday to the New Mexico Savage Reservation which encloses native Indians leading their traditional way of life. Lenina is shocked by the dirt, disease, and death she encounters in the Indian village Malpais. At the outskirts of the village, there lives the white woman Linda with her son John. It comes out that Linda is a member of the Beta caste who got lost some twenty years ago when on a trip with Tomas, the present D.H.C. She was too ashamed for her pregnancy to try to return to London, but due to her conditioning she never learnt to get along among the Indians. All she knew was to carry on in practising the principles she was taught, but by being freely intimate with different Indian men she brought on herself the hatred of their wives. Her son is equally excluded from the life of the tribe.
The Savage: Bernard obtains a permission from his fordship Mustapha Mond to convey Linda and John to London as items of scientific interest. Bernard confronts Linda and John with the Director who reacts by resigning at his post. Director's retirement saves Bernard from his being degraded to the lowest possible position and transferred to Iceland on account of his anti-social behaviour which threatens to corrupt the coherence of society. Linda is perceived with shock as an instance of senility in human being, and she retreats to a continuous soma-holiday. John, or the Savage, immediately becomes an object of everyone's attention. Bernard profits from the Savage's celebrity, for the first time in his life he wins power, respect, and success with women.
Shakespeare: The Savage learnt to read from an ancient copy of Shakespeare's plays and it is through the playwright's verses that he understands the world. His reaction to London are the words of Shakespeare's Miranda: "O brave new world that has such people in it." He is the only human being outside the Reservation who has not been conditioned, his morals are that of the Indians among whom he lived, and so he rejects the new morality of his new environment. He falls in love with Lenina and his affection is requited, Lenina however knows sexual love only, while the Savage seeks for a spiritual union. Both are disappointed. The Savage finds sympathy of Helmholtz Watson, Bernard's friend, a professionally successful man who nevertheless suffers by a sense of power in him which he can neither describe nor bring to expression. The two meet to read together the Savage's copy of Shakespeare, whose verses Watson finds enormously appealing.
Revolt and Arrest: Linda dies peacefully in the Hospital for the Dying and the Savage attends her death-bed. There is a group of lower-caste children being conditioned to lose fear of death, who react to Linda with surprise and disgust. The Savage falls into rage and starts throwing boxes with soma out of the window in order to make the people free. Bernard and Watson are called for, but while Watson runs to the Savage, Bernard remains outside of the building stricken by fear. All the three are arrested and brought to his fordship Mustapha Mond.
World Control: His fordship explains the prisoners how the present state of society came to be established. In A.F. 141 there was the Nine Years' War in which the mankind faced the choices of either complete destruction or of World Control. The latter was preferred. Long-time scientific experiments confirmed that the most satisfying state of society is such when happiness is the ultimate goal. People must be provided with work to occupy themselves and with leisure to amuse themselves. Science is controlled as a serious potential threat to society. Art is restricted. Books are forbidden, music is produced synthetically, and the most popular form of culture are feelies, that is multimedia shows transmitting purely sensory experience to the audience. An experiment was made in which a group consisting of Alphas only was left to themselves on an island, they soon started wars, and confirmed that each individual must be endowed with intelligence only enough to make him able to perform his tasks and to be satisfied with his lot.
Exile and Death: His fordship himself was once a rebelling individual but he chose to give up science in favour of conformity. He feels sympathetic to Watson who manifests similarly unhealthy attachment to art, but Watson prefers exile in one of the islands to where non-conformist individuals are transported. Bernard is transported as well. The Savage rejects the modern civilization in which science, art, and religion have no place and settles in an abandoned lighthouse with the intention to lead a life of solitude and strict religious discipline. Inquisitive reporters catch him by one of his ritual whippings by the means of which the Savage purifies himself. The report is turned into a powerful feely and people arrive in helicopters, pleading the Savage to show them the whipping stunt. When Lenine appears, together with Henry Foster, the Savage rushes to her with the whip. The audience is entranced, cries their chant "orgy-porgy", and imitates the Savage's movements. The next morning the crowds arrive again to find that the Savage has hanged himself.
AuthorHuxley, Aldous. (1894 - 1963).
Full TitleBrave New World.
First PublishedLondon: Chatto & Windus, 1932.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1932. London: Penguin, 1967.