Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“All right then,” said the savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a fictional piece about a dystopian future based around the philosophy of Fordism. The novel is written as less of a story and more of an exploration of a world. In this world, people are grown or created in large batches and are predisposed both genetically and mentally to live in, and love, a perfectly formatted and tiered society where everyone has a place and a purpose and peace. This world is one free of history or freedom of knowledge because everyone is bottle feed the “truth” that their society is the best there is and ever was. No one ever questions this because they have had this truth ingrained in both their conscious and unconscious selves since birth.
Huxley sets up this world through a lecture given from teacher to student in the society and then introduces a few characters to look at the world through the eyes of. The book has no climax as it has no central story line, just a slow story to push along exposition. While this works for non-fiction books and some historical-functions, it did not aid itself to Huxley’s story. I found myself constantly bored and had to force myself through the book only fueled by a sense of duty to finish. There are a few points in the story that have some excitement and drama and give the reader a ghost of a promise to deliver more, but nothing substantial ever follows to call the book a proper ‘novel.’
The book is set up in such a way to introduce the dystopian future of Huxley’s mind and contrast it with a more ‘barbaric’ version of our own social system. The lack of a clear story/plot/conflict kept the book moving at a snail’s pace. The first quarter is told through multiple characters jumping between many with no warning or explanation. Then it does settle on a single narrator but even then the story has little coherency. The author tries to make things more interesting by forcing in more characters but it is only made more incoherent by these additions. The second half of the book is marked by the introduction of the “savages” living a world initially marked as bizarre and violent, but it took so long to be introduced that its effect was dulled by the mind-numbing boringness of the book.
In conclusion, I thought this book was based around an interesting idea for a dystopian future but the pace and expositional style Huxley uses ruined it for me.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
“Please sir, I want some more”
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a fictional novel following, you guessed it, Oliver twist. It is the classic rags-to-riches story set in the 1830’s. The novel was written in installments from 1837 to 1839 as was done by many novels at the time to add to the tension and excitement to the book. The story follows orphan Oliver as he finds his way through a city filled with criminals and lowlives. The book utilizes satire and dark humor in a sociopolitical critique of the time reflective of Dickens’s own early life.
Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist from much of his own experience living in London. When he was young, his family was sent to debtors prison and Dickens was forced into factory work to barely support himself. At the current time in London, the middle class was gaining sociopolitical power and was fighting against the stigma against working pushed by the upper class with insistence on the moral integrity of hard work. Unfortunately, the moral value attached to work combined with the middle class’s insecurity about its own social validity led to the stigmatization of the lower classes as lazy bums. As such, many laws were made specifically disadvantaging the poor. Dickens means to demonstrate this injustice through Oliver, an orphan born and raised in a workhouse.
Charles Dickens book would be nothing if not for the masterfully crafted cast of characters. He seeks to enhance his message with the internal paradox of the characters. As one of the first characters we meet, Mr. Bumble is a minor church official. He is filled with the kind of self-righteousness carried by one who believes God is wholeheartedly behind them, while he acts without compassion for those under his care and his motives are nothing short of greedy and hypocritical. The next master Oliver finds himself under is the criminal Fagin, modeled after a workhouse foe from Dickens’s childhood. He acts as if he is a caring father-figure for the boys under his watch, when he trains them to pickpocket, and later take the blame, for him.
Though the book is focused around Oliver Twist, he is more of a representative of an ideal than a character. He is a simple, almost one-dimensional character, that’s never rebellious for more than a few minutes and rarely ever angry. He’s a perfect gentleman who managed to come into this world and out of this novel with a finished code of morals. Even though he is between 8 and 12 through the book, he takes no influence from his surroundings and never seems to have his own reactions past simply refusing evil. Dickens himself has stated that Oliver is “the principle of good” personified to suggest that more is at stake than the life of a single character.