Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is an engaging sci-fi novel that focuses on artificial reproduction and its resulting dystopian caste system. When I began Brave New World, I immediately thought of A Wrinkle in Time, which I read a while back and vaguely remember as similarly futuristic and complicated. The book is not straight-forward; it revolves around the perspectives of several citizens subject to the controlled and yet chaotic society that Huxley dares to paint a picture of.

 

The first aspect of Huxley’s writing that immediately came to my attention was the sudden dark tone within the first few pages (and again throughout the book). For example, Huxley conveys a cold, eerie mood with “hands covered with a corpse-colored rubber,” “the light was frozen, dead, a ghost,” and “scarcely breathing silence.” Now, I know these examples are unrealistic. Some people (like me) might feel the urge to ask, “but HOW is light frozen? How can that be? How can light be dead? Silence doesn’t breathe! What on earth is this author trying to describe?!” But what I have realized is that there is (what I like to call) an art to reading these passages. It’s difficult and unreasonable to peruse each sentence, and in fact I find that trying to strain each word of depth and meaning actually takes away from the experience of enjoying the book. Instead, I have been trying to immerse myself in the general mood of the book by using clues like the tone to guide me through the plot. So I don’t need to know what ghostly light or suffocating silence or define the color of a corpse–I can acknowledge and absorb what the author wants me to without tangling myself in detail. So, for example, I note that Huxley deliberately said “corpse” rather than “body,” signifying that no matter the color, it looked like death. Dark? Check. Ghostly light reminds me of a dark and dusty room with a thin sliver of a window opening barely letting light in. Creepy? Check. Suffocating silence reminds me of some power that even silence, one of the scariest sounds of our world, might be afraid of. Dystopian and mysterious? Check. I have found that finding this balance between barely understanding the text and trying to understand it too much is a principal factor in appreciating and enjoying a book. I’ll write more about Huxley’s conveyance of tone and other devices next time. Can’t wait to check back in later!

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6 responses to “Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  1. lenawehn3

    Even in the first 6 chapters it is obvious (frankly, by the first page it’s obvious). Brave New World screams 1984 by George Orwell, my previous group reading book. 1984 is bone chilling. I mean the state of oblivion the world is in is appalling. It begs the question over and over again, how can people be so blind? Brave New World, on the other hand, explains how the human race has succumb to such blindness. The novel opens up to the factory where babies are produced like bananas. One after another, each a genetic copy. But that only is the case for one caste. (yes, caste systems have been reintroduced to the world, like India). As I was saying, there is very little way to break out of your given caste. The baby factory conditions each embryo to fit their social role. How can you defy what you have been predisposed to? This, in my opinion, offers a more realistic dystopia than 1984. The children in 1984 were being indoctrinated, however that is still leaves room for rebellion, where genetically creating perfect embryo does not.

    I agree Penny, tone is so much of this book. Looking into each word would take forever and be extremely unenjoyable. It is most important to understand the situation and level of tension, rather than what is truly being said in Brave New World (crazy concept, I know). How, one might ask, is understanding feeling better than the words on the page? Well, the answer is simple: feeling conveys what’s happening, while the words make specific references to world the reader cannot yet understand or feel a part of.

    It is fascinating to me how the progress in Brave New World seems to be based around Henry Ford. Ford revolutionized modern productivity with the invention of the assembly line. The novel has taken his thought process twice as far, now using the same logic to genetically engineer and train children and babies. Since Ford’s ideas are at the root of this society’s values, Ford has become the main influence. They listen to his ideas and live by his logic.

  2. penelopespurr

    Brave New World Part II

    I have to admit that the last time I posted, I wrote about tone because the plot was so difficult to wrap my head around. But I can confidently say that now my understanding of the plot is completely cleared up.

    What I find amazing is that throughout the novel, Huxley meticulously builds the intensity of the plot by unraveling the history of his sophisticated, futuristic society. Basically, over time, the world was split into two peoples: the Other World (the futuristic and advanced society), and the Savages (Native Americans and others that chose to not adhere to the new society’s norms). On top of this isolation of the Savages on their reservation, there is the inner conflict of Bernard Marx, a socially high-ranking citizen of the Other World, who has no interest in the fads of his society. Bernard meets a Savage who is also an outsider, and a friendship forms. But where I ended my section, Bernard suddenly gains popularity from bringing his Savage friend to the futuristic part of the world. It’s interesting how Huxley paints a perfect and peaceful friendship, but then I think to myself, “oh goodness. There’s still a third of the book left.” I have a feeling that suddenly, Bernard is going to do something provocative and aggressive to his society that he has hated secretly for so long. Perhaps it will relate to his peers’ obsession with a drug called soma or artificial reproduction, but whatever it is, it will cause the greatest conflict of the story, and I am very excited for that.

  3. lenawehn3

    It’s quite fascinating that the boy John feels out of place in both the Savages and the Other World. John is an example of the isolation Indian children felt after being taken from their homes and schooled and brought up at white children, a very real epidemic in America. The poor Indian children ended up being out of place in both worlds, too Indian to be accepted in white culture, too white to be accepted in Indian culture. John, however, is the other way around. He was white/part of the superior class, but became part of the Indian tribe, unlike what happened in America.

    I agree, the plot is increasingly clearer. I love how fascinated everyone is with John. One would expect people from the Other World to treat John as an untouchable, but they don’t. Instead they are interested to meet him and learn about him.

    I don’t fully understand the effects of “soma”. It is clearly a common recreational drug, but what would it be in today’s world? If it is different than any drug we recognize today, then what are its effects on the body? Is it safe? Why do they take it so often? How inhibiting is it? Does it work like normal drugs today? Is it addictive? Personally, this is fascinating part of the book, however little is provided about it.

  4. lenawehn3

    Oh, I am too excited by you prediction Penny, and look forward to it in the upcoming chapters.

  5. penelopespurr

    Alright….book finished! It takes me a while to get into the groove of reading sci-fi, but am so glad that I gave Brave New World a chance. It did end pretty abruptly, but its layers of plot twists just contributed to the cumulative shock that I had been feeling throughout my reading. BNW is one of a few books that challenge the ethics of today’s technology, which I find fascinating, and the ending led my mind down a philosophical path of how certain advancements in science could suddenly go awry. There were a few times throughout the final third that caused me to pause, re-read, and stare into the page in disbelief. Those moments were the most thought-provoking, and I thought I might share. Before I dive in, some background: I observed that much of the third quarter revolves around the concept of happiness and the balance between pleasure and distress in a person’s life. This concept of balance is illustrated throughout the following passages.

    1. “‘What fun it would be,’ [Mond] thought, ‘if one didn’t have to think about happiness!'” (Huxley 177).

    2. “‘Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, of a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand'” (Huxley 221).

    This idea had occurred to me before, but in the context of the futuristic, seemingly perfect setting that Huxley had so carefully built, it caused me to think with a much different perspective. Here’s how I thought about it: I imagined going on vacation for a week. To me, that sounds like an amount of time that would allow me to relax and have fun. But then I imagined going on a vacation for my entire life. If I experienced constant pleasure, my happiness would lose its value. The feelings of loss, pain, or sorrow make happiness rewarding, so the absence of those crucial experiences creates a bored, colorless perspective. Wow. It drove Huxley’s world into such a numbed feeling, and drove his characters into insanity. That’s fascinating. I have enjoyed this novel enough to consider reading another of Huxley’s books, which is, for me, success.

  6. lenawehn3

    More similarities to 1984 have arrived in the last few chapters of Brave New World. The idea of old things being somewhat banned is a common motif found in both novels.1984 never retains the old, and throws out and rewrites history constantly. Brave new world depends on consumers desiring new products, not the antique ones. Sentimental value and history has simply been thrown out the window in both worlds. The best example in Brave New World is when John recites Shakespeare, and has extensive knowledge of his works. Shakespeare was outlawed and is seen as dangerous, which is an example of the desire to maintain a perfect society by suppressing all scientific or thought provoking works, and mainly those from the past.

    I finally understand what Soma is, (that took me a while). It’s a fascinating substance, which also relates to a famous dystopia-The Giver! (As you can tell, my favorite part of this book is relating it to other things I have read). Soma basically happy washes everyone, like the world in The Giver where everyone is always happy and there is no conflict. Soma allows for such a peaceful and hypothetically harmonious world, same as the goal of the world in the Giver.

    This book, like most other dystopian novels, relates effortlessly to our society and is fascinating to read with a modern perspective. I rate it a 5.5/10 mostly because of how confusing it is to read and how so much of it is nearly impossible to understand, which I don’t personally prefer in a book, but it certainly is an interesting read.

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