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BornAgain2

Dangers of a Totalitarian Society Exposed in Brave New World

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On a superficial level Brave New World is the portrait of a perfect society. The

citizens of this Utopia live in a society that is free of depression and most of

the social-economic problems that trouble the world today. All aspects of life

are controlled for the people of this society: population numbers, social class,

and intellectual ability. History is controlled and rewritten to suit the needs of

the state. All this is done in the name of social stability. When one looks

beneath the surface of this "perfect' society it becomes evident that it is

nothing of the sort. Eugenics, social conditioning, and anti-depressant drugs

have solved many of the problems faced by many modern societies; poverty,

class tensions and overpopulation; but at the costs of individuality and with

that their humanity. The citizens of "brave new world" are engineered to suite

the needs of the state. Individual expression is impossible because everyone

is conditioned to think alike. Brave New World is a book about a future that

seems more viable and less brave with each passing day as our values

become more materialistic and as our faith in God dwindles slowly to be

replaced by technology. Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World to increase our

awareness of this frightening future we seem to be progressing towards so we

can prevent it from happening. In the futuristic society of the novel, God has

been replaced by science and technology as a source substance and

meaning in life. As a consequence the words "Christ" and "God" are replaced

with "Ford." This is done because Huxley believed that the shift in emphasis

from God to technology occurred, to a large extent, with Henry Ford's

introduction of the Model-T.1 Instead of using the Christian calendar this date

is used as the opening date of a new era; the date is After Ford (A.F.) 632.

This shift in importance is symbolized by substituting the Christian Cross with

the Ford T.2 The motto of the new World State that now controls the world is

"Community, Stability, Identity." This motto emphasizes the importance of the

society over the individual. Community emphasizes the importance of the

individual as a contributor to society. Identity is used to refer to the various

castes which divide the society, their various tasks and their class

distinguishing uniforms. Stability is the main goal of the World State. The

World state was founded on the principles of controlled eugenics and social

conditioning, the elimination of the family, and the belief that homogeneity of

thought and behavior all lead to a stable society. The novel opens with a tour

of a factory where the unborn citizens of "brave new world" are being created.

They are not born viviparously but in an assembly line resembling the kind

that Ford first invented to produce cars. A process called Bokanovsky

"budding," is used to produce as many as ninety-six children from a single

sperm and ovum. The diversity of social functions within a society is dealt with

by the creation of five different classes - Alpha, Beta and so on. There is no

friction between the classes however, like in modern society, because they are

conditioned through sleep teaching to grow up thinking that their genetic

inheritance and social positions are ideal. Those in the upper levels of the

intellectual strata do not resent their inferiors who they give orders to and

those who observe others in a superior position pity their superiors because

they carry the encumbrance of responsibility that their position frees them

from. The goal of all conditioning is, as the Director of Hatcheries - who guides

the reader through the factory - puts it in the first chapter is to make "people

like their unescapable social destiny."3 In order to uphold a state of social

stability various methods of social control are used. After birth each person

goes through a process of "conditioning" that makes them eagerly seek the

pleasures of sex and sport and fearfully avoid non-social activities that isolate

people from each other. Tastes for beauty are conditioned out of existence. A

taste for books are conditioned out the people of lower castes because they

don't have any practical use in their lives. This is done using a process to a

similar experiment by Pavlov, who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a

bell ringing instead of the physical presence of food. For example, Deltas are

made to fear books giving them electric shocks and sounding alarms every

time they touch books. Children learn to fear activities that have no function to

their position in the planned state. No citizen of "brave new world" is able to

express opinions or judgments of their own since it is impossible; for the

uniformity that exists on the assembly line where each fetus passes exists

throughout the life cycle. A child's entire mind is shaped by the state; their IQ,

education, morals and class awareness. This is done through a process called

hypnodaedia; where lessons are repeated several times while a child sleeps

throughout the course of their childhood. The lessons that each child receives

in their sleep form the mind of the adult that they become. Citizens of Brave

New World are extremely hedonistic, for their sole purpose in life is to pursue

activities that provide instant gratification. "Feelies" are a common form of

entertainment for citizens of all intellectual strata. They are similar to today's

action-adventure flicks in the way that action takes a front seat to plot and

character development; the only difference is that they involve all the senses.

Casual sex is common-place and is promoted. Commitment is a non-issue

because "everyone belongs to everyone else."4 Monogamy is considered

sinful. "Normal" children are expected to participate in erotic play. In the third

chapter a boy in one of the conditioning nurseries was taken to see a

psychologist "just to see if anything's at all abnormal," because he refused to

participate in erotic play.5 The ideas Huxley drew on in constructing the

utopian elements of the novel were taken from ideas expressed by many

progressive thinkers of his time.6 The decline of religion in the early part of

the century eliminated the prospect of a final judgment or some other kind of

divine intervention in human existence as fears in the minds of many

philosophers of the day. It was common belief in that day that if humans were

to be saved, they must not look to unseen and imagined forces, they must

look to themselves for guidance; and if not to themselves, but to exceptional

members of society. These people, and not the invisible hand of some

imagined deity, were to guide the course of humanity. The few people of

exceptional intelligence were to be the ones who decided what was right and

wrong for the rest of humanity and condition them to form the "right" social

structure so that all people become what their superiors wanted them to be.

These assumptions are satirized along with the materialistic definition of what

a man is. In a materialistic view man is nothing more than a complex

arrangement of chemicals, and his contentment lies in the consumption of

other chemical elements: tangible delights and physical activities which require

further consumption of material items.7 Consequently, people pass their time

by playing games such as Centrifugal Bumble Puppy and Obstacle Golf, and

satisfying their carnal needs by having unattached sex. Elaborate social

engineering could eliminate their desire for something different and prevent

them from dreaming of worlds any different than their own. According to this

ideology man's present displeasures and uncertainties could be replaced by

the amenities and certainties that exist in a planned materialistic society.

Brave New World Huxley's ironic vision of Brave New World is different from

other celebrated utopian works of his time; like Forster's The Machine Stops

and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four. Huxley's utopia is successful within the

context of the novel while Forster's and Orwell's visions of the future failed to

live up to the hopes which fabricated them.8 The irony of Huxley's vision is

that instead of depicting the failure of his utopia (as in Forster's and Orwell's

case) he depicted his to be one which works well. Huxley's goal was to

emphasize the irony of the complete success of a scientific-sociological vision.

 

This irony reveals to the reader what Huxley thinks man is and the way man

should be. Hulxey believed that man was not only a creature capable of

peace, harmony and perfection under certain conditions; but he is also

troubled by confusion, fear and a need for individuality.9 In Huxley's view man

will continue to act in ways that are at odds with the expectations of planners

like Mustafa Mond. Future men will continue to fear their own mortality, no

matter how many supervised visits they take to the state crematoria when

they're children. No amount of conditioning will destroy man's need to choose

a particular person rather than everyone for a sexual partner. Nor will

pregnancy substitutes be able to act as adequate alternatives to giving birth

the natural way. The author also doubted that "feelies" would provide people

with the emotional experience people need in entertainment. Furthermore, it is

uncertain that their wonder drug "soma" will do anything more than ease

stress; for it certainly won't eliminate them completely. Huxley invented Brave

New World to make these points. Following the opening of the novel that

introduces us to the possibilities and securities of Huxley's vision the reader is

introduced to Bernard Marx. Bernard Marx was rather deformed and is shorter

than the ideal Alpha height; it is thought that too much alcohol surrogate was

used at an early stage of his physical development. Bernard's imperfection

provide the first crack in the utopia of the future. Bernard, going against his

social conditioning and protocols of society desires a permanent relationship

with a woman. The object of his desire is Lenina, and he convinces her to visit

an Indian reservation with him to pursue his wish. At the reserve they meet a

savage, named John who is the son a woman born in the civilized world, and

got lost in the reserve many years before. His father turns out to be the

director of the hatcheries where both Bernard and Lenina work. His mother

has appalled the Indians and even her son in her attempt to remain "decently"

promiscuous in the reservation. John is quite literate and is very familiar with

the works of Shakespeare; from whom he has learned about behaviors and

feelings that had been conditioned out of the minds of all "civilized" people.

 

John represents what Huxley thought man fundamentally is.10 John and his

mother are brought back to London with Bernard and Lenina for an

experiment to find out how savages will react to the civilized world. Bernard

brings John to the hatchery where he works and introduces him to his father,

the Director. John brings the on-looking workers to a howling laughter when

he kneels in front of the director and calls him father. John's quaint behavior

shocks the citizens of London. Lenina is shocked with incomprehension when

John refuses to have casual sex with her, and no one understands his grief

over the death of his mother. When John falls on his knees and cries after his

mother dies at the Hospital for the Dying in chapter 14 all the nurse says is

""Can't you behave?'" as if he had committed a grave indecency.11 She was

worried that he might decondition the children at the hospital who were

receiving their death conditioning. She was worried that his crying would

suggest that ""death were something terrible.'"12 163 At this point it appears

that John's views are in direct opposition to those that the World State is built

on. The most important scene of the book is an argument on happiness

between the Controller of the World State and John. The Controller, Mustafa

Mond, argues that reading Shakespeare is dangerous. "Because it's old;

that's the chief reason. We haven't any use for old things here."13 In Mond's

opinion, the tragedy found in the works of Shakespeare and other great

writers did not arise from man's situation; it once arose from the instability of a

particular situation that once existed - one that had been eliminated. He added

"The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they

never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill;

they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age;

they are plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children,

or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically

can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go

wrong, there's soma."14 This world that is so unpleasant to Bernard is even

more unpleasant to John because he has not been conditioned to fit it. John's

romantic and idealistic views are in strong opposition to those of the Controller

and the rest of society. John found himself in a dilemma, he had to choose

between the squalor of the reservation and the abject superficial society of the

modern world under Ford. He found a third alternative in a disused lighthouse

on the south coast of England. There he studied Shakespeare and tried to

eliminate his carnal desires for Lenina who he wanted for a lover and not just

a sexual partner - like she wanted it. Despite his solitude and his studying of

Shakespeare he cannot get his thoughts of Lenina out of his mind. He turns to

self-flagellation to redeem his spirit and absolve himself of his sins for likens salvation and redemption with self-destruction. The rumors of John's

self-flagellation attract the attention of a filmmaker named Darwin Bonaparte.

Bonaparte secretly films John's self-inflicted scourgings and makes a

successful film out of it. This draws the attention of the media and also draws

huge crowds of people coming to see the savage perform his odd rituals.

Among the crowd is Lenina. He feels, at the same time, repelled and attracted

to her. He yelled "Strumpet," at her and whipped her, then himself trying to

purify himself of his lustful thoughts for Lenina.15 The next day he chose the

ultimate escape; he killed himself. The significance of John's suicide is that the

idealist has no place in a world with an over-dependence on technology and

social control. To Huxley the tragic ending was a parable of the individual's

struggle in a mass community.16 Huxley believed that we live in the age of the

mass. Politicians, salesmen and entertainers aggravate our instincts as

individuals and force us to move with the mass. The individual is still protesting

as it is pulled along within the mass, though, none the less the individual is

dead.

 

In Brave New World as well as Orwell's 1984, the individual is under the

close scrutiny of the state.17 While the underclasses of both stories can easily

be controlled, the person of independent thought or action of the upper

classes like Bernard and Winston Smith can cause trouble for the state. A

society full of individuals makes progress difficult to come by and the result is

a static state - both of these novels portray a static state.18 In the novel

Huxley satirized the growing materialistic beliefs that were flourishing among

the intellects of that time. He worried that these materialistic beliefs and the

increased faith in technology would leading to a society like the one in the

novel. He wrote the novel to raise our awareness on this issue that so we may

avoid it. Huxley argued, through the context of the novel, that a totalitarian

society functioning only to maintain social stability by way of eugenics and

elaborate social conditioning would invariably lead to the death of humanity;

death not in the physical sense but in the loss of man's essence. He believed

that man's essence was in his individuality, and once society homogenized it's

citizens, eliminating their individuality, they would cease to be human.

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