I recently read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I was babysitting (see a trend here?) and the parents were two hours late in getting home, so I read it all in one sitting. A side note on this, sometimes reading a book all in one sitting is exciting because it’s like watching a really long movie, and you see the whole thing at once. On the other hand, you have less time to ruminate and think things over before moving on to the next part. Overall, I’m glad I read this book in one go; it made it much more impactful to me.
Brave New World takes place pretty far in the future. I read somewhere that it would have been the year 2540 and since this is published in the 1930s, Huxley was looking pretty far ahead. It makes me wish George Orwell had written 2984 instead of 1984. Because when 1984 came and we weren’t like that, well, bummer. Anyway, the world in Brave New World actually counts its years in terms of when Ford (the father of modernity, I suppose) came out with the first automobile. So the story takes place in “the year of our Ford 632.” Ford sort of replaces God in this book, although there is no religion in the world, as is explained at the end of the book.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there is no longer birth. Instead people are genetically engineered in baby labs, “hatcheries,” and even conditioned to their social classes–alpha, beta, etc. People are continually happy because their world revolves around pleasing themselves. They have recreational sex with whomever they want. They spend their nights after work seeing movies called, “Feelies” and listening to music. They have no responsibilities other than the work they are assigned to do based on their class. No families, especially, and no responsibilities to each other because “Everyone belongs to everyone else.”
It’s essentially a utopia of the modern world where there are no inconveniences, and if one is feeling upset, he or she takes a “soma” which I’m fairly sure is some variant of LSD minus any form or a hangover. One man, Bernard, refuses to take soma and is very disillusioned with the utopia that he lives in. He has a writer friend who is also upset with their world because there’s no conflict of any sort, and therefore nothing to write about. Bernard visits a “Savage Reservation” where people still give birth to their children and have *gasp* conflict in their lives. Bernard ends up bringing a “Savage” back to the civilized world, and both the civilized people and the Saavage or John are amazed at each other.
The events that take place in the novel are Huxley’s criticism or where modern civilization was headed in 1932 (and I think he was pretty spot on). Everyone’s cheif concern is with entertaining himself or herself. Technology is used to control society, and history is nonexistent. If people knew about things that happened in the past, there could be a potential for unrest and unhappiness. They believe that happiness and truth cannot coexist. Therefore the government keeps history restricted including the Bible and Shakespeare. The Savage has read Shakespeare (pretty savage, eh?) and quotes him continuously throughout the book (which is where the novel got it’s title). The only religion the people know is Fordism, which isn’t much of a religion at all. There is one scene in which people attend a ceremony in which they sit in a circle, drink a soma mixture, and wait for the coming of “our Ford.” It’s an interesting mix of religion controlling society and yet being disallowed at the same time.
In the end, there is a whole section where John, the Savage, is learning about why society was created the way is was and why history has been wiped out. The final conclusion is that truth and happiness are not compatible, and that the government keeps the truth and history from people in order to keep them happy and complacent.
I liked this book. I liked the ending (gasp!) and thought the whole thing made a good point about where our society is heading. It translated well to a modern reader. I wish I had read this earlier.