Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
Brave New World is a dystopian novel written by Aldous Huxley in 1932. This novel is set in the future, in the year AF 632 (After Ford, named after Henry Ford inventor of the Model T) which is equivalent to 2540 CE. A time where technology is widely used by the government to control its people. H.G. Wells, who is considered as the father of science fiction, was downright offended as one of his utopian novels had been Huxley’s inspiration in writting Brave New World.
In the novel, Huxley demonstrates the customs and standards of this ideal society in the future. Brave New World's society has supposedly eliminated all social ills like poverty, diseases, unhappiness, and wars. This made it possible for the society to reach a utopian status. It is decidedly the opposite of the state of the world as Huxley knew it back in 1932 as the book is written between the first and second World Wars.
Huxley predicted that the fast rise and development of technologies could give rise to a multitude of problems that may be far from what is hoped for by the world he knew. And so Huxley created a world that revolves too much around technology that he believes is certain to have repercussions in relation to those involved with the conformist society. Because in his time, people relied too much on the future of technology and its possible ability to cleanse the world of disease and famine.
The Similarities of World State City and United States
In Huxley’s fictional World State City, the use of mind-altering drugs is not only rampant, but state-sanctioned. The drug soma allows people to feel happy and relaxed. It makes people feel like they have been on holiday, and it doesn’t have any side effects. Citizens of World State City take it whenever they want. If they are feeling bored, stressed, miserable, they just take soma to drug themselves out of the “miseries of space and time.”
In World State City, soma is available in many forms and people take them frequently. As in World State City, drugs are used to escape or distract people from reality. However, unlike in the United States today where drugs are illegal and an addiction that the individual is responsible for, in World State City the government encourages its use because it is believed that society could not function without it. The drug soma is used to control the society of World State City.
As Huxley demonstrates, technology, which used to be a symbol of progress, has become a tool for controlling society. However, it is not the uncontrolled progress of science that enabled a dictatorship to gain control of World State City but its state-sanctioned control. The government has harnessed technology in order to fashion a conformist society – a society that will always bend to its will.
In a way, the same is happening in the United States at present. The hazards of the use of technology and internet is on surface level out of control, especially with the rampant spread of misinformation in today's Internet age. However, as is being revealed as of late, it appears that certain individuals or corporations have been controlling the information that goes viral, and this in turn is being used to control the mindset of the people.
The people in Brave New World would be considered promiscuous in our time. Sex in World State City is freely displayed and people frequently take part in orgies. However, unlike in American society where the emphasis of any and all sexual interaction is to find love and mostly build a family, World Society has detached these aspects from sex completely. Sex in World Society is all about satisfaction and children as young as 8 years old are encouraged to take part in erotic play.
On the surface, it appears that the people of World State are very much liberated and are free to have sex. However, as Huxley reveals, this is not the case. The people in World State use birth control. This is one way that their government has stripped sex of its other functions other than pleasure, and in doing so the government also maintains control over the population. Its citizens are not allowed to be pregnant or give birth.
World State’s society has been wired to be driven only by pleasure, unlike today in the US where people are encouraged to seek both enjoyment and pleasure responsibly. So, while the use of birth control during or for sex is generally accepted, they are not required. Individuals have the option to get pregnant or not, unlike in World State where pregnancy is out of the question.
The entire world today lives in a consumerist society. This is something that appears to have continued on to the future as depicted in Brave New World. Since the society in Brave New World has eliminated the truth and all social ills, they have nothing else to seek by happiness, which for them means satisfying one’s desires. It thus comes as no surprise that World State is a consumerist society.
The familiar imagery of corporate employees in suits chasing promotions and money but ultimately leading empty lives comes to mind. Although the people in World State are not necessarily trapped in a corporate building, they too are trapped in their own way. Huxley uses the metaphor of bottles for the people’s entrapment. The Controller meditatively continued that the people go through life in a bottle. The society of World State is, thus, trapped by or in their base desires.
The consumerist society today traps people by making them believe that they need to purchase so many things that they don’t need in reality. This pushes people to work hard, mindlessly, and compromise the search for truth and happiness. The things they buy give them temporary happiness, much in the same way that the drug soma and sex provide the people of World State City temporary happiness. Although the ways in which the two societies are trapped are different, it all boils down to the fact that they are being controlled through things that they think they enjoy.
Although the United States is not under a dictatorship and Americans pride themselves in being free, in many ways they are not really free. Similar to World State City, there are a plethora of covert ways in which those in power manipulate their options and, ultimately, even the choices they make. Huxley’s satirical depiction of the future should serve as a warning for us, to make us wary of such subvert modes of control, yet, as a society, we have allowed these modes to take control.
The present society is not yet at the level of World State City, but the similarities and parallelisms in how society is being controlled through technology, social norms, namely sex, and consumerist values are already disturbing. And who knows? Maybe the world that Huxley foresaw will come to life one day. At the rate technology is advancing and how people long for total freedom, it is no longer far from impossible.
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Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Chatto & Windus, 1932.
Lohnes, Kate. “Brave New World.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 July 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Brave-New-World.