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[300] Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

” That is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny. ” [1:26]

Through genetic design and subconscious sleep-learning, the people who govern the World State in Brave New World seek to control human beings for the sake of social harmony, stability and happiness. They might not be sane, but they are not madmen. Their aim is to take advantage of technology, but not the extreme of science, which is a danger, to achieve stability, in a form of happiness made possible by scientific and empirical truth. From uterus to grace, one’s conditioning has laid down rails along which he’s got to run. The subconscious messages inculcated to babies in designated castes mold lifelong self-image, class conscientious, social outlooks, habits, tastes, morals, ambitions, and prejudices. In other word, social stability and harmony is maintained by cloning, and have no room for individuality.

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; but they are blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re 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. [16:198]

These civilized people are immune to unhappiness, sadness, and other emotional turmoil because they are overprotected and superinsulated by the society. There exists no familial onligations or intimacy, although sex (promiscuity) is encouraged as a social recreation. What really appalls me is that women and a piece of furniture have the same physical characteristic. In Brave New World, human sexuality has been degraded to the level of a commodity, as “everyone belongs to everyone else.”

The World State prioritizes happiness—a genetic and chemical-induced happiness—at the expense of truth by design. The Authority believes that people (are they even people, or just emotionless clones of flesh?) are better off with happiness than with truth. This truth is such that is raw, unaltered and untainted by soma, a popular hallucinogen that provides an easy escape from the hassles of daily life and is employed by the Authority as a method of control through pleasure. Until the challenge of savage, who grew up outside the World State, the civilized people, who lose their true emotion, morals, values, and dignity under state control, have seen themselves better off than others. The desire for authentic emotion is enough in itself to cause convulsions in a society that adopts John the Savage as a fearful curiosity. But the message from the novel is that there is no escape from anxiety and struggle unless one is ready to forfeit love altogether. These emotions belong to truth and individuality. The technical (biological) aspect at the beginning of the book is somewhat of a slog, but the story only gets better in the middle. I neither dislike it nor do I enjoy it tremendously.

231 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

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8 Responses

  1. It is like the seed of a good idea (world peace?) gone very very wrong!

    • A good intention has gone awry that it comes brainwashing. Maybe the people who have never experienced emotion would be happy if they will never have to.

  2. I had to read this one in highschool, and I thought it was fine, but I don’t get why people love this one so much. I mean, I probably enjoy dystopian fiction more than the average reader and yet this one really doesn’t do much for me at all!

  3. This is one I read a couple of years ago, having missed it in school somehow; it was more intriguing than I expected it to be (I was thinking more of the classic side of it and less of the dystopic), but ultimately I would rather re-read 1984 or We than this one, though I’m glad to have read it.

  4. This book imagines a very scary world. I’ve had this on my list to read since high school (30 years ago) and still haven’t read it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.

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