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Brave New World

Brave New World is a 1932 dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley. The book anticipates developments in reproductive technology, eugenics and mind control that combine to change society beyond recognition.

Set in the future, it describes a dystopian society of Huxley's imagination. In this society people are largely "decanted" into a chemically-enforced and totally conformist caste society. Batches of children (mostly clones) are engineered in fertility clinics, where they are chemically stunted and/or deprived of oxygen during their maturation process to control their intelligence level and physical development.

The alpha class is the most intelligent, the betas a little less so, and so on, down to the epsilon group, who are deliberately created with severe mental disabilities in order to perform the most menial tasks without complaint. People are thus manufactured to fill their jobs, rather than jobs being created for people.

From birth, members of every class are indoctrinated[?], by recorded voices repeating slogans while they sleep, to believe that their own is the best class to be in. Any residual unhappiness is resolved by an anti-depressant drug called soma.

Contrary to an extremely common error, the biological techniques used to control the populace in Brave New World do not include genetic engineering. Huxley wrote the book in 1932, twenty years before Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. As the science writer Matt Ridley put it, Brave New World describes an "environmental, not a genetic, hell".

Huxley introduces the protagonist, named John, a savage from outside the Brave New World, into this society as an illustration of its failings. Having grown up on a "reservation" of the Zuni[?] Native American tribe, Savage, although biologically a product of Huxley's dystopia, is conditioned into and holds beliefs in keeping with a more "primitive" social situation. The culture shock[?] which results when the "savage" is brought into regimented society provides the vehicle by which Huxley points out that society's flaws.

The key moral point of the book revolves around the problem that the people in the society appear, and state that they are, generally happy. John Savage, however, considers this happiness to be artificial and "soulless". In a pivotal scene he argues with another character, world controller Mustapha Mond, that pain and anguish are as necessary a part of life as is joy, and that without the former to provide context and perspective, "joy" becomes meaningless.

The title of the book is a quotation from Miranda in Act V of Shakespeare's The Tempest, when she is joyfully reunited with her family. In Brave New World, the "savage", John, is a keen Shakespeare fan, which sets him further aside from the vast majority of humanity in Huxley's dystopia, as most of them are illiterate, and Shakespeare's works are banned and largely unknown in this society in any case.

The novel was the subject of an attempted challenge to have it removed from a required reading list in a Californian school in 1993 because it "centered around negative activity."

Satire of 1930s society

As a method of underscoring similarities to his fictional dystopia and his own contemporary culture, Huxley incorporates several sly, satirical references to targets such as the Church of England and the BBC.

Comparison with Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

Brave New World and George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four are both often used in political discussions of government actions perceived to be anti-libertarian. However, a key difference between 1984 and Brave New World is that while in 1984 people are kept from knowledge perceived to be "dangerous" by means of continual surveillance and coercion, in Brave New World the characters are physically engineered to not desire "dangerous" knowledge in the first place. One could say that while in 1984 the people are dehumanized by the state controlling their natural instincts such as sex or free thought, in Brave New World the people infantilize themselves by giving free reign to basic human instincts such as sex and ceding responsibility to herd mentality.

Both novels incorporate a class of people (in 1984 the "proles" (proletariat) and in Brave New World those who live on "reservations") who exist on the periphery of the dystopian society in a state of relative physical squalor, but with little to no societal interference, outside of an enforced state of non-education. While both classes as such are peripheral to their respective milieux, they serve as an important device for delineating contrast between the dystopian society in question and what the author perceives as being a more ideal society.



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