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Both novels are set in the future, a convention of the science fiction genre, and the societies they create and explore share strong similarities. Both societies are controlled by the state through technology. Individual thought and freedom represent danger to those in power, and as a result, both are brutally crushed. Conformity is demanded, at all costs. The citizens of these societies, with few exceptions, accept without questioning the repressive conditions under which they live. Those who do question, do so at their own peril. In addition to using technology to control its citizens, the state in each novel effectively turns people against each other in order to maintain power. Despite these totalitarian forces, however, neither society is successful in stamping out the essence of the human spirit.
Both societies ban thought through books. As far as we know, only Mond in BNW has books, and these are locked up in a safe. It is important that the citizens of BNW not be able to think about ideas that would make them uncomfortable, make them feel: "when the individual feels, the community reels." This is dramatized in John's character. He has been introduced to Shakespeare and an entire range of thoughts and emotions that the average citizen in BNW will never be exposed to, and he is, in their view, unbalanced. In place of thought, they get electro-magnetic golf; instead of thought provoking films, they get the feelies.
Farenheit 451 might be considered the "prelude" to BNW in that they are still destroying the books that do not seem to exist in BNW. However, they have individuals who "are" books, who may be able to bring the classics back to the people, something that is very unlikely in BNW.
The goals in both societies is the same: eliminate books and feeling to control thought. You could throw 1984 in here as well ... there they have language control through Newspeak, and literature control through Pornosec.
It would be interesting to see how far we are from each of these ...
Aldous Huxley's vision is more relevant and far more likely to happen than George Orwell's. Huxley's "A Brave New World" and Orwell's "1984" both predict the future of society, yet each has contrasting opinions about that future.
Perhaps the most important piece of evidence used to distinguish the two societies is the role of the media and technology.
Huxley asserted that what we love will ruin us. By inflicting too much pleasure we will self-destruct. The media, responding to our demands, inflicts pleasure. A flip through cable stations produces MTV (music videos), HSN (Home Shopping Network), GTV (golf), and Prevue Guide, where one can sit for 24 hours a day and be hypnotised by the endless, incessant scrolling of channel listings and broadcasts. Even on such informative stations like PBS, CNN and The Discovery Channel, we are mesmerized by detailed accounts of crimes, murders, and WWII documentaries.
Our love of violence, death and the bad guy as well as our fascination with the Yankees, the Oscars and The Office, combine to desensitize us to the realities of a modern world. We don't cringe at mangled dead bodies, we slow down to look at a traffic accident. We spend millions of dollars (never mind the homeless) to advertise during a football game.
This constant flood of information about things we love blurs the line between cognition and hypnosis, morality and unmorality. This constant flood renders us impossible to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad--it is all televised, printed, and e-mailed and put on instant replay. Only when we are awake and aware of the realities and boundaries that we must confine ourselves to can we truly prevent self-destruction.
The Internet is a striking example of too much information. Huxley asserted that no one would want to read a book. A quick visit to amazon.com proves him correct. I can read the first two chapters of Twain's "Huck Finn" on-line, and if I really like it, I can go to iTunes and get the book on a digital format. Why read when other people can read to me?
The Internet has unfortunately, more than "books." I can print my own alcohol-making manual, I can visit a chat room, I can order a sweater from A & F, and send my mom a Virtual Reality Mother's Day Card. All brought to me by Yahoo and my MacBook.
Despite an Orwellian projection of a dark, tyrannical oppression in which all truth is concealed from society, Huxley's prediction of the truth being drowned in a sea of irrelevance has been realized. Truth is shrouded by circuses of Britney Spears and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and anyone who claims they still saw Elvis.
Civil libertarians are constantly on the alert to oppose tyranny have failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distraction.
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