How does Huxley describe 'Obstacle Golf' in Brave New World?
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In Chapter Four of Brave New World, Lenina and Henry Foster fly in a helicopter to their date of obstacle golf at Stoke Poges. The reader might assume that obstacle golf would be similar to miniature or putt-putt golf in which the course has amusing obstacles, like a windmill, that the player has to navigate around; of course, everything seems to be on a much grander scale in Brave New World, so Obstacle Golf probably is not miniature at all, but has actual huge obstacles.
As soon as Huxley reaches the part where Lenina and Henry would play obstacle golf, he does not provide a description. Instead, he shifts his attention to 'Part 2' of the chapter that focuses on Bernard's point of view. Obstacle golf is also slightly mentioned through dialogue in Chapter three, but other than the two chapters mentioned, there are no further details of the curious sport.
Obstacle Golf, like Escalator Squash, is an example of a complex sport created primarily for the purpose of keeping factories busy producing parts for it. As the Director explains, all sports are required to use "elaborate apparatus." This society is based around high consumption and Obstacle Golf is simply another manifestation of complicating simple activities to feed the industrial machine. In this world, it is illegal to create a game or sport that uses fewer parts than one already in existence. As the Director says:
Imagine the folly of allowing people to play elaborate games which do nothing whatever to increase consumption. It’s madness. Nowadays the Controllers won’t approve of any new game unless it can be shown that it requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games.
The importance of Obstacle Golf to the economy is made clear by the fact that both upper and lower caste citizens play it and apparently do so frequently. However, while noting that people either helicopter or take trains to the country to play the game, the novel offers no explanation of its rules or description of what the complicated equipment it requires is like. Stopping to explain how such a golf game is played would bog down the text, so Huxley wisely leaves that to the imagination.
Obstacle golf is also used to show the ridiculousness of this society that Huxley has created in his novel. Set in a dystopian - the opposite of utopian - world, where the government has ruined its perfect world with its control, the characters are seen as normal only if they busy themselves with frivolities - such as obstacle golf, soma (a drug) and meaningless sexual relationships. This game, while not explained in detail, is used to express the sense of weirdness and aloofness of Bernard for not wanting to join in. Bernard, you see, would rather go home and be alone to think and ponder, than play a silly game with people he doesn't like. This is strange to other society members. Obstacle golf is very similar to soma, as characters use soma and sex and games to go on a "holiday" from things that are bothersome or upsetting. As seen often in the book, "A gramme is better than a damn" - meaning, a bit of drugs is better than feeling emotions.
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