Utopian—and dystopian (anti-utopian)—fiction is not really about the future; it is an indirect view of the present. The authors of such works begin with aspects of their own society that they like, dislike, desire, or fear, and by extrapolating them into a possible future, they demonstrate the likely consequences of such tendencies or pressures developed to extremes. If readers do not see their own society reflected in an exaggerated, distinctive, but recognizable form, it is unlikely that the projected world will offer more than amused distraction. Brave New World has endured as a classic of the genre because Aldous Huxley’s vision not only was frighteningly believable when first presented but also has become more immediate since its initial appearance. Indeed, in Brave New World Revisited (1958), an extended expository gloss on the original, Huxley suggests that his only important prophetic error was the assumption that it would take six centuries to implement fully the brave new world; a scant twenty-six years after the novel’s publication, Huxley revised his estimate of the time needed to less than a century.
The most disturbing aspect of Brave New World is the suspicion that many, perhaps most, people would like to live in such a society. After examining the modern Western world in general and America in the 1920’s in particular, with its assembly-line techniques, its consumerism, its hedonistic tendencies, its...
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