Essays and Criticism
The Unique Setting of Huxley's Novel
Aldous Huxley’s most enduring and prophetic work, Brave New World (1932), describes a future world in the year 2495, a society combining intensified aspects of industrial communism and capitalism into a horrifying new world order. Huxley’s title, taken from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, is therefore ironic: This fictional dystopia is neither brave nor new. Instead, it is so controlled and safe that there is neither need nor opportunity for bravery. As for being “new,” its unrelenting drives toward management and development, and its obsessions with predictable order and consumption, are as old as the Industrial Revolution. Coupling horror with irony, Brave New World, a masterpiece of modern fiction, is a stinging critique of twentieth-century industrial society.
Huxley’s observations about capitalist and communist societies show that what are usually thought of as vastly different systems also have some similarities. James Sexton calls the common denominator “an uncritical veneration of rationalization.” The common denominator might also be characterized as the drive to ensure the industrialization of society by forms of propaganda and force, either frequent and obvious (as with the former Soviet Union) or more infrequent and subtle (such as in the United States and Europe). For proof that Huxley was commenting on modern societies, the reader need look no farther than the names of...
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Huxley’s Brave New World as Social Irritant: Ban It or Buy It?
It is obvious why someone who believes in censorship might choose to object to Brave New World. This world is a world of sexual promiscuity, a world with a drug culture in the most literal sense of that expression, a world in which the traditional family—in fact, any family at all—has been vilified and rendered taboo, a world in which religion has been reduced to orgiastic rituals of physical expression. It is a world in which art panders to the sensations of mass communications and a world in which the positive values of Western democracy have been ossified into a rigid caste system, in which the members of each caste are mass produced to the specifications of assembly line uniformity.
Readers who have strict standards of sexual behavior, who believe in chaste courtships and monogamous, lifetime marriages confront in this novel a society in which sexual promiscuity is a virtue and in which the sole function of sexuality is pleasure, not reproduction. Since reproduction is achieved by an elaborate biogenetic mass production assembly line, the citizens of Brave New World do not need normal human sexual activity to propagate the species. In fact, such activity is discouraged by the state so that the carefully monitored population controls are not disrupted. Women are required to wear “Malthusian Belts”—convenient caches of birth control devices—in order to forego pregnancies. The sole function of sex in this society is pleasure,...
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End of Utopia: A Study of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
One of the chief problems Huxley had with Brave New World, according to Donald Watt [in Journal English and Germanic Philology, July, 1978], was with the characters. On the evidence of the revisions, Watt concludes that Huxley seems first to have thought of making Bernard Marx the rebellious hero of the novel but then changed his mind and deliberately played him down into a kind of anti-hero. After rejecting the possibility of a heroic Bernard, Huxley next seems to have turned to the Savage as an alternative. According to Watt, there are in the typescript several indications, later revised or omitted, of the Savage’s putting up or at least planning to put up violent resistance to the new world state, perhaps even of leading a kind of revolution against it. But in the process of rewriting the novel, Huxley also abandoned this idea in favor of having no hero at all, or of having only the vague adumbration of a hero in Helmholtz Watson.
Watt’s analysis of the revisions in Brave New World is very helpful and interesting; he shows convincingly, I think, that Huxley was unable to make up his mind until very late in the composition of the novel just what direction he wanted the story and the leading male characters to take. From this uncertainty, however, I do not think it necessary to leap to the further conclusion that Huxley had difficulty in creating these characters themselves. Huxley’s supposedly inadequate ability to...
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