What forces are seen as limiting free will in the first few chapters of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World? How do these forces contrast with the forces limiting free will in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Brave New World,the administrators act as the forces that limit free will. In the first chapter, one way in which we see human free will limited is through the human being creation process that is directed by the administration of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Through the process, human beings are created on an assembly line, the type of assembly line created by Henry Ford not long before the book was written. Creating human beings on an assembly line eliminates the need for sexual activity as well as the choices of courtship that go hand in hand with sexual desire. Human beings no longer have a need to court and love, which limits their choices to love, thereby limiting their free will. What's more, creating human beings on a Henry Ford assembly line also eliminates the need for family and all of the choices that having and raising a family entail, thereby again limiting free will. We further see the elimination of free will through the "Conditioning Process" described in Chapter 2. Here, it's very clear that the society in Brave New World is raising selected infants in a way that eliminates their own, innate desires and preferences so that they can fit the role they have been chosen to fill. What's more, it is the administrators who are responsible for carrying out and overseeing the "Conditioning Process," showing us that administration is the force behind limiting free will. Finally, in the third chapter, we learn a bit more about how society in Brave New World handles relationships. Long-term, monogamous relationships are very much discouraged by the administration and promiscuity is very much encouraged. Both of these discouragements and encouragements naturally put restraints on the natural way humans think and feel, which again limits their free will.

In Oedipus Rex, we see similar forces at work limiting free will. In both the book and the play, it is the higher-ups who are responsible for controlling society, and then society responds to the controlling behavior. The only difference is that in Brave New World the higher-ups who control society are portrayed as just people, the administrators, while in Oedipus Rex the higher-ups are portrayed as the gods. The gods are portrayed as controlling society through the gods' choices, such as decisions to ordain a man to grow up to unknowingly kill his own father and marry his own mother. The gods further control society through the plagues they cast down on society due to the anger of the gods. We especially see the role of fate in Oedipus's actions that were directed by the gods in Oedipus's own exclamation, "O Zeus, why have you willed me to do this?" (765). But we see it even further in the Chorus's lamentation about fate:

If only fate may find me still acting
with reverent holiness in words
and all my deeds, for which lofty laws
are ordained, born
in heaven above, their only
father Olympus. (891-97)

Since the chorus here is hoping that fate will continue to allow their actions to be holy before Zeus, we see just how much the chorus believes actions are driven by fate and not really a matter of free will.