How can we relate (or not) the ideas of John and the controller to materialism?

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mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Brave New World, unfortunately, has been an accurate prediction of the modern world's obsession with "mass" (mass production, mass media, big cars and houses) and the desire for pleasure (orgy-porgy, soma, and sports).

Whereas John is the tortured artistic and Christian hero of the satire (the one who dies for the materialistic sins of others), the Controller and his subjects are, like most Americans, obsessed with pleasure: quick-and-easy meals, sex without consequence, pornography, sugary snacks, our jobs, clothes, social class privileges, and instant gratification when it comes to, well, just about everything.  "Must have coffee!"

In his essay "Amusing Ourselves to Death," Neil Postman writes:

Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy...He believed that it is far more likely that the Western democracies will dance and dream themselves into oblivion than march in to it, single file and manacled.

And Richard H. Beckham argues, in "World as Social Irritant: Ban it or Buy It?":

Lest the pleasure of frequent and promiscuous sexual activity not be sufficient to distract the population and dissuade them from rebellion, Huxley foresees a culture in which widespread and addictive use of drugs offers a second means of assuring a frictionless society. “A Soma in time saves nine,”—a hypnopaedic slogan drilled into the heads of Brave New Worldians from nursery days on—conveys the message that individuals are to protect themselves from normal pain by frequent doses of this widely available and socially acceptable narcotic.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The ideas of Mustapha Mond (and the whole society in this book) are very materialistic and those of John the Savage are not.

One of the basic principles of the society in this book is that people should consume as much as possible.  The idea is that if people buy as much as possible, there will be jobs for everyone.  In addition, the people will be so caught up in consuming and enjoying things that they will not think.

By contrast, thinking is exactly what John the Savage wants to do.  He wants to think noble thoughts and feel real emotions.  This is why, to him, the old lighthouse would seem like a better place than an apartment in "civilization."

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