What is Aldous Huxley's style in Brave New World?
Huxley's style is satiric. Huxley is parodying, or making fun of, the socially and scientifically engineered World State.
Satire has been called a conservative form, as it relies on the audience's embrace of traditional virtues to deliver its shocks. Huxley is counting on his audience being grounded in the ordinary values of the early 1930s. For that reason, some of his his "laugh out loud" humor can be lost on modern audiences, for whom the sexual promiscuity and rampant consumerism are less startling than they would have been almost a century ago.
Beyond being satiric, the novel is written in a light, breezy style meant to reflect the simple, superficial, ultra-modern society of the World State. Events zip along; people don't take time to think, and when they (rarely) do, the anxiety it produces is played to comic effect. Below, we see the vacuous Fanny, Lenina's friend, completely zone out on what Mond is saying as she thinks about consumer goods and snippets of sayings she has been brainwashed with. Because of her conditioning, even the simplest information can't get through her obsession with new clothes:
“Perfect!” cried Fanny enthusiastically. She could never resist Lenina’s charm for long. “And what a perfectly sweet Malthusian belt!”
“Accompanied by a campaign against the Past; by the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments (luckily most of them had already been destroyed during the Nine Years’ War); by the suppression of all books published before A.F. 15O.”
“I simply must get one like it,” said Fanny.
“There were some things called the pyramids, for example."
“My old black-patent bandolier.”
“And a man called Shakespeare. You’ve never heard of them of course.”
“It’s an absolute disgrace-that bandolier of mine.”
“Such are the advantages of a really scientific education.”
“The more stitches the less riches; the more stitches the less.”
“The introduction of Our Ford’s first T-Model .”
“I’ve had it nearly three months.”
“Chosen as the opening date of the new era.”
“Ending is better than mending; ending is better.”
“There was a thing, as I’ve said before, called Christianity.”
“Ending is better than mending.”
“The ethics and philosophy of under-consumption.”
John the Savage's Shakespearean diction, more complex and tortured, is a contrast to this, but even that is played for (dark) laughs: we are meant to laugh at these people, brainwashed and bred to a moronic level of superficiality, uncomprehendingly encountering a man who views them through a Shakespearean lens. Huxley, of course, is satirizing who the real "savages" are.
When I first read the novel at 12, I took it completely seriously as an earnest description of a desirable alternative society. Don't do that! It was only when I encountered it again as an adult that I realized how comic it was and how deeply Huxley was criticizing and horrified by the World State's norms. Unlike Orwell in 1984, Huxley creates a world in which people's humanity is erased not by "boot in the face" cruelty and deprivation devised by a political party but in a party world of consumer goods, sex, and drugs. Huxley argued that this was more likely than Orwell's vision of how a dystopia would look, and we could argue that Huxley, after all, might have been right.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, is one of the original Dystopian novels, written in 1931 and preceding George Orwell's 1984 by almost eighteen years. It was very successful and influenced most of the Dystopian fiction following it.
Huxley, being a very educated man, used his knowledge of science and history to inform his book. The opening lines show the style that continues throughout:
A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.
(Huxley, Brave New World, huxley.net)
The first line is a cold open, directing the reader's attention to the "squat grey building" and immediately showing the existence of a World State. The following paragraph is full of simile and metaphor: "The light was frozen, dead, a ghost;" showing the emotionless nature of the birthing center. Despite the heat of the room, everything seems cold, because it lacks human soul. Gloves worn by the workers are "pale corpse-coloured," being the tools of simple labor instead of nurture. The microscopes, being designed to seek cellular life, have some small amount of humanity to them; the light "[lies] along the polished tubes like butter," butter being associated with a "rich and living substance." Huxley continues this use of metaphor, allowing the reader to connect with the strange future world through familiar ideas.
Huxley was not writing for academia or for literary acclaim, but his work is far more literary than some following. The title of the book is taken from Shakespeare and most of the writing is straightforward, telling events as they happen from a third-person perspective, typical of the era. Huxley's public sanctification of historical figures -- Henry Ford as a god -- was echoed forty years later in Ira Levin's Dystopian novel This Perfect Day.