In what way do technological and cultural advancements play a role in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World? What does Huxley say about these developments? Do they lead to to disintegration and...

In what way do technological and cultural advancements play a role in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World? What does Huxley say about these developments? Do they lead to to disintegration and corruption or freedom and liberation? Choose a passage that supports your position and analyze it to prove your argument.

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World leaves absolutely no doubt that the author intended his depiction of a futuristic, dystopian society – called the World State in his novel – to constitute a warning against the dangers of the relentless pursuit of technological advances and the unbridled consumerism evident in the massive proliferation of the automobile that was occurring during the years in which he wrote.  Huxley made no attempt at subtlety, and clearly viewed the evolution of modern society from a rather jaundiced point of view.  The mere fact that his characters view Henry Ford, the father of modern industrialization, as a deity of Biblical proportions portends a portrait of the future from a decidedly negative perspective.  Early in his novel, in Chapter Three, Huxley has one of his “Controllers,” “his fordship Mustapha Mond,” comment on the vast social improvements the World State provided relative to the inferior societies of the past:

"You all remember," said the Controller, in his strong deep voice, "you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford's: History is bunk. History," he repeated slowly, "is bunk."

For an author of Huxley’s evident intellect, attributing a word as unsophisticated as “bunk” to a figure viewed universally as a god was unlikely to be accidental.  Huxley is ridiculing the ‘dumbing down’ of society that he saw as a potential result of an overemphasis on material wealth and the substitution of character-building endeavors with technological innovations of dubious moral merit.  Soon after the above statement by the Controller, the director of the hatchery grows concerned that the higher-being’s comments will be misconstrued.  Huxley describes the director’s demeanor as follows:

“The D.H.C. looked at him nervously. There were those strange rumours of old forbidden books hidden in a safe in the Controller's study. Bibles, poetry–Ford knew what.”

The most prevalent example Huxley provides of a society that has veered from democratic to autocratic and which utilizes technology to control and shape the world involves human reproduction.  The dehumanizing nature of Huxley’s future is evident in the descriptions of the process by which human reproduction now occurs – a process in which individual human beings are programmed from “conception” for the World State’s idea of perfection.  As described by the story’s narrator, that process refers to people in cold, inhuman terms:

“ . . .where the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process.

"Bokanovsky's Process," repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.  One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.”

Huxley’s society is unrecognizable to those who grew up in a liberal democratic society, but he was remarkably prescient in foreseeing the extent to which technological advances would revolutionize the most human of developments: conception and birth.  Less than 50 years after publication of Brave New World, the first “test-tube baby” was born, a precursor to a revolution in reproductive practices what culminate, to date, anyway, with the cloning of animals and debates regarding the morality of cloning human beings.  While it is too soon to predict the full ramification of these technological developments – and numerous babies have been born to infertile couples thanks to these developments – Huxley viewed the evolution of humanity in stark terms.  To the late British author, the developments he describes do not lead to freedom; they lead to ever-greater control by autocrats.

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Brave New World

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