Brave New World Analysis
- Brave New World presents a different vision of a dystopian future than works like George Orwell’s 1984. Rather than ruling through fear and violence, the World State maintains control by cultivating apathy and conformity in its citizenry.
- Individuality and intellectual freedom are incompatible with life in the World State. Even Bernard and John come to view their nonconformity as more of a burden than a blessing.
- World State citizens’ roles within society are predetermined. Rather than suppressing human nature, the World State has essentially altered it by conditioning people to crave conformity and reject critical thought.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is often compared with George Orwell’s 1984, as both novels depict elaborate dystopian futures within which the majority of humanity has come under the control of an authoritarian government. Both Orwell and Huxley were inspired by the trends they witnessed in society at the time that they were writing (Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, and Huxley wrote Brave New World in the early 1930s), and their respective novels seem to offer a warning of what might come to pass if these trends continue unchecked. However, the novels present differing visions of a dystopian future: whereas the Party in 1984 uses overt brutality and fear to maintain control, the World State in Brave New World brainwashes citizens until they believe that their desires are genuinely aligned with those of the government.
Orwell was inspired by his experiences during World War II, during which he witnessed the devastating impacts of a violent authoritarian regime on its citizens. The brutality and scarcity in 1984 evoke the anxieties of those living in a postwar society. By contrast, Huxley originally devised Brave New World as a way of satirizing the more hopeful utopian novels of his contemporaries, who presented technological advancement as a positive. The World State represents an extreme vision of how the increasing mechanization and commercialization of society will rob people of their individuality without them ever realizing it.
In Brave New World, individuality is the enemy. It is the enemy of the state, which requires its citizens to perform, without complaint, the specific roles for which they have been created—but it is also the enemy of the people, who have been designed to conform and for whom nonconformity is terrifying. Though Bernard is disillusioned by his role in society and wonders whether he might be happier if he were allowed to be more individualistic, when he is given the opportunity to live on an island with other supposedly free thinkers, he recoils in terror. He does not really want to be an individual, nor does he view individualism as something to strive for; he sees his individuality as a punishment and feels burdened by the emotions that people in his society are not supposed to experience.
Basic physical feelings, such as pleasure, are encouraged in the world of the novel: even young children engage in “sex play,” and going to “the feelies,” a multisensory equivalent of the trip to the movies, is a common pastime. The idea of feeling on an emotional or intellectual level, however, is considered repulsive and contemptible. The inhabitants of the World State are not required to think; they ingest soma in order to numb themselves to anything other than base, physical pleasure. Occasionally, a person emerges who wants to think freely and resist their predetermined role in society, such as Helmholtz. For Helmholtz, the ability to think for himself is so important that he is willing to suffer to retain his individuality. However, most of the citizens of the World State cannot even conceptualize individuality or intellectual freedom. Instead, they mindlessly consume the various distractions provided by the government, suggesting that as a society becomes more rigidly capitalist and industrialized, individual desires erode.
The other key freethinker in Brave New World is John,...
(The entire section is 894 words.)