In Brave New World, how does Aldous Huxley utilize Freud's psychoanalytic theory?

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Psychoanalysis is a series of theories related to the unconscious mind pioneered by Dr. Sigmund Freud starting in the 1890s. By the late 1920s and early 1930s, psychoanalysis was prevalent and well-known. Aldous Huxley wrote his dystopian Brave New World as a parody to critique psychoanalysis and also to critique society’s obsession with new-age thinking that was quick to override traditional family values.

Freud’s work was groundbreaking because it separated personality into three entities: the id, ego, and super-ego, and Huxley used these three entities as the basis for his social criticism.

First, the id contains one’s animalistic urges, like hunger or sexual desire. This is the first aspect of the personality to develop and can be seen in infants. In Brave New World, children are taught to engage in erotic play to satisfy their urges from the id. In a tradition nuclear family, this behavior would be repudiated.

The second aspect to develop is the ego, which is intended to help the individual respond to the impulses from the id. In the narrative, it’s common for adults to participate in sexual orgies which depicts the lack of ability to control urges from the id.

The final aspect of the personality to develop is super-ego, which is the internalized moral code and conscience. Typically, an individual’s super-ego will develop directly based on the moral values of one’s parents. Since there are no parents in the narrative, humans instead gain their super-ego by sleep teaching, which ultimately results in adults who are able to work but who act like children with regard to their urges.

Freud would say that characters in Brave New World have fixations and have stunted their psychological functioning.

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Huxley uses Freud’s psychoanalytic theory to develop the plot of the story. In Brave New World, the author demonstrates the control of people through the use of some aspects of psychoanalytic technique. However, in the society, aspects of the theory are not allowed to develop, and fixation occurs. According to Freud, fixation occurs when an individual skips aspects of the developmental stages.

In Brave New World, the people have insufficient growth with regards to feeling and desire. On the other hand, their need for instant gratification is heightened. Social values are not passed along to offspring from parents because the family structure does not exist in the society. The values are instead instilled through sleep teaching or hypnopaedia.

The society’s stability is hinged on altering the psychoanalytic growth process by enhancing certain developmental stages while restricting others that are likely to promote normal growth and challenge what the society considers acceptable.

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In the novel, Mond explains that: 

"Our Freud had been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life. The world was full of fathers—was therefore full of misery; full of mothers—therefore of every kind of perversion from sadism to chastity..."

In response to Freud's theories, this society has abolished the family on the grounds of it being psychologically unhealthy. People are born in a lab via test tube mixing of egg and sperm, children are raised in groups according to age and caste in dormitory environments, and nobody marries.

This novel is satiric, and Huxley uses this form of Freudiansim run amok to parody Freud's theories and Freud's critique of the traditional nuclear family. We are meant to laugh at the idea that chastity is a form of perversion and to laugh at the embarrassment that characters experience at the idea of being or having mothers or fathers. The very word mother or father can make people blush, while they at the same time regularly attend group orgies without a second thought. Huxley suggests that the modern world (i.e., his world of the 1930s) is too quick to use theories like Freud's to abandon the kind of deep emotional ties that give life meaning and fullness. 


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Part of Freud's psychoanalytic theories focus on the fixation that children have with their parents, and how many of our deepest psychological disturbances and disorders stem from the anxiety and unhealthiness of parental-children relationships.  Freud seemed to assert that much of one's unhappiness and neurotic tendencies can be tied back to an unhealthy dependency and reliance upon parental figures.  So, in "Brave New World," Huxley completely takes out the parental factor by removing any concept of mother or father from children's lives.  Their entire society runs without the concept of our traditional nuclear family unit.  As Mustapha Mond puts it, the people

"are plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about."

As a result, they don't have the jealousies, passions, fights, and psychological unrest that normally, as Freud asserts, comes with those ties.  The society that exists in this book is devoid not only of close familial ties, but of all close, intimate, emotional attachments.  People hook up but don't talk deeply or commit.  People have lots of fun playing games but never make lasting ties.  Their world is filled with the now and the fun, not with the profound or the deep.  And, as a result, they are seemingly "happy,"--a drug-induced, manufactured, genetically produced "happiness."

I hope that those thoughts help; good luck!

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