Introduction

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Last Updated on January 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 687

So you’re going to teach Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, Brave New World has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has some challenging content—overt sexuality, drug use, and suicide—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying Brave New World will give them unique insight into social organization, free will, and important themes surrounding the roles of science, technology, and centralized government in civilization. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance 

  • Publication Date: 1932
  • Recommended Grade Level: 10-12
  • Approximate Word Count: 63,800
  • Author: Aldous Huxley
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Literature
  • Literary Period: Modern
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self
  • Narration: Third-Person Omniscient
  • Setting: 2540 CE, London and New Mexico
  • Structure: Prose Novel
  • Mood: Foreboding, Satirical, Philosophical


Texts that Go Well with Brave New World

1984 (1949), by George Orwell, explores a different type of dystopian society than Brave New World. Rather than pacifying people with pleasure and drugs, 1984’s authoritarian Party suppresses the population through fear and deprivation. Both novels explore the effects of societally imposed class structures and the ways in which social division discourages rebellion. Ultimately, 1984’s Winston Smith and Brave New World’s John meet a similar fate, overcome by the apparent indomitability of their respective governments.

The Giver (1993), by Lois Lowry, is a dystopian novel set in a society where the government controls people’s lives and humans have lost the ability to feel complex emotions. Like Brave New World, The Giver portrays a subtle form of dystopia, where citizens are controlled through pleasure and complacency rather than fear or violence. When twelve-year-old Jonah is selected to receive the collective memories of his society, he learns about all of the feelings and experiences that his people have been denied. Jonah, like John, comes to believe that limiting the range of human experiences is wrong, calling into question what people are willing to sacrifice for the good of society.

The Hunger Games (2008), by Suzanne Collins, is a dystopian novel set in the fictional country of Panem. Every year, each of Panem’s twelve districts are required to send one boy and one girl to compete in a battle royale called the Hunger Games. Protagonist Katniss Everdeen is thrust into the arena after volunteering to participate in place of her younger sister. Much like Brave New World, The Hunger Games explores the myriad tools that authoritarian governments use in order to maintain control. Whereas the wealthy Capitol resembles the carefree and pleasure-centric World State, the outer districts resemble a more traditional dystopia, plagued by poverty and misery.

Island (1962), by Aldous Huxley, is the author’s final novel. Will Farnaby, a journalist, is shipwrecked on a fictitious Polynesian island called Pala. Using many of the same tropes as Brave New World—drugs, hypnotism, assisted reproduction, and contraception—Island is considered a utopian counterpart to Brave New World.

Lord of the Flies (1954), by William Golding, is a novel that explores human nature and social hierarchies through a group of British school boys who become shipwrecked on a remote tropical island. Similar to Brave New World, Lord of the Flies considers the willingness of a group to victimize marginalized individuals, and the extent to which all citizens are accountable for the moral transgressions of the culture from which they benefit.

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (1973), by Ursula K. Le Guin, is a short story that ruminates on the sacrifices and compromises necessary to creating a utopian society. Omelas is a peaceful community full of happy people, but the price of their happiness is the abject misery of one child. As a work of social philosophy, Le Guin forces readers to consider whether the child’s suffering is justified in the name of societal betterment, just as John questions the World Controller about the moral and intellectual sacrifices made in the name of the World State.

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History of the Text