At a Glance

  • In his foreword to the novel, Aldous Huxley writes, “The theme of Brave New World is not the advancement of science as such; it is the advancement of science as it affects individuals.” In Huxley's dystopian vision, the World Controllers have "solved" social and class conflicts by means of a cloning process that homogenizes the population, brainwashing them into accepting their lot in life.
  • Increased sexual freedom, paired with addiction to a drug called soma, destroys traditional gender roles, family structures, and theories of love and relationships. Consequently, the citizens of this brave new world are largely incapable of forming emotional attachments.
  • One of the most important themes in Brave New World is the past. This is evident in the great lengths that the World Controllers go to in order to destroy all traces of the past, including art, history, and literature. Both intellectual curiosity and scientific innovation are frowned upon because they threaten the ruling class' power over the masses.

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Themes

Brave New World presents readers with a question: Is it better to live in a constant state of happiness at the expense of your individuality and personal freedom, or are those principles worth the suffering and unhappiness that come with them? Ultimately, the novel suggests that balance is best, because too much happiness leads to superficiality and too much unhappiness leads to a hopeless existence.

Through the exploration of a totalitarian society that forces its citizens to be happy and complacent, Brave New World remarks on trends in society, like consumerism and the avoidance of negative emotions and experiences, that are arguably more relevant now than they were when the book was published.

Dystopias and Totalitarianism

Brave New World flips traditional ideas of dystopianism and totalitarianism on their heads. In typical totalitarian regimes, total control is used to create a society that benefits the privileged few while hurting most of the population, who are usually left miserable, poor, and often endangered. This is perhaps best expressed in George Orwell’s novel 1984. Dystopian worlds like Orwell’s Oceania highlight inequitable and immoral practices by showing how people suffer from being controlled.

Brave New World’s World State is different. Though it’s still totalitarian in that people’s lives are orchestrated from their beginning and controlled until their death, the goals of the regime are not to profit a select few, but to create a stable society wherein everyone is happy and there are no problems. This makes the World State’s dystopia scarier in some ways than typical dystopias, because it’s easy to understand why the World Controllers wanted to rebuild society in this way: even now, who doesn’t wish for a world at peace?

The World State, though happy and orderly, still proves itself a dystopia in that people lose something core to humanity in their continual bliss. They lose the right to be unhappy, and...

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