Brave New World Themes
The main themes in Brave New World are science, social freedom, history, and innovation.
- Science: The World Controllers have ended conflict by means of cloning, which homogenizes the population. The artificial drug soma subdues emotions, leading to a complacent public.
- Social freedom: Complete social freedom, and the widespread usage of soma, destroys family structures and inhibits the formation of meaningful relationships. Consequently, the citizens of the World State are largely incapable of forming emotional attachments.
- History and innovation: Intellectual curiosity, a sense of history, and scientific innovation are frowned upon because they threaten the ruling class' power over the masses.
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 thus lose the right to be individuals. People in the World State don’t suffer from poverty, disease, or brutality like people in traditional dystopias, but they do still suffer. The people do not know what it’s like to live in a world where they can choose who they want to be or how they want to live. They have no freedom.
The Price of Happiness
Aldous Huxley presents a society in Brave New World wherein total happiness comes at a steep price: the loss of free will and individuality. For example, World State citizens like Lenina, Fanny, and Henry are seemingly happy in that they don’t experience emotional or physical pain. However, their happiness is shallow and has the same sources as everyone else: sexual flings, frequent vacations, high-tech and low-effort games, and constant sensory stimulation from shallow entertainment.
Since everyone is encouraged to enjoy the same things, dislike the same things, and adopt the same pastimes, there is little to distinguish people from each other. In some sense they may be happy, but that happiness is meaningless on an individual level; the primary function of the people’s happiness is to serve the government by keeping people under control.
Whenever characters do start to question their world, as Bernard and Helmholtz do, they’re faced with discontented and...
(The entire section is 1,820 words.)