Brave New World is a novel written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurology.
Science and technology are two different things. Science is the pursuit of truth and fact in the various sciences, from biology to physics. Technology refers to the tools and applications developed from science. Science is knowledge. Technology is what you can do with that knowledge. Brave New World raises the terrifying prospect that advances in the sciences of biology and psychology could be transformed by a totalitarian government into technologies that will change the way that human beings think and act. Once this happens, the novel suggests, the totalitarian government will cease to allow the pursuit of any actual science and the truth that science reveals will be restricted and controlled, even as the technologies that allow for control will be constantly improved and perfected.
Setting plays a particularly important role in Brave New World. Huxley's novel is a novel of Utopia, and a science-fiction novel. In both kinds of books the portrayal of individual characters tends to take a back seat to the portrayal of the society they live in. In some ways, the brave new world itself becomes the book's main character. The story opens in London some 600 years in the future- 632 A. F. (After Ford) in the calendar of the era. Centuries before, civilization as we know it was destroyed in the Nine Years' War. Out of the ruins grew the World State, an all-powerful government headed by ten World Controllers. Faith in Christ has been replaced by Faith in Ford, a mythologized version of Henry Ford, the auto pioneer who developed the mass production methods that have reached their zenith in the World State. Almost all traces of the past have been erased, for, as Henry Ford said, "History is bunk." Changing names show the changed society. Charing Cross, the London railroad station, is now Charing T Rocket Station: the cross has been supplanted by the T, from Henry Ford's Model T. Big Ben is now Big Henry. Westminster Abbey, one of England's most hallowed shrines, is now merely the site of a nightclub, the Westminster Abbey Cabaret. The people of this world, born from test tubes and divided into five castes, are docile and happy, kept occupied by elaborate games like obstacle golf, entertainments like the "feelies," and sexual promiscuity. Disease is nonexistent, old age and death made as pleasant as possible so they can be ignored. Some parts of the earth, however, are allowed to remain as they were before the World State came to power. With Bernard and Lenina, you visit one of these Savage Reservations, the New Mexican home of the Zuni Indians. It is a world away from civilized London: the Zunis are impoverished, dirty, ravaged by disease and old age, and still cling to their ancient religion. The settings in Brave New World, then, seem to offer only the choice between civilized servitude and primitive ignorance and squalor. Are these the only choices available? One other is mentioned, the islands of exile- Iceland and the Falkland Islands- where malcontents like Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson are sent. But Huxley does not discuss these places in enough detail to let us know whether or not they provide any kind of alternative to the grim life he has presented in the rest of the book.
Mond is one of the ten people who control the World State. He is good-natured and dedicated to his work, and extremely intelligent; he understands people and ideas that are different, which most Utopians cannot do. He has read such forbidden books as the works of Shakespeare and the Bible, and knows history and philosophy. Indeed, he resembles the Oxford professors that Huxley knew, and his discussion of happiness with the Savage resembles a tutorial between an Oxford don and his most challenging student.
Once a gifted scientist, the Controller made a conscious choice as a young man to become one of the rulers instead of a troublesome dissident. He is one of the few Utopians who can choose, who has free will, and this makes him more rounded and more attractive than most of the characters you'll meet in the book. It also makes him concerned with morality, but he uses his moral force and his sanity for the immoral and insane goals of the Utopia. You may decide that he is the most dangerous person in Brave New World.
Mustapha Mond is described as an intelligent man and scientist with much knowledge. As one of the ten who control the World State, this book creates a theme of knowledge associated with power. In many societies, being intelligent can give someone much power, and at times this power is given to the wrong people.
Only the Controllers of society, the ten elite rulers, have freedom of choice. Everyone else has been conditioned from the time they were embryos to accept unquestioningly all the values and beliefs of the carefully ordered society. Upper-class Alphas are allowed a little freedom because their higher intellect makes it harder for them to completely accept the rules of society. For example, they are occasionally allowed to travel to the Indian reservation to see how outsiders live.
Huxley is warning against escaping reality through drugs, the growth of mindless entertainment, the advocacy of free sex, and the increasing power of mass media, problems that still plague modern life. The title, therefore, is intended to be ironic, for Huxley does not see the world depicted in the novel as a brave or beauteous place. Instead of being a utopia, the brave new world becomes a utopia-in-reverse or Dystopia; it is less inviting than the old world order with all its disadvantages.
The greatest weakness of the novel is its lack of a definitive conclusion and its deviation from normal plot construction. There is an extremely well-developed exposition (or introduction); in fact, it comprises the first seven chapters of the book, as the setting of the brave new world is explained and developed and the major characters are introduced. The rising action begins with Bernard's suggestion that John leave the reservation with him and go to the brave new world that he has dreamed about. The rest of the plot centers on John's disillusion with the new society that he encounters and climaxes with his debate with the Controller, when it becomes obvious that the Savage has no place in the brave new world, which cannot allow for his differences. The falling action centers on John's move to the lighthouse in an attempt to find a place for himself. Unfortunately, the crowds descend upon him there, mentally torturing him to the point of dementia. The conclusion comes with his decision to hang himself. Although the conclusion is not definitive, it strongly suggests that it is impossible for the old and the new, the emotional and the scientific to co-exist. The confusion in the plot comes from the fact that Huxley sees good and bad in both the old and new orders.
Human impulses play a complicated role in the novel. First, Huxley suggests that they can both stabilize and destabilize society, as in the case of sexual activity. In Brave New World, the authorities encourage all humans to sleep with as many other people as often as they can. In previous generations, institutions such as marriage controlled these impulses. People tried to confine their impulses, buy when they no longer could, such institutions unraveled.
By abolishing institutions such as marriage and encouraging behavior that society once considered immoral, the leaders of the new world have gotten rid of the inherent dangers of these sexual impulses. However, Huxley also suggests that the freedom of these impulses undermines humanity's creativity. Complete freedom to have pleasure has made each person like an infant, incapable of adult thought and creativity. For example, Bernard longs to have more control over his impulses, but the display of such control unnerves others who have learned to be free with their impulses.
Brave New World largely defines freedom through the structures that prevent freedom. Bernard feels these constraints most acutely, as in a scene from chapter 6, when Bernard and Lenina have a conversation about freedom. Lenina insists that everyone has a great deal of freedom - the freedom "to have the most wonderful time." Soma represents this kind of freedom, as it puts people in a hypnotic state in which they no longer feel as though they should ask questions or defy the structures of society. Bernard insists that this is no freedom at all.
Bernard claims that his ideal of freedom is the freedom to be an individual apart from the rest of society. Bernard strives to be free in his "own way...not in everybody else's way." Huxley argues here that certain structures in our own modern society work in the same way that drugs like soma work in this fantastical dystopia. Huxley often argues against the use of advertising specifically for the way that it hypnotized people into wanting and buying the same products. Such things keep people within predefined structures, and it quashes free thought, which ultimately restricts freedom.
As distinguished in this book, the lack of freedom seems to be terrible, but freedom can also cause many problems. Some people, like Bernard, see freedom as a way to rebel against others. Sometimes societies see this rebellion as strange or even dangerous, causing freedom to be seen negatively sometimes.
As one character puts it, power in Brave New World "is a matter of sitting, not hitting." Rather than use violence to enforce the law, those in power in this futuristic society have simply programmed the citizens to be happy with the laws. This power is bolstered by a free-flowing supply of drugs, the insistence on promiscuity, the denial of history or future as any alternative to the present, and the use of sleep-teaching at a young age to instill the irrationality of its choosing. This same power is limited only by those individuals who desire, for one reason or another, to be unhappy.
Sex is closely tied to violence in Brave New World as the two extremes of passion. In this futuristic, controlled environment, promiscuity is the law and emotional attachment is illegal. Sex is no longer used for procreation but rather for distraction and pacification. The act has been dehumanized and made devoid of passion, treated casually and publicly rather than as a personal matter. Because of this norm, no space of time ever passes between a desire and the consummation of that desire.