Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, explores the extensive contrasts between two civilizations and how their contrasts represent the overall idea of how the strive to develop an overwhelmingly “perfect society” is virtually impossible. By comparing and contrasting these two vastly different societies, the author presents the idea that society, whether incredibly technological or entirely primitive, will never be ideal. This narrative brings forth the idea that society will always fail to make the entire population content. The prime example of this is John (the Savage), as he experienced both the “savage” reservation and the “civilized” world. As he experienced these two opposing places he realizes the overall idea of the novel. When comparing the two particularly different societies, Huxley provides this idea that society has always and will always be inevitably imperfect.
When describing the technological society, the dystopian factors it possesses immediately become apparent. The society is comprised of a caste system that is made up of Alpha Pluses, Alphas, Beta Pluses, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Each different caste consists of certain genetically engineered humans who are brainwashed to think, feel, act, and learn a certain way. The “smartest” and most self aware citizens are among the Alphas and the most mentally stunted are the Epsilons. This caste system helps the “World Leaders” maintain control and stability. Throughout the society there are no deformities (besides in the lowest castes), diseases, illnesses, or impurities amongst the citizens due to the incredible technological advances achieved. One of the massive differences between the sterile, futuristic society and the primitive society portrayed in this novel would be the “test tube” babies. The technological advancements that have been made allow scientists to choose what caste the fetus will be born into as they are developed. “‘The lower the caste’, said Mr. Foster, ‘the shorter the oxygen.’ The first organ affected was the brain. After that the skeleton. At seventy percent of normal oxygen you got dwarfs. At less than seventy eyeless monsters.” (14). From this quote it is quite obvious that lower caste citizens are given severe deformities in order to give the higher castes a major advantage in the society. Huxley’s use of the word “monsters” portrays the dehumanization of the Epsilon citizens. The citizens clearly worship science and technology, instead of humanity or any sort of religion. Another striking parallel between the futuristic society and the “savage” reservation is the belief of monogamy. There is a group mentality is that “everyone belongs to everyone else.” Marriage, dating, divorce, break-ups, relationships, and ultimately heartbreak has been completely removed from the society to prevent any kind of discontent or discomfort. Because this society is based on total and absolute happiness, happiness comes from drugs (like soma), sexual pleasure, or mind-numbing games that completely distract from any displeasure or unhappiness they could possibly feel. The citizens are provided with such distractions to prevent any time for them to think as thinking can lead to realization, and realization can lead to questioning which can lead to disruption and ultimately rebellion or conflict.
Life in the “Savage” reservation is a complete parallel from the “civilised” world. There is disease, dirt, grime, elderly people, and what the citizens consider “ugliness.” When Lenina and Bernard, two of the main characters in the novel, visit the reservation they are exposed to all of this “filth.” In their society they have become accustomed to cleanliness, order, and a kind of metaphorical shield that prevents exposure to the kind of impurities they are facing on their visit. In this society there is organized religion, a mix of tribal rituals and beliefs, and worship. The spiritual unity that the savages feel amongst themselves when performing their rituals is completely taboo to Lenina and Bernard. Since organized religion and worship are forbidden in the civilised society, their rituals are looked upon as “disgraceful” or even “barbaric.” Another aspect that shocks Lenina is the realization of this society’s belief in monogamy and marriage. She is repulsed by the idea of two people belonging to one another. Lenina, a civilised citizen, absolutely adores male companionship. Her sexual behaviors greatly contrast those of the primitive society members. Motherhood, marriage, monogamy, relationships, etc.; all lead to one thing, instability. Emotions like love, sadness, and anger only bring on unstable relations and conflicts.
“What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey, what with the temptations and the lonely remorses, what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty—they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable?”
In those quote, the Controller completely condemns what it means to be an individual. By stripping each citizen of their individuality and ability to love, create, and be independent he has ultimately created a kind of stability. As the author uses the words “disease”, “poverty”, “pain”, and “isolation” he brings forth the idea that the actions that have been taken are completely justified. To utterly strip someone of their free will and individuality is immoral and unjustifiable.
John, the main character struggles to choose between both societies. One that is clean and stable with massive technological advancements but comes with the price of possibly losing one’s individuality and humanity or a society filled with disease and filth that also includes the ability to worship freely and explore yourself intellectually. The technological society has many great attributes but ultimately more negative and than positive. For example, if John were to stay in that society he would have to conform to the atrocious societal standards that are purposely set by the world’s leaders. He would have to lose his sense of individuality, be consumed by sex and drugs, and become ultimately emotionless.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers. 1932.
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