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Essay: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End

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  • Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End
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Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End have comparing and contrasting aspects as the novels work to demonstrate a “perfect” society in which technology holds control and influence over the culture of society. The concepts of freedom act as parallels between Brave New World and Childhood’s End when hedonistic behavior and the suppression of individuality are displayed. Alongside the similar acts both novels present to promote their intent with human freedom, viewpoints of the importance of home and the practice of a homogenized society prove that the books also use differing techniques to lay out their views on the imperative need to manage freedom. Although the leaders’ control is overpowering in comparison to humanity in these novels, human beings trade in individuality and their rights of freedom for the stability, security, and order that the leaders yearn for.

Although these two groups of humanity live in a world where things are thought for them by an influential power, the pursuit of pleasure through hedonistic behavior is still prominent. In Childhood’s End, this is demonstrated through the party hosted by Rupert Boyce. In Brave New World, this is seen through the constant intake of soma (Huxley). Even though the party and the soma drug both strive to reach a state of happiness, the soma drug that is consumed by humanity in Brave New World, serves as direct evidence of a higher power in their community, the World State, taking total control over one’s freedom to think for themself and live within their own mind (Huxley). Soma essentially acts as a mask to conceal any bitter feelings of sadness, embarrassment, anger, and more (Huxley). The outcome of taking this drug is pure bliss and happiness in order to completely erase any inkling associated with depression (Huxley). This creates an effect that strives for the absolute removal of one’s right to feel their own individual expressions of passion and emotions because the belief that individual freedom will lead to social instability, which is a step in the wrong direction for a perfect world. This drug that restricts the capability of self-awareness reminds me of the technology that the main character Lawrence experienced through the pan technology in “The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” by Cory Doctorow. Lawrence escaped his previously depressed mind and lifestyle when he moved into the Order, a cult-like community, and obtained a pan that expressed and displayed his emotions for him, so he could stray from the feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and depression (Doctorow). These two written pieces show how leaders regulate the emotions that people get to endure, therefore stripping each person of their identity and their individual freedoms of self-reflection, thought, emotion, ability, and so on. People are even restricted their right to suffer.

Children are the future. In Brave New World and Childhood’s End the children of the stories play a pivotal role for the leaders, the Overlords and the World State Controllers. The children act as the new generation and that allows the powerful leaders to implant any tool, belief, or value into the children in order to create a mass assimilation into a homogenized society. Especially in Brave New World, the children are described as being identical (Huxley). To make the idea of everyone having the same morals, thoughts, and purposes, the leaders in the World State begin to modify a whole new population into physically identical beings (Huxley). People with a dominating existence produce several like-minded beings with the same appearance and absorb them into a single unit under their jurisdiction, allowing for a disconnect between a person and their unique identity. In Childhood’s End the minds of the children are also taken over by the Overlords under the Overmind, creating a similar effect to the children in the World State where, due to coercion, the entire generation subsumed into a singular psyche taking on an assimilated persona (Clarke). The individuality that each human possesses is capitulated to serve the overall purposes for humanity as a whole. This somewhat relates to the idea of the “common good.” In Claire Andre’s article “The Common Good,” the common is good is defined as “general conditions that are… equally to everyone’s advantage” (Andre). Andre brings up a claim that part of social instability is due to the primary focus of individuals being their own pursuits unique to them, which prohibits the inclusivity and contribution to work on the common good (Andre). Individuality becomes devalued in order to benefit the larger picture: society.

In Brave New World, the leaders get an earlier start than the Overlords in Childhood’s End in the preparation of controlling the minds of the children. It is seen in Brave New World that children at an infant age were essentially tortured into believing what the rulers wanted them to believe (Huxley). I noticed a relation to Pavlov’s effect when the leaders swayed the minds of the babies. Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov used a technique called classical conditioning in order to train dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell (Gantt). This technique involved the dogs receiving food everytime a bell rang, so once the dogs got used to hearing the bell right before food was served, the dogs would instinctively salivate at the tone of the bell (Gantt). He used repetitive conditioning to achieve this result. “‘And now,’ the Director shouted (for the noise was deafening), ‘now we proceed to rub in the lesson with a mild electric shock’” (Huxley). The Director in Brave New World used a mild electric shock to train the children to hate flowers and books (Huxley). “They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned” (Huxley). The leaders in the World State worked to stop any independent, expressive thought within the children toward nature and history by using Pavlov’s technique. This differs from the approach that the Overlords use to take control of the minds of children where at an older age, the children’s minds were being overtaken by the Overmind with direct communication into their heads (Clarke). This is shown when the Overlords used telepathy to communicate to Jeff in order to save his life when Jeff wonders “who it was who helped [him]” (Clarke).

Is it better to be happy or free? This question is raised when we perceive Bernard, a psychologist in the World State, as lonely and isolated because he does not take the soma drug that everyone else takes (Huxley). Bernard is one of the few who does not comply with the way the World State leaders’ control humanity and therefore, he is alone in his feelings (Huxley). Being surrounded by brainwashed minds ensures a major disconnect with the society one lives in. The soma drug was created to ensure social instability through depression would not occur (Huxley). Bernard’s lack of this stability could explain his detachment from this world. With that being said, at least he is free from the World State. Writer Anna Cogito questions in her article, “The Opportunity Costs of Assimilation” if assimilating to a dominating powers’ ideals is simply a survival technique (Cogito). Perhaps surviving a depressive mindset is the ultimate goal for humans, so they are willing to give up their freedom to feel anything less than pure bliss, along with their freedom in its entirety. We also see a control in humanity in Childhood’s End and the few who stray from the rest of humanity who abides by the Overlords’ demands. For example, Jan and Pieter have many speculations about the Overlords and their intentions coming into their society. This curiosity led Jan to go aboard the Overlords’ ship, which he knew meant he had to abandon Earth for decades while he was onboard (Clarke). When Jan arrives back to Earth years later to find it vacant of humans, there is a connection made to the loneliness felt in Brave New World (Huxley). One can maintain their freedom, but they will be stuck with the end result of loneliness nonetheless. Therefore, those who comply with the orders of the rulers are inclusive together and maintain a happy state of unification within their community. Although this assimilation into a single mindset promotes unity, it inhibits individuality. The sacrifice under this type of rule is yourself.

The idea of home is a prominent subject in both of these novels. While Childhood’s End showcases a positive outlook on the traditional idea of family at home, Brave New World shows the complete opposite with it’s direct demonstration of disgust toward a traditional or “typical” family. Mustafa Mond, one of the World State leaders, despises history and traditional ideas because he feels as though going against the current of their progress is a menace to society’s stability (Huxley). Mond also classifies traditional families as old, unrelatable, and disgusting (Huxley). In addition to this, he uses these words to classify the works of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s words create a bridge mending the past to the present and permit the ability to think deeply or for yourself, which is what leaders craving assimilation, like Mustafa Mond, work to stay away from. On the other hand, in Childhood’s End, the people established New Athens, a community that praised and practiced a traditional family setting, in order to maintain the part of life that allowed them their own sense of familial freedom from the Overlords (Clarke). They lived happily under the traditional home that they created before the Overmind were able to dominate the minds of the children, leaving New Athens destroyed (Clarke). A visual Mustafa Mond would enjoy to witness. However, some aspects of Childhood’s End disregards the beauty of tradition when, near the conclusion of the novel, the children are ripped from their families as they begin morphing into a telepathic, single-minded being (Clarke). The absolute power of the Overmind is confirmed through this assimilation and overtaking of the traditional family efforts and fabricating their own creation of home.

Brave New World and Childhood’s End are uniform in their progression of humanity into a homogenized society. Both the Overlords and the World State leaders strive to unify the entire human race into a single, assimilated community that survives based on the compliance of strict orders from the rulers. In Brave New World the minds are swayed beginning at an infant age with a torture technique that causes excruciating pain to the babies in order to train their thoughts to have negative feelings associated with history and nature (Huxley). Childhood’s End uses a different technique to input their ideals into the developing minds on the next generation. The Overlords use a type of supernatural entity to delve directly into the minds of the children, specifically seen in Jeff when he hears voices in his head that ultimately save him from a disaster at the beach (Clarke). Although the children are recognizably the main target for the rulers to promote their objectives, the adults in both novels are seen practicing the same brainwashed manners as the children. The older members of the World State community are shown as identical beings in lifestyle when Bernard expresses his grief that Lenina acts the same as everyone else (Huxley). The conditioning at a young age leading into the intake of the soma drug causes this effect of similarity within all. This society sacrificed their individuality and ability to convey independent thought, in order to maintain an emotional stability and have a sense of security from their leaders.

Although the leaders’ control is comparison to humanity in these novels, human beings trade in individuality and their rights of freedom for stability, security, and order that the leaders yearn for. Ted in Childhood’s End and Brave New World due to the overpowering leaders of the World State and the Overmind. . “Most transhumanists are certainly universalist in their assertion of the rights of all people to control their own bodies and brain and to take advantage of technological enablement” (Hughes).

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