Brave New World is a novel written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley. Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. - "After Ford") - in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that combine to profoundly change society. Although the novel is set in the future, it deals with contemporary issues of the early 20th century, particularly how the Industrial Revolution and mass production had transformed the world. Huxley used the setting and characters from his science fiction novel to express widely held opinions, particularly the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of the future.
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Brave New World
This and '1984' are often referenced when talking about dystopian novels, but for mine Orwell's is the one who most punters can bring up if pressed to name either. This is unfortunate because 'Brave New World' in reality is the novel that holds more relevance to our times.
'1984's popularity comes about it sure to its hero's journey style narrative and the presence of a clear cut antagonist in the book. There is good (Winston Smith) and there is evil (Big Brother and eventually O'Brien). The demarcation of what is evil in the book is helped along by 40 years of Cold War anti communist thought in the West up until the fall of the Berlin Wall. While Orwell never intended to write a novel that appealed to pop culture sensibilities (and he didn't here either), the narrative does appeal to Western audiences who want clear cut archetypes in their story telling.
'Brave New World' is different in that the intended antagonists aren't necessarily evil, brutal or megalomaniacal. They have set up a benign dictatorship in which stability, rather than the acquisition of power is paramount. The denizens of 'Brave New World' aren't suffering but told that they really living in paradise. They essentially live a vapid existence where they know nothing else. Consumerism, hedonism and Fordism (who has replaced God as an object of worship) are what makes the world go around. People aren't taken to the Ministry of Love for reeducation should they stray from orthodoxy, but exiled to an island such as Samoa or Iceland (which as Mustapha Mond states is actually a reward for independent thinkers like Helmholtz).
Furthermore both of the protagonists (Bernard and John) are flawed in their own ways. Bernard, while aware of the system and disillusioned by it, is a somewhat of a milquetoast and proven to be an opportunist when he tries to use John to enhance his social standing. For mine, John can come off as too fanatical when he flagellates himself at the end of the book and when he attacks Lenina for courses coming into him. In some ways, this is understandable when you consider him as a fish out of water, but his reactions seem extreme.
When mentioning Bernard and John, it would be amiss not to mention as well that they alternate as main protagonists with Bernard being the main character in the first half and John being the 'lead' in the second. This, when combined with the deviations, may create a moral ambiguity and a more unorthodox narrative structure that a generation raised on moral absolutes may not fully appreciate.
Above all else, the reason why 'Brave New World' may not have the renown of '1984' is that the latter's depiction of what society became is more accurate than the former. We live in a world now interconnected by technology where people need to be engaged all the time. This can be demonstrated everytime one rides a train and notices how many of the passengers are using SNS on their smartphones. This ties into the themes of 'never being alone' and maintaining shallow relationships.
Entertainment has become debased with Batman movies becoming profound mediations on the human condition and Harry Potter being considered literature by some. This line is a paraphrased version of something that came from Bill Maher which is an irony in itself as he is a comedian who is now viewed as a serious current affairs commentator.
Soma? Just look at the opioid crisis in the US or the drinking culture in basically all of the West. I'm not sure I could come up with a definitive example of how materialistic the developed world has become because it is absolutely everywhere (another theme in Brave New World).
Perhaps that is the ultimate reason why 'Brave New World' isn't as visible in the public eye. It forces us to confront uncomfortable truths of what we have become.
Being a lover of futuristic dystopian novels, I jumped at the chance to read this book as I had seen both movies for it. Very full on read, a little confusing as it swaps between story lines in a space of 1-2 sentences without an obvious break, visual or written. The content I the first chapter is mind blowing,a good read, just a little hard to follow at times