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Now more than ever: Aldous Huxley's enduring masterwork must be read and understood by anyone concerned with preserving the human spirit
"A masterpiece. ... One of the most prophetic dystopian works." —Wall Street Journal
Aldous Huxley's profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order–all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization. Brave New World, his masterpiece, has enthralled and terrified millions of readers, and retains its urgent relevance to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying work of literature. Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New World likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites.
"Aldous Huxley is the greatest 20th century writer in English." —Chicago Tribune
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
What if we were always comfortable, never alone, and untouched by the aging process? That’s the futuristic premise of Aldous Huxley’s brilliant 1932 novel, which imagines an assembly-line civilization of flying taxis and test-tube babies where family is a vulgarity, promiscuity is a virtue, and self-medication is a form of exercise. Brave New World is a wry parable about love and social order that gracefully balances insight and amusement. It’s a very much still-relevant cautionary tale about our cultural addiction to frivolousness and distraction, a modern classic that’s even better than we remembered.
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Though I only have to read this for an Advanced Placement class it has turned out to be very "interesting" to say the least
Slaves to Stability
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley divines a dystopian future that sacrifices literature, art, beauty, science, religion, and emotion on the twin altars of happiness and stability, revealing these two innate desires of society to be incompatible with truth and our schemas of humanity. Huxley’s horrific clairvoyance is chilling as a self-contained narrative, but it becomes a more manifest terror when taking stock of how many of his predictions came true since 1932. No books rival the prophetic prowess or literary competency displayed here except maybe George Orwell’s “1984,” a characteristically different dystopia that is more overtly unpleasant.
Huxley’s totalitarian World State achieves oppression via a cocktail of suggestive drugs (soma), constant sexual gratification (“Everyone belongs to everyone else”), nocturnal operant conditioning consisting of refined propaganda (hypnopaedic lessons), genetically engineered hierarchies of competency (embryo bottles of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons), and the breakdown of familial institutions (mother and father are considered derogatory terms). Before and after birth, people are conditioned to know what and what not to do, which boils down to always be happy and consume. Conditioning and the circumstances of the embryo lottery place people into their hierarchical roles for life. Alphas are the intelligentsia, Betas are competent, Gammas are average intelligence, Deltas are dimwits, and Epsilons are mentally handicapped. The amount of people birthed to each caste is determined by the iceberg rule. The backbone and majority of society consists of the mindless Epsilons while the minority of Alphas act as the brains and rulers.
Furthermore, the World State allows no one the freedom to feel pain or discomfort or regret or sadness without some constituent of the placated, consumerist majority subconsciously acting to remove those emotions like an antibody cleansing the blood of antigens. The discontented trio of Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John the Savage are constantly barraged by individuals tempting them to take soma or spend time in the city under the lights or engage in sexual intercourse. These distractions brainwash the populace with infantile pleasures and lull them into a daze so that they can forget their worries. They aren’t free to experience the full range of human emotions. They can’t share in the knowledge that comes from knowing pain. This serves only the goal of stability, and it’s effective because it’s a self-perpetuating and somewhat omniscient process. Humanity’s emotional range is artificially plateaued. The troughs and peaks are flattened so that the only experience available is a stupor of happiness, ensuring placidness under the unnoticed boot of the World Controllers. The slaves are complicit, albeit unknowingly, in their enslavement. Individuals exist solely to allow for industrial civilization and consumerism to continue unimpeded. They have no utility or desires for themselves and are practically mindless. They have no lineage to perpetuate; no familial loyalties. Everyone belongs to everyone else, and that’s as far as any duty goes. There is no dignity. Those that stubbornly develop a sense of individualism are deported to islands or driven mad by the society they’re forced to inhabit. It’s a surface level happiness that is revealed to be grotesque upon full consideration.
Beyond its narrative, “Brave New World” leaves an increasingly indelible impression due to its relevance to contemporary society. For instance, the novel’s publication in 1932 predated the use of mass propaganda to influence citizenries. Huxley had foreseen this dystopia as something that was centuries away in the future, not decades or years. He was surprised to find within a few short months that the Nazi Propaganda machine created something eerily similar to his vision. This rapid weaponization of psychology and science was a shock even to its prophet. And the work continues to grow in relevance. Television, smartphone, social media, ads, and consumerism lull the masses of western society into a stupor much like soma, sex, and consumerism does in “Brave New World.” Sex in real life is becoming increasingly transactional in nature with the proliferation of dating apps like Tinder. And just as the inhabitants of the World State willingly gave away their humanity in exchange for stability after the fictional Nine Years War, the United States has given away countless liberties in the name of stability after 9/11 (think of the Patriot Act and the War on Terror). Huxley gleamed a complete projection of where western society is headed, and accurately guessed that people would willingly give up liberty and freedom in exchange for security and happiness.
“Brave New World” also brings up interesting questions concerning conditioning in contemporary societies. While the operant conditioning of the citizens in the World State through hypnopaedic methods is overt and apparent, John the Savage acts as a window to critique modern society. He often spouts off excerpts from Shakespeare without fully understanding them and reveres a western society more akin to the contemporary one in which we exist. John takes Shakespeare literature as sacred, just as the World State’s citizens take the teachings of Ford – who serves as a perverse savior figure in this world – and their hypnopaedic induced mantras as sacred. This can’t help but raise questions about how much of what our society accepts as self-evident is also nonsensical fluff introduce to manipulate our behaviors and thoughts.
Classic Science Fiction
This work is as powerfully relevant today as it was when written. You'll never think about society the same way after reading this. A mind changing novel.