The novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, presents the portrait of a superficial utopian society. Huxley presents his utopia as a perfectly functioning society, but makes the reader question many aspects of the new civilization. While engaged in the book, a reader is often appalled by the lifestyles of the residents of “brave new world.” When a reader does this he or she is comparing the society to his or her own. The only way a person can justifiably criticize the society in Brave New World is from their own subjective vantage point. It was the anthropologist Geertz who said that a culture cannot be examined completely objectively. So when a person critiques a society it is based on the values and mores of their own culture, and this is what I will do when considering what is objectionable and what is acceptable in the “brave new world” society. Huxley wrote the book primarily as a satire that would lead to change.
In 1932, changes in science were becoming prevalent and Huxley noticed these changes. With the invention of the assembly line, the Ford Model Twas produced allowing people to afford cars. Huxley could see where these advances in science were leading, and this lead him to develop his startling story. When a person thinks of a utopia he or she thinks of a place where everyone is happy, disease is nonexistent, and strife, anger and sadness are unheard of. Huxley created a society where all of these are true, and still one questions whether or not it is truly a utopia. As people in our society look upon “brave new world” they see it as a place of immoral behavior and obscenity. Could this possibly be because they are conditioned themselves, and cannot realize it? They could just as easily be conditioned into thinking that only their thoughts are correct. Everyone’s goal in every culture is to reach a state of ultimate happiness.
The society of “brave new world” is the same, but they go about it in a much different way. People argue that the society of “brave new world” is immoral, and evil, but once again they are enforcing mores of their own society while examining other culture. Because the only way to critique the society of “brave new world” is subjectively from our own point of view, almost every aspect of the society is objectionable. Just as in our culture, the individual’s primary goal is to achieve happiness with his or her place in the society. Stability of culture is the basis for the society of Brave New World to achieve happiness. Mustafa Mond and the other world controllers went through much effort in creating a society of complete happiness and pleasure.
They used a combination of conditioning, eugenics, and soma to keep the culture stable and under control. Mustapha Mond said “The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off, they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they are plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.(220)” The way their culture deals with the issue of happiness is by keeping society completely stable. The motto of the world state is “Community, Stability, Identity.” This motto emphasizes the importance of the society over the individual.
This is the primary reason that people do not have monogamous relationships in “brave new world”, commitment is actually a non-issue because “everyone belongs to everyone else.” While this sort of logic may stabilize the culture, it is deemed as immoral in our contemporary society.The stability of the culture begins with the decanting of an individual. Children are no longer born, and even the mention of the word “birth” or “mother” makes a person’s stomach turn. The community was founded on principles of eugenics and social conditioning, and the belief that homogeneity of thought and behavior all lead to a stable society. The novel opens with a tour of a factory where the unborn members of society are being created. They are not born viviparously but in an assembly line where certain chemicals are added depending on the designated caste of the future person.
There is also the Bokanovsky process, which is used to produce as many as ninety-six children from a single sperm and egg. There are five castes, alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and epsilon. The caste of an individual initially determines their inherent intelligence and physical appearance.
The division of the castes allows there to be a successful diversity of social functions within the society.One major objection to the society’s treatment of social class and caste, is the removal of viviparous births from the culture. It can be argued that something “human” is being lost as their society takes away the function of parents, and the emotion of love. In our modern world these are very important aspects of almost everyone’s lives, and yet in Brave New World they are so easily abolished by science. By eliminating the feelings of love, the citizens of brave new world also eliminate any unpleasant feelings that result as a loss of a loved one.
Losing someone is the risk a person takes when entering a loving relationship, and because brave new world removed that risk it is objectionable to our society. Probably the single most influential factor in the stability of Brave New World, is their methods of conditioning. Conditioning cures all of their social problems ranging from, tension between social classes to dealing with grieving from death. There is no friction between social classes, like in modern society, because they are conditioned through sleep teaching to grow up thinking that their genetic inheritance and social positions are ideal. The alphas are glad they are not as feeble as the deltas or gammas, and the gammas are glad they do not have to bear the huge responsibilities that the alphas do.
Once again the ultimate goal of conditioning is to make the culture stable and lead to happiness among everyone. In the first chapter the director of hatcheries said, “that is the secret of happiness and virtueliking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.(16)” After decanting, each person goes through a process of conditioning that makes them eagerly seek the pleasure of sex and sport and fearfully avoid non-social activities that isolate people from each other. Certain groups of people are conditioned to be perfectly suited for their working environments, like the epsilons who are conditioned only to be happy when they are off balance so they can be efficient while repairing planes in mid air. Children are conditioned to dislike nature and books through electric shocks and sounding alarms. A child’s entire mind is shaped by the state by either eugenics or conditioning. Their IQ, education, and morals are all controlled.
Much of what the child knows comes from a process called hypnodaedia, where lessons and phrases are repeated many times while the child is asleep. The lessons that the child receives as a child form the mind of the adult that they become. In our society such conditioning and controlling of an entire culture seems ridiculous and even evil.
Nothing about the “brave new world” society can possibly be deemed acceptable in our society except for their attempt to make things pleasant for everyone. With the exception of John the savage and Bernard Marx, almost everyone in Brave New World is happy. As said before, the society is perfectly functioning without disease, strife, anger or sadness all of which are characteristics of a utopia. For all intents and purposes, and according to the definition, the society of “brave new world” is a utopia.
The dilemma is not whether it is a utopia, but the issues of justice related to their utopian society. Huxley was arguing through the context of his novel that a society functioning only to maintain social stability by way of eugenics and conditioning would invariably lead to the loss of man’s essence. He believed that man’s essence comes from individuality.
The greater question of justice is, is it fair to humanity to eliminate the individual? In Brave New World the individual is being eliminated by science, which is what Huxley could see was beginning to happen around 1930. The issues of justice in the book are not merely just the eugenics or the conditioning, but the consequences of those methods of stability on the individual. The only way one can judge a culture is subjectively by comparing it to his or her own culture. When considering what I found objectionable or acceptable about the society in Brave New World, I found everything to be objectionable except the fact that they have good intentions of making everyone happy.
Really I cannot judge if their society is correct or not, because I cannot completely remove myself from my personal experiences and my own culture. The main issue of justice that I would be most concerned about in their society is the destruction of the individual. Brave New World is an important piece of literature that shows that improving technology and progressing spiritual malaise can possibly lead to a society where the individual means nothing.