Aldous Huxley was born on July 26, 1894 in Surrey, England. He majored in literature at Oxford College. After Oxford he did journalism work. Huxley wrote four volumes of poems before his first novel Chrome Yellow (1921). Huxley wrote 45 novels but it was Brave New World that established his fame.
Brave New World is a science fiction book dealing with the way things might be in the future. Huxley describes the futures to be so organized that you lose your sense of self. Another book that deals with this aspect of the future is 1985 by George Orwell.
The book starts off with the director of hatcheries describing a hatchery to a bunch of Alpha students. He explains the fertilizing, decanting, and conditioning process of people which is, when you come down to it, pure brainwashing.
The book then introduces a man named Bernard. Bernard is an alpha, but he’s queer. He’s shorter and less handsome than the other alphas. Bernard likes a girls named Lenina. Lenina, however, is having a guy named Henry, and has been having him for several months. Fanny one of Lenina’s friends tries to encourage Lenina to move on and to try other men. Lenina goes out with Bernard and that date ends with soma and sex even though Bernard said that they shouldn’t have sex on the first night.
This society is organized for the pleasure of the people. Their God is Ford. They have sex often with different people, and their taught in infancy certain prejudices. For example, the babies are taught to be satisfied with their own caste of which there are five: alphas at the top, then betas, gammas, deltas, and epsilons at the bottom. They’re taught to hate the country but like country sports. Every teaching has a specific purpose.
Bernard gets together with eleven other people and they worship Ford. They sing hymns (for example “Orgy Porgy”) to Ford and they experience Ford. They howl and shout to his name. Bernard, however, feels nothing. He shouts because the others are shouting and he leaves with an emptiness deeper than the one he came with.
Bernard suggests to Lenina that they go for a vacation to the savage reservation. Lenina agrees to go. Before they go, Bernard needs to get permission from the Director of Hatcheries named Thomas. Thomas tells him that he once went to the savage reservation and lost a girl he liked named Linda. Then he tells Bernard that if he continues with his behavior, Thomas will send him to Iceland.
Bernard and Lenina go to the savage reservation and they witness and “human sacrifice” where one Indian is whipped in reminder of Christ. Then they meet a woman that is fat and ugly but used to belong to the civilized world. Bernard figures out that she was the Linda that Thomas lost long ago. Linda had a son named John on the reservation of whom Thomas was the father. Having a child in this society was about as much a sin as being an adulteress in the Puritan society of The Scarlet Letter. John fell in love with Lenina.
Bernard had an idea. He decided that it would be good to have an experiment to see what would happen if a savage came to the civilized world. He wanted to bring John and Linda back into civilization. He pulled a few strings and was allowed to go on with his experiment. Linda was immediately rejected by society and by Thomas for being fat, and for being a mother. Thomas, quit his job as the director of hatcheries because he was humiliated at being a father. John, on the other hand, was an instant hit. The people loved him and brought Bernard instant fame. Bernard was able to get any girl he wanted, something he was not able to before. Bernard would host parties where John would be the guest of honor. One night, though, John didn’t want to show up. He rejected society and society rejected Bernard. Society went back to its old thoughts about Bernard. They thought he was a queer again. Bernard and John had a friend named Helmholtz who taught emotional engineering by the use of rhymes. John happened to have a copy of Shakespeare which he found at the reservation which he read to Helmholtz. Helmholtz was amazed at how well Shakespeare was at emotional engineering.
Lenina fell in love with John and John loved Lenina, but he was afraid of his feeling and felt unworthy for Lenina. One night, Lenina tried to seduce him but John ran from her, then attacked her calling her a whore.
All this while, Linda had taking one long soma holiday, and it was killing her. John got a call that Linda was at the hospital and dying so he rushed there to see her. Linda didn’t recognize him. She was having a soma induced dream about Pope, a guy she had at the reservation. Linda died and John wept for her while a bunch of little kids was led to the death hospital for their death conditioning. John was devastated. After leaving the hospital he saw soma being handed out to a group of workers. John runs there and throws the soma out the windows with the help of Helmholtz. This caused a riot among the workers and Bernard went to get help from the police. The police stopped the riot and supplied the workers with their share of soma. Bernard, Helmholtz and John are taken to Mustapha Mond, the ruler of this section of the world. He explains to them the necessity of stability and the reason he keeps them from Shakespeare, the Bible, and other old works of art. Bernard and Helmholtz are sent to separate island but John is allowed to continue living as he did to continue with Bernard’s experiment. John doesn’t want to stay so he seeks out a place where he can cleanse himself and live in solitude and finds a lighthouse. As part of his cleansing, he makes a whip and whips himself repeatedly with it. A few workers happened to see him doing so and the next day, John is swarmed with reporters. The next day more reporters come but this time Lenina is among them. She tried to seduce him but John whips her. That night, John commits suicide by hanging himself in the lighthouse and is discovered by a reporter the next morning.
The plot did grow out of the nature and situation of the characters, but it wasn’t the greatest thing in the novel. Everything came out naturally in the situation. But the plot wasn’t the best. What kept the story going more was the humor of the situation. It was humorous the way that this future society laughed at mothers, and looked down upon monogamy and marriage. The way that John continued to call Thomas father causing the laughter of the people working at the hatchery was humorous. Also, another thing that kept the story going was the ideas that this story discussed. Bernard in the beginning of the novel had some morals. He felt uncomfortable to have sex on the first date and he felt deep in his gut that there was more to life than what was spoon fed to him. Sadly, all of his morals and yearnings came crashing down when he found success by bringing John from the reservation. Also, John’s rejection of technology is something to be looked at. I think Huxley was trying to make a point with that. John was supposed to be the hero of this book. He knew that this lifestyle was pointless, and that soma was killing the vast majority. He knew that everyone, no matter how old, was just infants. He knew that to truly mature you need to face sufferings and a constant cleansing. Even though this is true, I think John went overboard with it by beating himself at the lighthouse. If I were him, I would have gone to the lighthouse alone and just admired the view. This idea of “something more” was one major reason I kept reading. I feel the same way. There must be a purpose to live, not just to live, enjoy life, and die.
The characters are really described and molded as individuals, but they’re more like a type of people. Each character represents a group. For example, Bernard would represent those who rejects society just because society represents them. He’s the incarnate of Timon’s wisdom, “When the world turns it’s back on you, you turn your back on it.” When Bernard was accepted by society, he embraced it. John represents those who grew up without prejudices and was open minded to the yearning of his soul. He listened and heard that this lifestyle wasn’t right. These people were perverted. Society (in the form of Lenina) embraced him and he ran. Lenina is society. She represents those people who go with the flow.
Bernard Marx: An alpha plus member of the Central London Hatchery. He is shorter and less handsome than his caste and, therefore, rejected by society.
John: This is the savage brought by Bernard into civilization from the reservation. He expects the new world to be wonderful but detests the world for being too shallow.
Lenina Crowne: A typical alpha girl in this utopian society. She falls in love with John but he attacks her calling her whore and strumpet.
Thomas (D. H. C.): The director of hatcheries who is in charge decanting and condition new children. Finds out that John is his son and falls apart.
Linda: Left at the savage reservation. She gave birth to John on the reservation. She was once part of the civilized world.
Mustapha Mond: The Resident Controller for Western Europe. This is the guy in charge. He knows about everything the normal people might have a chance to do and decide if its better for society or not. He exiles Bernard and Helmholtz.
Helmholtz Watson: A friend of Bernard and John. He was professor of emotional engineering and admired Shakespeare for his prowess in that field. He had ideas that were similar to John’s and was exiled because of them, but to him they were only theory and he never acted upon his ideas of solitude, etc.
The setting is fictional since the story takes place in the future. It is well thought out with pretty much everything figured out, from the birth to death, to recreation, to sex. The purpose of the setting is to show the difference between the Utopian society and the savage reservation, and the way each control its residents. Everything makes sense in this setting.
The style was very precise. Each word had a meaning and was not just put there to sound good. There were few difficult words and the reading was easy. Huxley used some creative allusions in the book. For example: A.D. which meant “Anno Domini” - the year of our Lord is now A.F. - the year of our Ford. Ford is their God and they use it the same way he use God. For example: they say “Oh Ford” for our “Oh God.” One thing that I didn’t like was what he did to the religion of the Indians on the reservation. He put a bunch of religions and stuck them together, as if he took his little knowledge of various religions and put them together to make a complete religion. What he might have done is taking one religion, for example Christianity, and made the savages Christians. Or he could have read up on the Indian religion and made the Indians believe that, of course it wouldn’t make sense since they’re in Europe but it would have been better. That is the only complaint I have. Everything else was to my liking.
The theme was purpose. What is the purpose of life. Is it, “Life’s short, play hard,” as the civilized people believed, or is it more than that. Do we have a deeper purpose than just living. The civilized people had no value for life. The D. H. C. said, “what is an individual? ... We can make a new one with the greatest of ease - as many as we like.” A nurse said about the death conditioning, “They learn to take death as a matter of course.” They don’t know what they’re missing without a family. Linda said about John, “but he was a comfort to me.” Without these, they live for themselves, without purpose, with only the moral that they were conditioned with such as “mother” is a bad word. John knew there was something more. Life is not just for your pleasure and happiness. It’s more for joy. Knowing that you’ve done all that you can do. It’s sweat and hard work and discipline. He knew what life was about by growing up unprejudiced, without being conditioned. He knew.
As a story, this was very simple. This happened and it led to that. What makes this book a classic to me is its message. “The purpose of life was not the maintenance of well being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.”