Presentation of the text
With his 1932 dystopian Brave New World, Aldous Huxley presents the reader a grotesque and caricatured re-imagining of our civilization. The citizens of the World State live in a ‘happy’ society in which luxury goods and drugs are always available. They should be happy, forever young, and live without suffering. This sounds great at first, but turns out to be a nightmare later. A small, elite group of World Controllers govern the state and control the citizens.
It quickly becomes clear that people have given up their personal freedom and the right to free choice for the advantages of modern society. Art and religion have been abolished. If citizens rebel against the system, they face a severe penalty. The rebellious are banished to islands and have to live there, isolated from the rest of society. The state is characterized by a totalitarian and dictatorial character.
There is an interesting comparison of three world models in the Brave New World. The carefree and luxurious life in the World State is confronted with the hardship and nature-loving existence in the native reservation and with the way of life of the ‘old world’, represented by Shakespeare. The ideological confrontation between the different world views mainly comes about through the conversations between the two main characters, John, the ‘savage’, and Mustapha Mond, the World Controller.
Accordingly, Huxley builds his characters, who represent the upper class of society, very differently. The reader will meet characters who are satisfied with life in the World State and do not question anything, but also those citizens who strive for change and want freedom. This leads to conflicts that revolve around love, envy, and dissatisfaction with one's own life.
With his mixture of scientific vocabulary and fragments from some of Shakespeare's works, Huxley formulated a very diverse text. Occasionally, the multitude of these scientific terms and the long descriptions disrupt the flow of reading. In some places, the text is therefore difficult to understand.
Huxley, who was first a scientist, describes with a very ironic attitude, for example, the influence of genetic engineering in the new world. With this, he wants to criticize the over-exaggerated positive expectations of science.
The fast advancing technical development and the rapid development of the industrialized society worried the author very much at the beginning of the 1930s. He recognized a potential threat to human freedom in Fordism and Behaviorism.
Huxley can certainly be considered a visionary. Even if he did not foresee important advances such as the revolutionary communication technology and the Internet, he nevertheless anticipates many elements that will gradually be realized and that give the text its burning relevancy, such as the advances in genetic engineering and thereby the possibility of cloning and manipulating humans ‘in vitro’, the superficial luxurious society, limitless consumption without even questioning it, the suppression of aging and death, or the search for eternal youth.
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