Post Industrial Society: A Brave New World? Essay, Research Paper
Post Industrial Society: A Brave New World?
Aldous Huxley was born on July 26, 1894 in Surrey, England. He was born to a very scholarly family, most notably his grandfather T.H. Huxley, a well-known biologist and foremost advocate for Darwin?s evolutionary theory. Aldous? upbringing was shaped by many diverse influences, from his brother Julian, a notable biologist, to his mother?s uncle Matthew Arnold, a well-known English poet and literary critic. This mix of disciplines led to Huxley?s eclectic interests, which ranged from anthropology to zoology and from literature to mysticism. These interests eventually drove Huxley into a pursuit of a medical career as a student at Eton. Soon after he chose this as his life profession, however, Huxley was stricken with keratitis, an eye disease, and went nearly blind, forcing him to rethink his goals. Eventually Huxley would return to school at Balliol College at Oxford to study English Literature and Philology. It was at Oxford Huxley met his lifelong friend, D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence would help encourage the freedom of thought and originality that would characterize Huxley?s future works. Though Huxley took quickly to his studies of literature he always regreted that he could not pursue his dream to be a doctor, and took great interest in the sciences in his spare time. Huxley would later consider his near loss of sight as the best thing that ever happened to him, teaching him the importance of the mundane aspects of life, most notably personal freedoms. It was in this state of forced isolation and restriction due to his near blindness that Huxley was most stimulated to think critically of his surroundings and the everyday actions of normal people. Huxley?s blindness excused him from military service in World War I, though he was very much subject to the emotional effects of the war on
England. In 1919 Huxley married Maria Nys, a Belgian refugee, and fathered a child, Matthew. Maria would prove to be an invaluable asset to Huxley, typing all of his manuscripts and correspondence. Maria would die in 1955 and Huxley would marry Laurel Archera, a leading concert violinist of the time.
Soon after his first marriage, Huxley began his professional writing career, first with essays and critiques, then with his first collection of poems, Limbo (1920), and his first novel, Crome Yellow (1921). In all, Huxley would go on to author a vast number of novels, essays, poems, short stories, articles, reviews, forwards, introductions, and prefaces ranging in subject from Hinduism (Bhagavad-Gita, the Story of God), to birth control (Birth Control and Catholic Doctrine), to Braille (Studies in Hand-Reading), to art (The Complete Etchings of Goya). These topics show not only the wide range of Huxley?s ideas and interests, but also the concerns he felt compelled to comment on. Throughout Huxley?s life he was obsessed with the need to communicate his ideas and convictions. On November 22, 1963 Huxley died, hours before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Huxley?s most read and discussed novel, Brave New World (1932), is very typical of his work, expressing bluntly the concerns and beliefs of its author. Huxley greatly feared the loss of individualism in society at the end of World War I due to a variety of political movements such as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the dictatorship of Mussolini in Italy, and the Nazi Party in Germany. These movements spawned such political forces as Communism, Fascism, and Socialism, each of which
demand an allegiance to the State above the individual and total allegiance to the doctrines of the regime. Also, with the rise in power of capitalism in America, Huxley saw an enemy of originality and work ethic that threatened the identity of the individual. This rise took place in the form of the Industrial Revolution, where mass production became essential to increased profits. With mass production came corporations, which Huxley believed destroy personal identity by viewing individuals as mere consumers and producers, or simply part of the machine of capitalism. Taking this further, Huxley believes that people then become comfortable as a simple statistic to industry, and lose their sense of responsibility, respect, and inevitably, their very humanity. Brave New World is Huxley?s call to arms against all these horrors of his contemporary world.
In the novel, society has ?progressed? past death, poverty, disease, old age, pain, fear, hunger, and suffering. The horrible truth, however, is that this state has been accomplished at a much greater cost than the result merits. A single World State governs and controls the entire world?s populace. People are no longer conceived but almost manufactured in groups of up to 95 identical humans from a single female egg. Specified men are allowed to donate sperm which will be chemically conditioned then injected into a specified female egg to create the desired characteristics in the offspring. Even after birth, these humans are conditioned for a full 8 years to think, believe, and act exactly the way the government dictates. They are split into castes consisting of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The Epsilon class is mass-produced and made to be unintelligent ?sub-humans? that are conditioned to be happy to perform medial tasks for
their lifetime without question. At the other end of the spectrum, Alphas are individually produced to occupy leadership roles and conditioned with the intelligence and lack of emotion to lead efficiently. Different mixtures of intelligence and other skills are given to each of the other castes in order to provide them with a set place in society. High classes fear the manual work of lower castes while lower castes fear the complexity of higher castes, maintaining balance by eliminating any desire for social mobility. Orders are put in daily for certain numbers of each caste and skill to precisely fill the needs of the World State. Each response of all individuals in every situation is dictated by the government through the conditioning process. Genuine fulfillment through the pursuit of truth and beauty has been replaced by mindless contentment. The World State has banned religion and the Bible as these things promote God and heaven, illogical ideals that would instill fear of the future into the citizens. In the place of God, the people worship Ford, a clear representation of Henry Ford who pioneered the Industrial Revolution with his assembly line. Ford?s autobiography of sayings related to the virtues of work is the secular ?bible? of the world. Men and Women are kept in optimal physical and emotional shape until the age of 60 when they are promptly killed. People are conditioned to view this as a simple process of the functioning World State. Like a broken piece of machinery, they simply don?t function anymore and thus must cease to exist in order to promote order and functionality. Huxley presents a clear view of how man is now a slave to technology, and uses his characters to show how this progressed from our present day society.
Huxley has often been criticized for having very unsophisticated characters in Brave New World. I believe, however, that it is the genius of creating shallow, easy to understand characters that illustrates his point perfectly. Beginning with Lenina Crowe and moving backwards to John the Savage, Huxley illustrates how the World State formed natuarally from the situation beginning in the world of 1923.
Lenina Crowe is an allusion to Nikolai Lenin, who played a key role in the formation of the USSR and the growth of communism. It is thus fitting that her character would represent the average citizen in the World State, which seems to embrace many of the ideals of communism. Lenina holds a job at the Predestination Center where she helps condition embryos and children for their future roles in society. She is a very young and desirable woman. She embraces the speed, productivity, and functionality of her world, as she is conditioned to do so. Her character is constantly mumbling the phrases and propaganda forced on her during her conditioning as a child, reinforcing the ideas of the World State to herself at every turn. She views death as a function of society. She has no original thought and follows her conditioning without question. The only inconsistent element in her life is her tendency towards monogamy, which is odd in the World State as sex is not used for procreation but as an outlet for emotion, and thus promiscuity is encouraged and revered. We find later that this situation brings her guilt however, and she attempts to reengage in the normal procedure though she has a strange longing for intimacy or even love that does not fit with the order of the World State.
Overall, however, Lenina is the ultimate result of a proper conditioning and thus represents the final result of Huxley?s fears of science and technology.
The next character, Bernard Marx, is an obvious reference to Karl Marx, a key figure in the development of socialism, which would lead to the idea of communism. Bernard represents the phase of society directly before the realization of the World State. He has been partially programmed and conditioned. He hears the echoes of his conditioning process but wants to avoid them. In the end, however, he is just as much a puppet of the World State as any other normal man. He feels a wide range of emotions, but does not have the intellectual ability to decipher the meaning of these emotions due to his conditioning. Much like Karl Marx who simply wrote of revolution without actually acting it out, Bernard has romantic impulses of changing the system but refuses to act on these impulses. Though he feels pain, depression, and guilt, he is resigned to act out his conditioning anyway instead of challenging the status quo for his own well being. Bernard is the first character to receive a vast amount of attention in the novel and seems to be an outsider to society and a possible hero of the novel. However, Huxley uses Bernard to make the point that even in the final stages of the creation of this World State, there is no hope for man to change. It seems as if Bernard is the novel?s hope to change things, but just as his real emotions are eventually suppressed by sending him to Iceland, so Huxley thinks the little hope we may have to save our individuality in the late stages will prove futile.
The next important character in the novel is Mustapha Mond, a key authority figure in the World State. Mond, which is also the Latin root for ?world?, is one of a handful of World Controllers in the World State. As a World Controller, Mond is allowed an education of history which is strictly forbidden to anyone else. This means he is very knowledgeable in all the areas of thought which are considered dangerous to the common man. Though he is a power figure of the evil World State, Huxley makes him an admirable character who is willing to discuss the ideals and reasoning of the World State with John the Savage. Mond, though he means well and acts with kindness and respect towards the other characters, is still first and foremost the proprietor of the slavery of the world?s population. He is aware of what used to be reality and the current reality in the World State. Mond thus represents the next digression back closer to our present, and ultimately represents the sentiments of the scientific community of their contribution to ruining the individuality of man. Just like Mond, science is conditioned to think with pure intellect almost completely devoid of emotion. Huxley is implying that it is this inability to emotionally approach what they call progress that makes them unable to see the mistakes they are making and the individuals it effects.
The next character is Helmholtz Watson, perhaps the most ideal of the characters and perhaps the best personification of Huxley himself in the novel. Watson was overconditioned and as a result is more intellectual which leads to his development of creativity and imagination. These traits allow him to see the reality of the World State and he wants to change it. Unlike Bernard who is afraid to act on his emotions, Watson
protests the slavery of the masses in a poem he publishes. He soon realizes the disappointing reality of the situation, though, when the conditioned people fail to comprehend his concepts of individuality, creativity, and imagination. Realizing the fate of the masses is sealed, Watson accepts an offer from Mond to be sent away from society to an island where others similar to him could share his need for sorrow and pain as parts of the freedom of living your own life. Watson has thus brought the reader all the way back to the reader?s present in the development of the future World State. He is Huxley, who thought he could see something that the general population could not in the trend towards our complete loss of humanity at the hands of technology. Just like Watson, Huxley thinks that this situation is unavoidable, as people can not comprehend or do not want to comprehend the coming situation and the mass revolution it would take to avoid it. The reason the common man can not ascertain this lies in the final character, John the Savage.
John the Savage is the bastard child of an illicit relation between Tomikin and Linda. Upon her unsupervised pregnancy, Linda is exiled away from the World State and settles with a group of natives who live outside of the World State. John is the polar opposite of the Alphas of the World State in almost every way. He has a religion, differentiates between right and wrong (a conscious), and shuns sexual relations before marriage. These vast differences conflict with each of the other characters in their own way. Mond seems stimulated by John?s ability to discuss topics with him but ultimately shuns him and exiles him from society. Bernard enjoys the mystery that John holds in his
dealing with the same emotions Bernard himself sometimes feels, but Bernard ends up rejecting these ideas in favor of the comfort of the World State. John falls in love with Lenina who can not understand his feelings and thus treats him as another robot sex partner. John, in turn, can not understand Lenina?s lack of feelings which eventually drives him to subject himself to the culture of the World State, which he can not bear to live in and thus kills himself. John represents the common man in the reader?s present day. Huxley is pointing out that unlike himself, the enlightened few who realize the implications of current trends, the common man can not think about or comprehend what the true implications of a World State are. Due to this inability to understand, Huxley believes the masses will probably ignore the problem, which perpetuates the inevitable creation of the World State at the expense of the very humanity of the masses who had the opportunity to stop it and did not.
The novel, Brave New World, is so much more effective than critics will admit. Huxley believed that the role of science in technology following the Industrial Revolution will inevitably take focus away from the individual and all his creativity and imagination, and put it in the hands of the technology itself. He proves his theory magnificently by showing the inevitable stages he believes that science will take, using very streamlined characters who are simple and thus easy to associate with his theory. And overlying this whole sequence of inevitable events is the apex of the events, the distopia of the World State. Huxley has created a work of political commentary in the guise of a science fiction novel that will bother the conscious of anyone who reads it. His goal is to enlighten those
who refuse to be enlightened on the coming future, which he admits through the novel is a futile quest. But however two dimensional his characters are; however much he replaces literary license with blatancy; Aldous Huxley can put his mind at ease knowing he tried to warn the world of the evils of science and technology.