Monday, February 4, 2013

"Brave New World"- So Close Yet So Far from Utopia

File:Brave GNU world.png
A picture of Richard Stallman, in the style of Che Guevara
The title is a play on
"O brave new world / that has such people in it"
The Tempest and Brave New World.
Date: October 2006
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Huxley’s speculative tale of London in the year A.F. 632 is a Utopian world except for a few distinctive differences. There is the matter of a class system determined even before birth. Fertilized human eggs are chemically treated to be Epsilons, Betas, Alphas, or other derivatives. Once the egg becomes a full-fledged human being, the mental and physical conditioning begins. Children are raised in wards by the State, taught that their god is Ford (as in the Ford that invented the automobile assembly line), and also taught repetitive reasoning in their sleep, such as “Never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today” (Huxley 93).
In place of love, there is the pursuit of fun in the form of “the feelies” and drugs like soma. Like in The Giver, the public is unaware of the implications of death or what it really entails, another way to shield citizens from feeling anything real. Similar to both Anthem and The Giver, this dystopia is ruled by a handful of individuals known as Directors. Directors are always male, therefore the gender equality implied by Huxley is severely lacking. The reader need only analyze the sexual dynamic between the genders to come to the conclusion that in Brave New World, women are still beneath men in the social ladder.
Women are required to be sexually available at every turn, and part of that is maintaining a fit and “pneumatic” body. Another burden the women must abide is the responsibility of safe sex. All women carry a belt around, a belt full of different contraceptives. In the book, it is never mentioned that a man must upkeep his body for women, or remember to use contraceptives. Huxley leaves that up to the women.
If a woman (or man) chooses not to be promiscuous, they are seen as socially inept. Given that, there is no marriage in Huxley’s world. If two people are considered a couple, it is prudent for them to begin coupling with anyone and everyone else they can, the sooner the better.
The main female characters in the novel, Lenina and Lydia, are both insipid and promiscuous, a product of their society. Two main male characters in the novel, Bernard and Helmholtz, are likewise products of their society, however, Huxley allows them to question their surroundings and long for a better world. Helmholtz confides in his friend Bernard that he is unhappy, even though he is at the top of the class system as an Alpha and women literally line up to sleep with him: “I’m thinking of a queer feeling I sometimes get, a feeling that I’ve got something important to say and the power to say it---only I don’t know what it is, and I can’t make any use of the power” (Huxley 69). Bernard tries to explain to Lenina what is lacking in their society after she repeats the mantra learned in their childhood, Everybody’s happy nowadays. “Yes," Bernard tells her, "‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn't you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.” (Huxley 91).
File:Aldous Huxley.gif
Aldous Huxley
Date: (original upload) May 2007
Transferred from Wikipedia
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Happiness is the main objective of Huxley’s alternative London, but as Bernard and Helmholtz illustrate, their world is far from perfect. Even though there is no war, disease, or poverty, not everyone feels happy because they are too controlled. Everyone’s absolute place in the world is chosen from birth, down to what they’re going to look like, their place in the class system, and where they’re going to work. There are no creative freedoms, and that is what is most stifling about Huxley’s dystopia. Everything else, such as gender and class disparities, follows in the wake of that.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. London: Chatto and Windus, 1932. Print.

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