When it comes to dystopian fiction, many people cite George Orwell’s “1984” book as the genre’s pinnacle. Published in 1949, Orwell creates a world in which totalitarianism is absolute. In this setting, people’s freedoms are suppressed by fear and control, and war is never-ending.
However, there is another dystopian book that is also influential. Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is similar to 1984 but with pleasure used as a means of control instead of fear.
Brave New World Summary:
Unlike in 1984, the people in “Brave New World” are controlled by early conditioning and pleasure. Thanks to modern technology, people can do whatever they want in a world where aging, illness, pain, and suffering no longer exist.
However, they must have their assigned roles determined at birth. People in the World State are divided into a caste system, with Alphas becoming world leaders and thinkers while Epsilons do manual labor. Embryos are conditioned, and babies with their assigned roles are constantly reinforced, so they no longer consider wanting a life outside society’s order to prevent class conflict.
Other sacrifices to achieve this balance are also noted. With no religion, suffering, art, or ambition—people are ultimately “happy” because they never have to struggle for anything.
The World State also provides people with soma. This free drug creates pleasant hallucinations and a sense of timelessness when taken. People are also free to engage in promiscuity, while family, monogamy, and marriage are no longer necessary.
John, a fair-skinned outsider, soon becomes a part of this “Brave New World.” Isolated and ostracized from his village, he soon realizes that the world his mother told him so much about is new and utterly alien to him. With no one to relate with from his old world and nothing to look forward to in the new world, he is, by default, entirely and utterly alone.
The book ends on a sad note with John’s death via suicide. While Brave New World is less known in the mainstream than 1984, its themes of pleasure vs. suffering, dreams vs. stability, and technology as a means of control, are all relatable to today’s modern era.
What To Learn from Brave New World:
Huxley’s work offers many lessons. While the themes of Brave New World are vast and complicated, it does provide us an opportunity to reflect on their warnings. Here are some things we can learn from the book:
1. We can become a slave to comfort and pleasure.
Many of us are averse to suffering and struggles. After all, no one likes to suffer. When people suffer, it’s unpleasant and physically and mentally draining. If things were more convenient, we’d undoubtedly use our focus for other things.
While that mindset may sound practical, it can also be dangerous. Suffering through struggling can be necessary, especially if you are working towards a goal. When a person experiences setbacks and obstacles, it can become a source of strength and motivation to improve. These setbacks also help strengthen our problem-solving skills, thus enabling us to learn from experience.
However, for some, accepting and learning from our struggles is easier said than done. In Huxley’s book, people do not have to strive to achieve bigger and better things because they don’t want to. The people in Huxley’s book are happy with their assigned castes. The concept of ambition is no longer feasible because they are conditioned to enjoy their role with no dreams of achieving “bigger” and “better” things. Besides, everything is taken care of by the World State controllers. Why should they worry?
While it may sound like a dream on paper, it’s harmful in the long run. Ambition can be good, provided it’s not obsessive. When we want to achieve something, we test our minds and spirit, enabling us to learn and develop if we keep pushing. Suppose you take away a person’s drive or ambition. In that case, they have little incentive to improve themselves physically and mentally.
2. Satisfying every desire does not always lead to contentment.
The setting in Brave New World is set in a future where satisfaction is guaranteed. The concepts of love and family are no longer necessary since people can have sex with whomever they want without any strings attached.
Since monogamy is obsolete, as is the concept of family, humans no longer have an obligation to raise future members of society. The government oversees handling the population and its castes, thus, leaving citizens to do other tasks.
The book also introduces soma, a free drug that works as a hallucinogen. People who take this drug experience sensation of pleasure and usually engage in orgies while high. Despite people having everything they want, living a life of pleasure becomes meaningless and empty, especially when love no longer exists either.
When we allow pleasures and comfort to control our lives, we become dull and uninspired. While many do not like adversity because it is uncomfortable, it can be a learning opportunity that enables us to make better judgments, use our creativity, and make sound judgments.
Takeaway: Brave New World tackles how comfort and pleasure can be used to control and keep people placated. While we are averse to pain, too much pleasure can dull our senses, leaving us lazy and uninspired. If we want to reach our fullest potential, we need to overcome our fear of challenges and obstacles. When we learn to do so, we become better people—not perfect, but better and more in control of ourselves.