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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley A satirical piece of fiction, not scientific prophecy Satire: • A piece of literature designed to ridicule the subject of the work. • While satire can be funny, its aim is not to amuse, but to arouse contempt. • Ridicule, irony, exaggeration, and several other techniques are almost always present. • Brave New World is an unsettling, loveless and even sinister place • “Reading Brave New World elicits the same disturbing feelings in the reader which the society it depicts has vanquished.” What does this mean? • Huxley exploits anxieties about Soviet Communism and American capitalism. • The price of universal happiness will be the sacrifice of honored shibboleths of our culture: “motherhood,” “home,” “family,” “freedom,” even “love.” • Mustapha Mond, Resident Controller of Western Europe, governs a society where all aspects of an individual's life are determined by the state, beginning with conception and conveyor-belt reproduction. • A government bureau, the Predestinators, decides all roles in the hierarchy. • Children are raised and conditioned by the state bureaucracy, not brought up by natural families. •There are only 10,000 surnames. • Citizens must not fall in love, marry, or have their own kids. • Brave New World, then, is centered around control and manipulation • He instills the fear that a future world state may rob us of the right to be unhappy. • time and place written: 1931, England • date of first publication: 1932 • settings (place): England, Savage Reservation in New Mexico • settings (time): 2540 AD; referred to in the novel as 632 years AF (“After Ford”), meaning 632 years after the production of the first Model T car • narrator: Third-person omniscient • point of view: Narrated in the third person from the point of view of Bernard or John, but also from the point of view of Lenina, Helmholtz Watson, and Mustapha Mond • Happiness derives from consuming mass-produced goods, sports such as Obstacle Golf and Centrifugal Bumblepuppy, promiscuous sex, “the feelies,” and most famously of all, a supposedly perfect pleasure-drug, soma. Soma • People resort to soma when they feel depressed, angry or have negative thoughts. • They take it because their lives, like society itself, are empty of spirituality or higher meaning. • Soma keeps the population comfortable with their lot. • Soma is a very one-dimensional euphoriant. It gives rise to only a shallow and intellectually uninteresting well-being. It provides a mindless “imbecile happiness” - an escapism which makes people comfortable with their lack of freedom. • Huxley seeks to warn the reader against scientific utopianism (impracticable perfectionism) • Creative and destructive impulses have been purged. The capacity for spirituality has been extinguished. • Life is nice - but somehow a bit flat. In the words of the Resident Controller of Western Europe: "No pains have been spared to make your lives emotionally easy - to preserve you, as far as that is possible, from having emotions at all." Life-long emotional well-being is not genetically preprogrammed. It isn't even assured from birth by the soma. For example, babies are traumatized with electric shock conditioning. Toddlers from the lower orders are terrorized with loud noises. This sort of aversion-therapy serves to condition them against liking books. We are told the inhabitants of the Brave New World are happy. Yet they experience unpleasant thoughts, feelings and emotions. • The Brave New World is a totalitarian welfare-state. • There is no war, poverty or crime. • Society is genetically predestined by caste. Alphas, the most intellectual, are the top-dogs. Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons toil away at the bottom. The lower orders are necessary because Alphas, even when they take soma, could never be happy doing menial jobs. • BNW is set in the year 632 AF (After Ford). Its biotechnology is highly advanced. •Yet the society itself has no historical dynamic: “History is bunk.” In this utopia, knowledge of the past is banned by the Controllers. • The Brave New World is not an exciting place to live in. • It is geared to the consumption of massproduced goods: “Ending is better than mending.” • Society is shaped by a single political ideology. The motto of the world state is “Community, Identity, Stability.” • There is no depth of feeling, no growth of ideas, and no artistic creativity. • Individuality is suppressed. Intellectual discovery has been abolished. •Clones, the BNW inhabitants, are laboratorygrown and bottled from the hatchery. •They are conditioned and brainwashed, even in their sleep. They are never educated to prize thinking for themselves. • This novel is more applicable today than it was in 1932. This is a time of: propaganda, censorship, conformity, genetic engineering, social conditioning, and mindless entertainment. • This was what Huxley saw in our future. His book is a warning. Essential Questions to connect the literature to today’s culture: • Is it better to be free than to be happy? • Is freedom compatible with happiness? • Is the collective more important than the individual? • Can children be taught effectively to think in only one certain way? • Can young people be taught so well that they never question their teachings later? • Is stability more important than freedom? • Can alterations made by advanced science to mankind be made permanent at the DNAlevel? • Can mankind be conditioned by science? • Should the individual be limited/controlled for the greater good? If so, how much? “Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t.” Aldous Huxley Now let’s get into the text!