‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley is a novel published in 1931, which is most famously known as the esoteric and complex counterpart to the classic ‘1984’ by George Orwell. It is set in a dystopian universe and revolves around themes of eugenics, morality, and civilisation of the civilised and the non civilised. A futuristic vision, not of the extant populous, not the world in which we live but a world of the remains and leftovers.
The author has a piercing gaze into sexuality, morality, eugenics, and above all, the laws of happiness interrelated with human desire. The world constitutes a majority of peoples living in a civilisation which upholds and satisfies the desires of the citizens, with a predetermined destiny for people of different berths in the hierarchy to follow, people with different lives who were born out of different components.
The civilisation not only decides the fate of its people but also makes sure the citizens of the higher strata are able to sexually satiate themselves without a modicum of ordeal or difficulty. A complex utopia where no one has to succumb to melancholy or depression, and even if a surge of sadness rises in someone’s heart, the civilisation has sóma, the cure of all pain, a journey to a small holiday which feels like an epiphany of eternity.
On the other side of the frontier, the land of savages, degraded and abused by the civilisation, described as a land inhabiting superstitious, wild, and primitive people who wish to marry and love, the sort of people we observe in our lives, the ones who feel sad, disheartened, the ones who begin a revolution to bring a change in the insensitive order.
The rich culture, history and landscape of the novel brings the lives of Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, Lenina Crowne and the Savage together, revealing the fault lines and silver linings in their relationship. One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel, is that it is very difficult to realise and acknowledge the protagonist of the novel, whose story is this? was a recurring question in my mind. Characters seem prominent and primary to the shifting circumstances and scenarios, peeling off their superficial layers revealing the characters to the bare bones.
The novel represents a continuous struggle between happiness and the necessary evil, sedated minds don’t constitute a utopia, minds which don’t appreciate literature, philosophy, and art, mechanised brains designed to receive inundated amounts of pleasure and intoxication, in the guise of the most desirable word ‘happiness’.
Finally, my views of the novel with respect to its counterpart ‘1984’ might befuddle or flummox some of the readers. ‘1984’ is a smart, ferocious and evocative novel which captivates the wide imagination of the readers throughout the continent, yet in my view thematically, if not dramatically, ‘Brave New World’ seems superior in a sense, in terms of its relevance to the times in which we exist.
I quote critic Neil Postman from the foreword of his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy… In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”
If ‘1984’ is a portrayal and study of how depravity–moral, needful and lustful– would eviscerate the extant species, Huxley argues the fulfilment of infinite appetite and pleasure, which would exacerbate the human mind and its will to stand for a purpose.
Huxley’s novel halfway through seemed to me, a novel of its time and nothing more, more so due to shallow and uprooted portrayal of the Savage, which is one of the examples of the western fantasy of the East, created out of narrow self delusion. The second half was a perfect and striking medley of ideas and philosophy of literature, morality, and sin. After the end of it, the novel left me with a bitter aftertaste, and a music of revolution. ‘Brave New World’ is an understated novel which contains between its covers, some of the most important messages to liberate humanity out of the clutches of wilful slavery.