Just a quick note: I have created this node (indeed, this account) because I'm annoyed. Sifting through the other various nodes on this same topic, I have found none that actually provide a range of possibilities when trying to answer the question: what is this novel actually about? The following is an assignment that I wrote for my Grade 10 English class a few months ago.

Paradoxically, it is the anxieties and uncertainties which beset Britain and Huxley in 1931, and which resulted in the rich ambivalence of his novel, which have guaranteed Brave New World’s status as a twentieth-century classic.

The Summary -
Set in “this year of stability,” A.F. 632 (632 years after the famous industrialist Henry Ford began producing automobiles via the means of mass-production), Huxley’s Brave New World is ruled by ten World Controllers who ensure the stability of society, with the world controller for the area that encompasses London being “His fordship” Mustapha Mond. Every aspect of life in the World State’s ten zones is reduced to the point that it can be utilized successfully to suit the city’s need. The citizens of this new world are set out in a five-tiered caste system in which the members at the top (Alpha double-plus’) run businesses and wear elaborate clothing, while the members at the bottom (the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons) are required to work jobs that require no freedom to think and are issued dull grey uniforms. Even so, nobody is discontented with the job or caste system that they are born into, because in laboratories worldwide, embryos are “conditioned” before birth to easily and ignorantly adapt into the environment they are to work in, and as children are “sleep taught” so that they will not envy those above them and abide by the World State’s Motto – “Community, Identity, Stability”. For those few citizens that do become tired of their life, (which is short, ensuring that no-one dies looking old) rations of a drug called soma are freely available to whisk away the minds of the depressed to a paradise created inside their own imagination, without feeling any side effects afterwards. As an added bonus, promiscuity is highly encouraged as the norm among all castes of people.

Amidst the ignorant blissfulness of Brave New World’s society is Bernard Marx, a citizen who represents everything the World State has tried to abolish. Bernard harbors thoughts of jealously, longs solitude, yearns after one woman only (Lenina Crowne) and has an urge to break free of the mould. After visiting the “Savage Reservation” on the outskirts of London (a place not too different from third-world countries today) and meeting John the Savage, Bernard feels he has his chance in life. Initially, Bernard is genuinely interested in the values of John (an outcast himself in the Savage Reservation), but as the book develops Bernard is increasingly disappointing to the reader as he seeks fame and fortune in London by showing off his “new discovery”. While John the Savage provides a refreshing spark of humanity from the rest of London, eventually he too is dragged to his exile and death as he finds out the truth about the “totalitarian horror” of Huxley’s ironically named Brave New World.

The Anxieties and Uncertainties -
Written in 1931 and first published in 1932, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is, to quote the assignment statement, a novel with “rich ambivalence.” This ambivalence comes from the tragic anxieties and uncertainties that beset Huxley and Britain in the early 20th century – of which there were many. Brave New World can be interpreted as a satirical novel that criticizes the American dominance of post-First World War society, as an exaggerated 'solution' to many of the problems facing Britain after the world-wide economic crash of 1929 or as a dystopian novel that creates an alienating world as a warning of what human society may become.

Initially, the easiest road to take in interpreting Brave New World is that it’s just another sci-fi novel – maybe even one that’s attempting to predict the future. Looking over Huxley’s life, situation and views on society at the time of writing this novel, it becomes increasingly difficult not to realize that, through the de-humanized citizens and culture in Brave New World, Huxley is in fact criticizing the dominance of American culture in the 1920’s – the 'American boom'. Writing to his brother Julian in August 1918, Huxley observed that one of the biggest consequences of the First World War would be “the inevitable acceleration of American world domination.” While this was a common view among most academics at the time, it was evident that Huxley felt bitter about the new-found world leaders, and a trip to Los Angeles (a place Huxley describes as “the city of dreadful joy” ) had an obvious effect on him. This “dreadful joy” is satirically conveyed through many of the very things in Brave New World that are used to dehumanize the society for the reader: the “feelies” – a descendant of Hollywood’s “talkies”, the “sexophones” – Huxley’s critical interpretation on the “wailing” saxophones of America at that time, Henry Ford as a deity – inspired by a biased biography of the industrialist that Huxley found and read on the trip to America, and of course the unwavering obsession with looking youthful – Huxley’s outlook on the Beauty Industry. In an essay on the Beauty Industry, Huxley argues that the definition of the word ‘beauty’ is changing, and sadly states:

I have seen women who, by the standards of a connoisseur of porcelain, were ravishingly lovely. Their shape, their colour, their surface texture were perfect. And yet they were not beautiful.

In Brave New World, this is clearly shown through Lenina Crowne, who John the Savage falls desperately in love with, but is furious to find out that she is only after sex and the material things in life – the perfect example of an upholding citizen of the new world. Huxley was also to write that “'Old ladies' are already becoming rare. In a few years, we may well believe, they will be extinct.” A common and seemingly happy thing in Brave New World is death – people don’t die looking old, but instead pass away happily retaining their youth.

As Huxley was planning another trip to America in 1931, he told one person that he was writing “a novel about the future – on the horror of the Wellsian Utopia and the revolt against it,” (referring to H.G. WellsMen Like Gods of 1932, with its portrayal of a utopia peopled by “active, sanguine, inventive, receptive and good tempered” citizens) and told another that the trip to America was “just to know the worst” . Indeed, Huxley’s original purpose in writing Brave New World may well have been to not only satirize the spreading Americanization, but the utopian state in which it was depicted in Men Like Gods. As he began to write, however, Huxley started to become more and more engrossed in the non-fiction events of his time.

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 triggered a global depression that severely affected those areas of Britain that relied on staple industries. With the crisis hitting a high point in 1931 as unemployment continued to rise rapidly, Huxley attended many functions and debates, and more often than not was unimpressed with the “twaddling” that he heard. He argued that democracy be renounced, and instead replaced by a system ruled “by men who will compel us to do and suffer what a rational foresight demands” . It was continually discussed that the use of a national plan similar to that of the recent Soviet Union’s needed to be put in place, and the main reason for economic collapse was under-consumption. He envisaged that propaganda and the use of eugenics (the study of improving the human race) could be used as a means of state control, and in 1931 he was recorded to write that stability was the “primal and the ultimate need” if Britain were to survive their crisis. These suggestions and more multiplied as the country was lead further and further into decline, although none were listened to.

In the same year as all of the great debates and functions, Huxley wrote a book that today is seen to be providing a solution to all of the economic and social problems of the time. This book would later become Brave New World, in which all of the suggestions offered by Huxley to improve and stabilize society are integrated. For example, Huxley’s suggestion about democracy being renounced and replacing it with some kind of totalitarian figure that would make all of the decisions is represented through the World State and Mustapha Mond. The problem of under-consumption is solved through the consumerism of his Brave New World (even corpses are used as a source of phosphorous). The use of propaganda and eugenics as a means of state control – soma and embryo conditioning. The suggestion that the primal need in a civilization is stability – Huxley’s Brave New World revolves around it (all one needs to do is to look at the World State’s motto of “Community, Identity, Stability”). But Huxley did not simply create a utopian world in which everything was perfect; he intended to uphold his reputation as “a novelist, thinker and pundit” . The reason Brave New World is widely regarded as a dystopian novel is because Huxley’s 'solution' to the problems facing Britain at the time was highly exaggerated. Huxley’s quote of “any form of order is better than chaos” seems to be attacked as individuality, character, happiness – arguably everything that makes up humanity – is sacrificed for stability in Brave New World as a question arises in the reader’s mind: is this a desirable solution?

The means of finding an answer to this question – the final conflict of values and ideas as compared to science and technology, happiness and civilization – comes in chapters 16 and 17. Huxley creates a situation where the two extremes meet face to face in a clash of ideals, with Mustapha Mond arguing for his "brave new world", and John the Savage opposing it. Mustapha Mond is an omniscient-type figure, with knowledge of both worlds. He argues that his people are happy because all needs and desires are met, and he has sacrificed love, art, religion and parenthood for what he regards as happiness: “You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art.” Religion is “censored” in Huxley’s Brave New World, and Mond says that his people have youth and prosperity up until the very end; therefore they can be “independent of God”. He then highlights the true reason behind soma: “Christianity without tears.” Because of the loss of individuality and high level of ignorance in his society, the people are happy when they get what they want and never want what they can’t get.

John the Savage argues that sacrificing Art, Science and Religion is too high a price to pay for what Mond falsely claims is happiness. In a later essay, even Huxley himself says that “an art collection can represent money more effectively than a whole fleet of motor cars.” God is needed in human society because God manages the punishing and rewarding, keeps the behavior in check and he is needed so people can have faith to get through the bad times. After Mond says that in his brave new world people are never unhappy, John claims the right to be unhappy, to suffer, to grow old; to be able to experience the full range of a human’s “natural” emotional potential: “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” He declares that happiness is achieved only by knowing trauma first

Huxley’s novel describes a world without pain, but a world without soul. It provides the reader with a prediction of what the world might turn into.

The Twentieth-Century Classic -
Although Brave New World was written in 1931, a renewed relevance has lately been justified. In his 1946 forward to the New Harper edition of the novel, Huxley states the novel’s theme as “the advancement of science as it affects human individuals.” The reliance on technology for the people in Brave New World seems daunting at first glance, but if thought about, the situation arises where the people of London in A.F. 632 rely less on technology than people in the year 2004AD (when it comes to fun, anyway). It seems the people of today get bored too easily, and require more and more advancements in their technology to keep them happy, whereas in Huxley’s Brave New World, the technology is based around the life sciences. This is because, while advanced when compared with society today, the society in Huxley’s novel is at a standstill – they "exist to continue their existence" (to quote Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium). The World State have banned science, and if anyone had an interesting breakthrough (besides setting the record for cloning the most people from one zygote), they would be sent off to an island. Huxley states this through his foreword, saying that, for the people living in his rave New World, it’s “as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them {Science and technology},” and later he states that, as time goes on, sciences like physics and chemistry are taken for granted: “it is only by means of the sciences of life that the quality of life can be radically changed”. In the last ten years the world has seen huge advances in technology, and most of the predicted technologies in Brave New World have, in part, become realities. Examples of this are that doctors are able to produce children with specific traits based on the gene pool of the chosen donors and prescribe mood-changing drugs, while scientists are able to clone animals. In our society today, people are strongly opposed to such advancements, but in Brave New World, the technology and propaganda is so powerful that it successfully encourages all citizens to think along the same lines.

Unlike other dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (where force is used as a means to persuade, but instead of gaining power, it only builds up resentment in the minds of the oppressed), the primary tool for state control for the World Controllers in Brave New World is soma. Soma is the perfect drug – one ration can take your mind on a holiday for 18 hours, and when you wake up the next day you feel absolutely fine. Soma isn’t illegal and protected like most drugs today – free soma rations are given out weekly for most castes and Alphas enjoy soma whenever they like; while police pump out large quantities of soma from hoses as a means of riot control (not that there are many riots). While our society doesn’t have wonder drugs, the governments do use high levels of propaganda as a means of advertising, recruitment, power, making the population happy, and even eradicating memories of the past. Unnerving events and people in certain nations’ histories have been erased from the minds of the new population: the censored Japanese textbooks, re-touched Russian photographs and the Australian ignorance of Aboriginal history. These memories are not erased by drugs, but by another weapon: the media. For example, the Australian media rejoices in things such as the ANZAC legend, Don Bradman and Mary Donaldson, but when it comes to Aboriginal history and their mis-treatment, there’s nothing. The bigger media coverage you have as a nation, the more power you gain over your citizens. Consider America: whilst people were marveling over the fact that Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed at the Superbowl, innocent Iraqi families were being slaughtered by vengeful American soldiers. As soon as one American soldier is killed whilst fighting, the newspaper articles suddenly revert back to how horrible all of the Iraqis are, and how much the American Army needs recruitment.

The promiscuous behavior in Brave New World is still being frowned upon by the people who read the novel today, even in an all-boys year 10 class. Yet if you told the average adolescent that they were promiscuous, they’d probably laugh in your face. If you then went on to explain what the word meant, they would probably come back by calling you ‘frigid’. The respect with which people hold for a relationship is definitely declining, and soon we will have caught up to the level of which is described in Brave New World (in his foreword, Huxley writes that “there are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages” ). The idea of sex is getting less and less taboo, and movie directors are going further than ever with their movies, yet not receiving that high a rating. Long gone are they days of courting when people would be in 'relationships' their whole lives without sleeping together. It’s hard to expect people to be writing love poetry and singing all day, but even so, one can’t help but feeling that lately, the word 'love' is being abused.

Conclusion -
The early 20th century was a chaotic time fraught with both major economic and social highs and lows, and Brave New World not only offers an insight into what Huxley thought about the society he was living in, but how he thought it could be solved and where he thought it could be heading. The rich ambivalence that springs from this novel is surely much richer than just three interpretations, and even Huxley had trouble in determining out the intended point of view. When asked on radio in 1935 whether his ultimate sympathies were with the savages aspirations or with the ideal of conditioned stability, Huxley is reported to have replied: “With neither, but I believe some mean between the two is both desirable and our objective.”

Bibliograhpy:
Bradshaw, D. (1994) Brave New World {Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)}. Great Britain: Clays Ltd. {Page 5}.
Bradshaw, D. (1994) Brave New World {Introduction}. Great Britain: Clays Ltd. {Page 6}.
Huxley, A. (1932) Brave New World. Great Britain: Clays Ltd.
Huxley, A. (1946) Brave New World {Foreword}. Great Britain: Clays Ltd. {Page 3}.
Gardiner, H. (1964) Nine Twentieth-Century Essayists. Sydney: Australia. {Page 108}.