Review: Brave New World

As part of my attempt to read more widely, I turned back to the classics and plucked ‘Brave New World’ from the shelf. In this, Aldous Huxley turns civilisation on its head – the concept of families is deemed barbaric and people are conditioned from conception to follow the ideals dictated by the controller.

Bernard Marx is an Alpha (high class) who does not quite fit in. Plagued with rumours that something went wrong during his conditioning, Bernard has grown to be a bitter man, not comfortable with his identity or his beliefs. Threatened with deportation, he brings The Savage back to civilisation to save his job and in doing so, forces the story into full force.

‘Brave New World’ involves two main societies that are a stark contrast from one another, yet both share characteristics with real life. For instance, in the so-called ‘barbaric’ society partners stay together for life, have children and raise a family. In the ‘civilised’ culture, where this is not the case, there is a heavy reliance on technology. By making John (The Savage) move from the former society to the latter, Huxley demonstrates the dangers of both. John struggles to understand Bernard’s idea of civilisation while those from Bernard’s world view The Savage as a strange creature, a form of entertainment.  Neither extreme is desirable, neither is sane, yet both are directions that our own world could go in.

As the story went on, I began to notice increasing circumstances where I could find similarities between my culture and Bernard’s. Most notably, the increasing use of technology, the laissez-faire attitude towards relationships and the conditioning (see – parenting books, television shows).  I could see a possible future where what Huxley depicted came true. As a result, reading what The Controller had to say about people who did not conform really made my blood run cold:

“It’s lucky…that there are such a lot of islands in the world. I don’t know what we would do without them. Put you all in the lethal chamber, I suppose.”

The fact that I could see such a resemblance is, perhaps, suggestive of Huxley’s ability to create such a believable world where a character’s somewhat debatable actions go unquestioned by the reader. By starting with a tour of the facilities that define the ‘civilised’ culture before even introducing the principle characters, Huxley builds up to the more psychological and important aspects of the story. Not to mention, his description is impeccable and the characters are interesting. ‘Brave New World’ is certainly a book to read, particularly for those interested in utopian and dystopian worlds. It introduces a number of questions which keeps the reader thinking long after the large page has been turned.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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