STS 112 – WA
In Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, the context of the story is set in a dystopian-like future labeled the “World State.” Naturally, this fictional society differs in many ways from our own, and Huxley distinctly describes the points where our world and the World State diverge. While these differences, such as how babies are genetically engineered through artificial wombs, or how infants in different castes are classically conditioned in different ways, may seem quite obvious to the reader, what is not as evident are the ways in which the New World society mirrors ours. Through the idea that this future New World shares the similarities with our current society, Huxley is ultimately warning us of the harmful effects that expansion and development of a capitalist ideology can impose on society.
While in modern society we are forced to sacrifice certain aspects of our lives to conform to certain norms, in Brave New World, the sacrifices that are made are far more extreme. In Huxley’s dystopia, the ruling body, under Mustapha Mond, pursues a society driven by absolute consumerism by ultimately sacrificing certain human values, that in today’s society, might be seen as essential. The first value that Mond believes must be sacrificed are personal relationships that produce emotions or feelings of passion. For this reason we see that the citizens of the New World do not have parents, lovers or children. Ironically, in the real world family is essential and often acts as a primary support system, in the World State that job is given to Soma, a recreational drug, that alleviates any pain the user is experiencing. While in our current world this concept seem unimaginable, in the eyes of Mond, the restriction of personal relationships lead to an economic stability in society.
Another sacrifice is that of equality. It’s true that today we are not all born equal, but in the western world it is believed that even if one is born into poverty, that with hard work and dedication, one can climb the socio-economic pyramid. In Brave New World this idea of the American Dream is nonexistent. People are born into a certain caste (Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta, and Epsilon) and will remain is such caste for their entire life. This is ensured through the treatment of the embryos, fetuses and infants in different castes. For example the Gamma Delta, and Epsilon embryos are shocked into form 90 identical embryos, but the Alpha and Beta embryos are not. During the fetal stage, the lower castes are given alcohol and deprived of oxygen to ensure lower intelligence, and during infancy. The lower classes are also dissuaded from the pursuit of knowledge. For example, the Delta class is classically conditioned to fears flowers and books through a series of repeated shocks whereas hypnopaedia is instilled in the Alpha and Beta castes. This may seem diabolic, but Mond explains that inequality is crucial for the stability of their heavily consumerist society. In this way the castes know their role in the larger mechanism that is productivity of goods and services.
The debate between capitalism and communism was prominent during the twentieth century, when Huxley wrote this story. Is it then safe to say that Huxley is intrinsically communist? Not exactly. For a decent portion of the novel, we the readers, identify Bernard Marx as the protagonist of the novel. The fact that Bernard exemplifies an outcast who envies his friend makes him inherently human, unlike all his brainwashed counterparts. While Berard defies the system by bringing John to the World States, he does so not to expose the defects of society, but rather for his own personal gain. It should be noted that his last name is clearly hinting at Karl Marx, one of the leading figures in communism, and although he opposes the corruptness of the World State, he does not do so for the right reasons. Is this sense Huxley’s view can be seen as one that stresses moderation over extremity.