Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World, alongside We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, takes a glimpse at a possible future where all that we know has changed in order to maintain peace and harmony.
The idea of having a family, of raising children, of having a mother and a father, is such an outdated and scandalous topic it would make cheeks blush. The people living in this future London are produced in laboratories rather than born; their embryos are treated and conditioned to be a certain build and height, to fall between desired intelligence levels, and to be suited perfectly to a particular occupation. Then, from birth into teenage years, they are conditioned with hypnopaedia (sleep therapy) and mild electric shock treatment to teach them the ways of Ford, their God, by making them dislike nature, engage in erotic play from an early age, and, above all else, accept the life they have been given with open arms.
There are five categories of humans created in the laboratory: Alphas are the dominant males, the ones with all the strength, the fairly high intellect and attractive features; Betas are their beautiful female counterparts, with wide hips, agreeable conversation and skimpy clothes; Gammas and Deltas are men and women who wear green and are made to have below average attractiveness and intelligence; and lastly, there are the Epsilons, the menial labour workers who wear black. Gammas and Deltas are glad they aren’t Alphas or Betas because they do not have challenging, intellectual occupations. Alphas and Betas are relieved they are not ghastly Gammas and Deltas, as they are created to have so little intelligence that they aren’t able to question any aspect of their lives. Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons are all mass-produced, with as many as 96 identical individuals being created at any time from the same embryo. Only the Alphas and Betas are unique.
Even with such detailed conditioning, nature still has a role to play, and this is shown in one of the main characters. Bernard is an Alpha with high intellect, but he somehow isn’t as well-built as all the others and is below desirable height. Even with the philosophy that everyone belongs to everyone else, he sleeps with less Betas than he should, and he forms the long lost and little understood emotions of jealousy, anger and self-loathing.
“I am I, and I wish I wasn’t.”
There are some upsides to living in such a conditioned society—there isn’t jealousy (with the rare exception in Bernard), because everyone is conditioned to want exactly what they already have, and there isn’t lust, because everyone belongs to everyone else. No-one is judged or measured by their age, just their kept appearance and their intellect. Clothing is made from fabrics that will wear and tear easily, and with mending clothing considered to be primitive, people keep purchasing to ensure consumerism rages on—and who doesn’t love a good excuse to go shopping?
When reading Brave New World, you get an idea that some kind of war or natural catastrophe must have wiped out the majority of the human race and triggered this new worldwide way of living under the way of Ford, but you are never told exactly what has happened, which is refreshing.
I read this book because, as a fan of dystopian fiction, I wanted to explore one of the originals. I won’t go into the characters of this story as you really need to discover them for yourself to fully appreciate them, but I will say that none of them ultimately did what I expected them to do by the end of the book. They were fully-fleshed and relatable, and I deeply felt all their emotions and confusion. Another aspect that probably helped me become so engrossed in Brave New World is because it is set where I live, in England, whereas many, many books I’ve read are set in the United States.
In reading Brave New World I enjoyed discovering a possibly future Earth, and an interesting concept on how humankind could finally find happiness, even if it is a happiness we are conditioned to feel.
© 2017 Rebecca Delphine
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Rebecca Delphine is an aspiring Young Adult author from Thanet.