Brave New World

1001 BooksWell, I’m hard at work on my October to December goals. I’ll have another review right on the heels of this one. For starters, I’ve been back in London, but a creepier version, courtesy of Aldous Huxley.

Here is the Goodreads Summary:

Far in the future, the World Controllers have finally created the ideal society. In laboratories worldwide, genetic science has brought the human race to perfection. From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role.

But, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, Bernard Marx is unhappy. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, feeling only distaste for the endless pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

A fantasy of the future that sheds a blazing critical light on the present–considered to be Aldous Huxley’ s most enduring masterpiece.

“Mr. Huxley is eloquent in his declaration of an artist’ s faith in man, and it is his eloquence, bitter in attack, noble in defense, that, when one has closed the book, one remembers.”
–“Saturday Review of Literature”

“A Fantastic racy narrative, full of much excellent satire and literary horseplay.”
–“Forum”

“It is as sparkling, provocative, as brilliant, in the appropriate sense, as impressive as the day it was published. This is in part because its prophetic voice has remained surprisingly contemporary, both in its particular forecasts and in its general tone of semiserious alarm. But it is much more because the book succeeds as a work of art…This is surely Huxley’ s best book.”
–Martin Green

And now here is my review.

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of the small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.

“Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!” The voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. “You really know where you are. For the first time in history.” He quoted the planetary motto “Community, Identity, Stability.” Grand words.

“If we could bokanovskify indefinitely, the whole problem would be solved.”

Solved by standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons. Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.

I have read a lot of dystopian fiction this year, for some reason. Brave New World is a classic of this genre. It is a quick, easy read, or in my case, listen while running. The language is direct, the plot is clear, the characters are engaging. The world Huxley paints is on one hand disturbing–people gestated in bottles and conditioned and subliminally programmed to happily accept their assigned status in life, with a sort of bland pleasure induced by drugs and multisensory “feelies” (movies of a sort) to keep people entertained and peaceful–but at another level, mildly seductive–the leader of Western Europe explains why a society of all bright independent people didn’t work when tried, why the inhabitants of that society begged to be let back into the fold. For me the most disturbing thing about this novel was that it wasn’t more viscerally disturbing to me. 1984 gave me the creeps from the get-go, but Brave New World makes a disturbingly persuasive case, both in the illustration of the society, and in its defense by various characters, for the dystopian world it ultimately critiques. I can imagine many people wanting the world where Ford replaces God, and drugs replace disagreement and difficult emotion. In fact, it could be argued that much in our current society shows us to be quite committed to move in that direction, with only a deficit in the appropriate technologies preventing our arriving there already. Still I think I would not be able to live without literature, without meaningful human attachment, without the truth and beauty that are sacrificed for peace and commerce. With Huxley, I must argue for our current, flawed, messy world or for solutions that don’t require the compromises and sacrifices of basic humanity that Huxley’s dystopian world’s peace relied upon.

And now the scorecard:

Around the World: S. America: 1 2 3; Other: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
1001 Books List: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Pulitzer: Oct Nov Dec
Nobel: Oct Nov Dec
Great African Reads: 1 2 3

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About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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