Book Review: Brave New World

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

When my next reading urge came around I felt like I wanted to take a stroll down Dystopia Drive. I picked up Brave New World. It was fine, but it actually made me want to reread 1984 more than actually write this review. However, I looked more into the book and the author and then into similar literature and this seemingly not-so-great read turned into an exciting learning experience. Unfortunately for you, this blog is about the novel, not my learning experience.


The setting for Brave New World is a strange, futuristic England where children are grown in test tubes and predestined to either be on the top or bottom rung of society. No one has a mother or father; both of those terms are treated like profanity. All people are grown in a strict castes and the society is scientifically balanced, if no other way.
Solitude had quarter of a million warnings against it in this world. Casual sex is the norm and monogamy is considered improper behavior, as are all relationships with emotion. "Everyone belongs to everyone," they say.
The society is drugged with synthetic happiness in the form of soma pills. Throughout the book there are many synthetic references, like "champagne-surrogate." The whole goal of society is to consume efficiently. Oh, yeah, and Henry Ford is the godhead of this story: "Your Fordship", "thank Ford", all of that. It's kind of funny in a few parts.
Then one day John the Savage comes to town. Mr. Savage, as he's called, is my favorite part of the book. It's lovely to hear a normal voice in the book, because everyone else's dialogue is emotionless, as Huxley wished it to be. The Savage knows Shakespeare, too. Savage and his mother are brought over from a reservation in New Mexico and they are treated as some sort of spectacle in London. His mom eventually overdoses on soma and he kills himself.

My thoughts
It's no 1984, but it definitely has that type of feel to it. And, of course, here are my notes about the novel, as cleaned up as possible:

At one point in the book, a character called the the Controller is asked why the people could not be provided with something like the play Othello. The Controller replies:

"Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel - and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma."
Romance has been murdered in this world. Soma is the magic pill and that made me think of all the other magic pills provided by today's pharmaceutical industry. Also, everything must be new, not old. Here's an interesting defense of the fake happiness created by soma:

"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand." (p. 199)
The Savage later says: "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." (p. 219)

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