Brave New World – Review

Book: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Year: 1931
Bookhad Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

“All right then,” said the savage defiantly, I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.”
There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.”

Brave New World. Sigh… Many a years had I waited for it to come into my possession and discover a view opposite to Orwell’s when it came to the future of our worlds: in a sense where it’s doomed anyway. Orwell was always the stark light at the end of the tunnel which, we all knew, was an oncoming train. I always wanted to know where Huxley stood. After all, it was the favourite form of war for new age readers discovering dystopia: Orwell or Huxley? 

Technology versus Humanity

Anyway, Brave New World is a dystopian masterpiece and there’s no way that I can take that away from the much loved-hated book. It begins with the reader being introduced to a group of students being taken on an ‘assembly line’ where they’re showed how they condition the newborns (Read brainwashed). The fate of every newborn is decided before they’re actually born. They’re grouped in one of the 4 classes: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, where the Alphas are predictably the superior and the Epsilons are dumb asses who’re conditioned to do only menial labour. They’re short and ugly and are grown in batches.

The “World State” is divided into 10  zones and each of them is controlled by a “World Controller”. Our lead character, Bernard Marx is an Alpha with a twist. He is short and not really a looker. The grapevine is abuzz with stories of Oxygen deprivation during the conditioning phase when he was still in a bottle.

If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely. 

Anyway, Bernard is not a happy Alpha. It is regarding him that John says the above mentioned quote, which is true, because unlike other Alphas, Bernard does not like the lateral lives that they lead and he yearns for romance in the real sense. Of course, it’s not that he’s lonely. He’s “having” Lenina almost without break for the past few months.

Having is basically having sex. The Great Ford’s (Yeah, Henry Ford. I know!) teaching says that Every one belongs to everyone else, which is a decent line for saying that there’s no sanctity of sexual relations and that “Love” is nothing but a soma induced sexual relation with a partner who might “have” another one just hours later. There is basically no bar to sexual relations and there is no hard feelings either. it is usual to have different girls every day. Even foursomes are normal. Heck, orgies are a weekly thing and is considered a ritualistic part of their religion. 

Hence, Bernard is odd. He was having Lenina since the past few MONTHS. It was just another thing about Bernard that didn’t sit right with the accepted behaviours of Alphas. Emotional attachment was downright illegal and he wants to take a walk with Lenina and hold her hands and talk about things, or Ford forbid, not talk at all! Lenina just wants to have a “gramme and not give a damn”. Soma, a legal drug, wherein the user is transported to a land of dreams and long cherished happiness is the poison of the New World.

Despite having misgivings about Bernard’s irregular and unacceptable behaviour, Lenina agrees to go the Savage Reservation with him and that is where our most important character is introduced. He is important because he is the stark white sheet against which the artificial, but attractive world is juxtaposed with the ugly, yet honest reservation. John, the Savage is the antithesis of the New World. The Savage Reservations are basically those part of the land that hasn’t been introduced to the doctrine of the New World. It’s the world where sex is an expression of Love and children are born the natural way instead of in bottles. It’s also a land of dirt and poverty and ugliness and age. Lenina is astounded when she encounters people with wrinkles and to get rid of that image (along with many others) she takes an 18 hour of soma induced dreams!

John is a reader (Ha!) His world is made of Shakespearean speeches (Haa!) and heroics! He is brought into the  New World as a social experiment wherein his “Savage” personality is brought in contact with the New World’s “civilisation”.

…And the conflict begins. It is the basic rhapsody of stability versus erratic truth; between artificial happiness versus real pain; free will versus apparent will. John is aghast at the perverted sense of desire and the lack of any obstacle to have it. Despite his non-platonic thoughts towards Lenina, he is amazed at how easily she throws herself at him without a care. John’s free willed upbringing, demarcated with due deference to basics of rights and wrongs, is at odds with the no holds barred attitude of the New World. 

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”

Orwell or Huxley after all.

To me, before I read this, Huxley was always meant to be meaner and more potent; a far more stronger dose of reality being besmirched by the powerful. It was a scientific form of ‘conditioning’ compared to the antiquated spy network of Orwell. Unlike 1984, there wasn’t much lying in Brave New world, there was just an augmented reality that was appreciated by the commoners because reality itself was drab and boring and, dare I say, more realistic than they could manage with their brainwashed heads.

Where Orwell taught me that the past is replaceable as we speak, Brave New World taught me that past is inconsequential. Orwell used fear tactics, Brave New World used a legitimate drug to compensate.

I might sound like a harsh critic, but Brave New World falls short on a very important parameter; the parameter of impact. Brave New World is a dystopian story that has been built upon the artificial turf of science. A Science that is used to not really create a technology, but to placate a population by hiding the truth behind the smokescreen of drugged hallucinations. Orwell used pure unadulterated fear and psychology to win over the populace. 

Once an Orwellian, always an Orwellian, is something that I believed in, but after reading Brave New World, I’ve realised that it was not merely an exercise of romanticising a dystopian writer that I loved. It was because the impact was of such sonorous quality that years after 1984, and weeks after finishing Brave New World, my heart beats more furiously when I think about Room 101 as compared to the timid knocks when I think of the  lighthouse of John!



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