Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a dystopian novel about a society that creates genetically bred castes of citizens, dulls them with drugs, and controls them with hypnotic messaging. The novel follows three characters: Lenina, Bernard, and John (the Savage) as they meet. Bernard and Lenina are of the highest class of society and decide to take a trip from London to New Mexico where there is an area that hasn’t been civilized. To Lenina and Bernard, being civilized entailed being genetically altered, with the world around them sterile, no relationships to hold them to a single person, and no parents. They meet John after a ceremony done by the “savages” and decide to bring him back to London after realizing the mother and son are related to the Controller (one of the top leaders). They parade John around their society, give his mother drugs which eventually kills her, and are sent off from society because they have become too independent.
There are a few parts about this novel which I felt were either technically sound or gave depth to the different references created. First, near the end of chapter three, Huxley takes three/four different concurrent narratives, and threads them together with single lines of dialogue. I found his approach to work seamless in how he slowly introduced the method with only two threads with longer passages, and then worked to shorten them until they were beautifully woven. The other part I found interesting was how the only book John read was Shakespeare which not only influenced what he said but how he thought.
There is a somewhat longer section of dialogue between John and the Controller discussing why a society like the one in the novel exists and why it must stay that way. The kernel of the argument was that a society must be happy to be productive, and the only way to be happy is for an authoritative government to control every aspect of a person’s life down to their DNA. I was particularly drawn to the line spoken by John in that conversation, “’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.’” The only thing I am hesitant on is the way the “savages” are meant to be Native Americans, which seems slightly racist (though perhaps that’s what Huxley was trying to convey). It’s a strong novel to discuss social hierarchy, what a utopia in reality would be, and how one fits in the world.
Final Rating: 4/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.