Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review - Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

I've finally read it, and I'm content in my discomfort.

Good Ford! I sit here exhausted after finishing Brave New World, and the first thought to enter my mind is that I am grateful to my High School English Department for not including it in our studies, as I’m sure it would have sent me into a fast and furious depression. Alas, I feel that a gramme of soma may be my only recourse. haha

Huxley’s didactic and political satire has sent me into a spiral of whirling emotions, as I draw far too many comparisons from his dystopian society to our modern day. A revolutionary of his time, Huxley’s oppressive World State is not a far cry from the western world, as he conjures up images of the lower-caste members as “… a long caterpillar of men and women travelling home on the monorail.” (Wasn’t I a part of that caterpillar in my trek home on the TTC yesterday, minus the doses of soma to keep things civil?)

How about the nine-years war, which created a state of fear and panic, forcing the government to take charge and control all measures of the World State in pedantic form, in order to stabilize society and provide uniform happiness? However, to me, enforced happiness seems just as ridiculous and unattainable as enforced democracy. Of course one could argue that both of these things are illusions, in and of themselves anyway.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this ‘fictional’ world is the use of a structured class system, derived by embryo manipulation, sleep hypnosis, and the numbing soma, to create a population of slaves who happily carry out the dirty work for the upper-caste members of society. This of course being the most powerful parallel to western civilization, as the capitalist machine oppressively ensures that immigrants and children of low-income families get stuck in the cycle of low-paying, dead-end jobs, unable to afford an education that could possibly enhance their opportunity for personal growth. How would consumerism continue at this accelerated rate if everyone were educated? Who would take on the monotonous task of flipping the burgers, or working the assembly lines? In the end, theirs is a sacrifice for the greater good of the collective. (I can’t help but be reminded of the Borg.) And if they complain, just write them a prescription for the latest anti-depressant or anti-psychotic that the ravenous pharmaceutical monster is peddling.

All in all, the World State is a mirror of our world wrought with consumerism, sexual liberation and sedation through government-issue medication, simply exaggerated. In this state of disillusionment and contentment through instant gratification, the truth of our existence is lost. Without our passion for each other, artistic expression, scientific exploration or dogma, what is the purpose of our time here on earth

4/5 Snakes


  1. Wonderful review! I read this book only a couple of years ago and it has haunted me ever since! I really does seem that we are moving in that direction. It actually seems to ring true today! I love how you picked up on consumerism!

  2. The parallels one can draw to our current day are numerable and extremely eerie. What an insightful and brilliant man Aldous Huxley was. Thanks for the comment. ; )

  3. I did have to read this one in high school, as well as Orwell's 1984, and I really enjoyed especially Brave New World. It's been forever since I read it. I should pick it up again. But I'm a huge fan of social dystopias, so it's not all that surprising.

  4. As am I, Amanda. I have a morbid fascination with dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction that has left my fiance slightly worried about me on more than one occasion.

    I would have to say that 1984 is my favourite, but I would have to read it again to be sure, since it has been quite a few years and my memory often fails me.

  5. I recently reread 1984 for my book club, and found I had the same problem as the last time I read. It's the same problem I always seem to have when reading Orwell, and that's that he doesn't ever seem to know how to end his books. They're very anticlimatic. The end of 1984 COULD have been wonderful, but it fell flat to me, slightly rushed and perhaps under or over written. The same thing happened with Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and another that I don't recall right offhand. Because of that, though, I didn't enjoy 1984 as much. It has a lot in it, though.