Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
We will write a custom Article on Quotations in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” specifically for you
301 certified writers online
“It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose–well, you didn’t know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes–make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere, that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true? But not, in the present circumstance, admissible. He picked up his pen again, and under the words, “Not to be published” drew a second line, thicker and blacker than the first; then sighed, “What fun it would be,” he thought, “if one didn’t have to think about happiness!” (Huxley, 1965, p. 136).
This quotation is Mustapha Mond’s response to a manuscript on the “mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose” (Huxley, 1965, p. 135). His musings express Huxley’s skepticism of the effectiveness of global management. Elsewhere, Huxley communicates both his distaste for his contemporary world and the dangers of trying to improve it, in subtle, often humorous jibes. His vision of the future is of a fragile fabric of control holding down a world that has sacrificed a great deal but resists mightily.
Human attempts to re-make the world are, in Huxley’s view, a risky business. No matter how completely the government seeks to manage the population, the citizens are still human.
Nature pushes back
The residents in A.F. 632 are still a part of nature, with all of nature’s contradiction, capacity for rebirth, and vulnerability. Despite the New World government’s determination to direct everything, including via “the Weather Department’s captive balloon” shining “rosily in the sunshine” (Huxley, 1965, p. 120), natural forces still exert their influence.
For example, the urge to procreate remains. Despite unlimited pregnancy-free sex, women feel better after a “pregnancy substitute” (Huxley, 1965, p. 27).
As another example, the government beautifies the “Park Lane Hospital for the Dying”, offers painkillers, and performs “wholesome death conditioning” on children (Huxley, 1965, pp. 143-159, passim). Death, a force of nature, remains inescapable.
Aging, another natural process, still occurs, as senility, despite advanced interventions. These are described as follows: “We preserve them from diseases.” The government keeps “their internal secretions… balanced.” They control “their magnesium-calcium ratio.” They transfuse “young blood.” The result: “Youth almost unimpaired till sixty, and then, crack! The end.” (Huxley, 1965, p. 84)
Disease, another natural process, stalks any un-inoculated individual. Lenina overlooks a trypanosomiasis treatment, and the resulting sleeping sickness death is the “first in half a century” (Huxley, 1965, p. 143).
Human beings are still human
Human nature persists, despite efforts to control it. Our tendency to fight, and do dumb things, resists the government’s plans. An example is a disastrous experiment with an all-Alpha settlement. This ended after a mere six years in “a first-class civil war” (Huxley, 1965, p. 172).
Prejudice against the ‘other’, by whatever name, remains. It is encouraged, as caste consciousness, by sleep teaching. However, it appears in ways not perhaps foreseen by the Controllers.
For example, early conditioning against dirt and illness eliminates sympathy, by the majority of New Worlders, for anyone’s suffering. Linda has no feeling for her weeping son. She says, “If it hadn’t been for you…I might have gotten away.” (Huxley, 1965, p. 97) As another example, Bernard is “profoundly squeamish” at John’s distress (Huxley, 1965, p. 206).
Everyone throughout society also expresses, unquestioningly, the scientific racism that values people according to external physical characteristics. For example “eighty-three almost noseless black brachycephalic Deltas were cold-pressing” (Huxley, 1965, p. 122). This occurs despite repeated messages that “All men are physicochemically equal” (Huxley, 1965, p. 57).
The New World conditioning does not guarantee happiness for all
Despite the early conditioning to poison, stimulate, or sleep-teach “moral education”, fitting each ‘type’ of embryo/child for its eventual job and lifestyle, human individuality persists (Huxley, 1965, p. 18). The major characters of the New World are all, in some way, unique. All, sadly, end up unhappy.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
For example, Helmholtz regrets the poetry he may not and cannot write because he is writing “about nothing” (Huxley, 1965, p. 54). Lenina falls prey to a “V.P.”, or a violent passion, a confusing, overwhelming, and prohibited attachment for John the Savage (Huxley, 1965, p. 143). She is so torn by her conditioning that she cannot even appreciate John’s lovely compliment to her when he says he wants to outlive “beauty’s outward with a mind That doth renew swifter than blood decays “ (Huxley, 1965, p. 147).
. Bernard feels left out, alienated, delighted when he is popular, and devastated when he is exiled from the world he insults. He ends up groveling before the Controller, yelling, “Send me to an island?” (Huxley, 1965, p. 173).
The Controller himself is conflicted. He gave up his beloved science to avoid being exile (Huxley, 1965, p. ibid). Fortunately, for him and the “fairly high price” he paid, the Controller has power. He can read ancient books and send other non-conformists away to distant islands with more sheep than people (Huxley, 1965, p. 177).
Did Huxley regret that he could not eliminate discontent without total control?
Based purely on the evidence of the text, Huxley seems to have feared the future he evoked. At the same time, however, he does not seem to have felt that real life, as he knew it, led inevitably to fulfillment, and the best and highest use of human talents. His portrayal of contemporary family life, especially among the less privileged, is particularly vicious. His description of mother love as “dangerous, insane, [and] obscene”, specifically, is downright disturbing (Huxley, 1965, p. 27). He understood how early negative experiences and deprivation could warp people. “No wonder those pre-moderns were mad and wicked and miserable”, says the Controller (Huxley, 1965, p. 30). This statement demonstrates deep compassion.
Given that he expressed distaste for the world around him, how should we interpret his detailed descriptions of ways that people could be made contented, if not happy? Was he revealing a bit of bitterness? Was he wistful about the possibility of solving humanity’s problems? Is it possible that he wished he could predestine contentment?
“Happiness”, in the quotation of Mustapha Mond cited above, stands in for all the attributes of human life that the A.F. world sacrifices for stability. Huxley was prophetic about so many elements of his world (consider his description of the ‘feelies’!). This precision suggests that he believed many of the inventions and events he ipredicted would come to pass soon. He must have been saddened that the elimination of human discontent seemed to require crushing the human spirit. The un-crushable vitality of humanity nevertheless seems to struggle against all these efforts throughout the book.
Huxley, A. (1965). Brave New World (Harper Colophon ed.). New York, NY, USA: Harper and Row, Publishers.
A possible oversight
One area where Huxley may not have foreseen, fully, the danger in trying to control everything, especially according to Ford, is in resource use. There is no mention of recycling, but rather “the conscription of consumption” for the greater good and the maintenance of stability (Huxley, 1965, p. 37). The result is what seems to modern eyes massive, deliberate, and enforced waste of resources:
- Any new game “requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games” (Huxley, 1965, p. 21).
- Everyone is conditioned, “So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport.” (Huxley, 1965, p. 26),
- Everyone is conditioned to repeat, “Ending is better than mending” (Huxley, 1965, p. 37)
- Round-the-clock energy use abounds. For example, “Flood-lighted, its three hundred and twenty meters of white Carrara-surrogate gleamed with snowy incandescence “(Huxley, 1965, p. 61).
On the other hand, the population figure of two thousand million he mentions is less than a third of today’s actual estimate (Huxley, 1965, p. 26). Could he have imagined such a huge population as our planet carries today? Alternatively, did he indeed imagine it, and deliberately set a conservative limit on the crowding in his envisioned future? Societal stability is easier when everyone’s basic needs are met. Limited population growth would help make that possible.
This is especially true since scientific advances are suppressed in the New World. For a modern reader, the absence of any obvious mention of recycling (except for the phosphorous reclaimed from human corpses) stands out like a sore thumb. It is such a rare exception to the completeness and believability of Huxley’s New World.
Huxley has, in most other aspects, carefully thought out the design of the society that emerges post-Nine Years’ War, literally, from cradle to grave, and in all sectors of the globe. His foresight is uncanny: consider the television-like appliance that entertains a dying Linda, posited years before the widespread availability of television (Huxley, 1965, p. 153). Consider the anthrax bombs (remember 2001?) which he predicts would wipe out human resistance to massive, unprecedented control – how spookily prophetic he was! (Huxley, 1965, p. 175) Consider in-vitro fertilization, routine use of scent for mood control, synthetic music, and so many other examples of Huxley’s accurate prediction!
However, the development of petroleum-based synthetics in manufacturing had just recently begun in 1932, when the book first appeared. He seems to have been aware of cellulose acetate, a plant-based plastic invented in 1927 since this material appears prominently in Lenina’s wardrobe. He does not seem aware of the later, more petroleum-dependent plastic materials, which so revolutionized clothing, toys, and our whole way of living from the Second World War onwards (consider the role of nylon stockings!).
Perhaps he could not visualize the increasing pressure on petroleum used not only as fuel for transport, heating, and lighting but also for thousands of our daily objects. He has a small blind spot for this problem, it seems.
(It also may be that his imagined factory-style food production system is somewhat in conflict with what we now know about sustainable agriculture, but there is not enough detail to be sure. Interestingly, Mustapha Mond does not seem to be thinking of ecology when he says, “We could synthesize every morsel of food if we wanted to. But we don’t. We prefer to keep a third of the population on the land. For their sakes–because it takes longer to get food out of the land than out of a factory. Besides, we have the stability to think of.” (Huxley, 1965, p. 172))
However if the population is compelled to consume, what does this mean in light of the limitations on natural resources which we are so aware of today? If this is a blind spot for Huxley, it is a dangerous one. We use petroleum for fuel and as a substrate for manufacturing. We face, right now, major challenges in finding alternatives. It is difficult to imagine that a society so pushed to consume, as is the New World, would survive for long without some organized re-use of materials. This draws attention to a very small oversight in the lovingly (if terrifyingly) detailed world he outlined.