Brave New World ~ Aldous Huxley
So this is where my summer exploration of 20th century literature has brought me. I don’t usually read dystopia and prefer fantasy, but Orwell’s 1984 has persuaded me to give this a go (*cough* not to mention my EPQ project *cough*). Let us see what Huxley has offered in his vision of the future then, shall we?
Story – 4/5 stars:
The story introduces us to the twisted orderly world or ‘Brave New World’. The introduction aims to explain the process of how society works and how it is created, including the strange process known as the ‘Bokanovsy Process’. The issue I have with the introductory chapters are that….they have too much unnecessary yet slightly necessary detail. What I bean by unnecessary is that there were simply too many technical terms which even I had to process for a while; it seems Huxley tried too hard to show off his vocabulary. When I say slightly necessary, I mean that it is still key information to explaining how that world works although I’m sure it could have been explained in a few paragraphs or even a chapter or two but..not seven of them…
In the introductory chapters we see most of the characters which the reader needs to know about throughout the book (I say most as there are still some key characters introduced later). Bernard seems to be our main character..although perspectives do change. He is pretty much an outcast of society despite his high rank because of his stature similar to the ‘peasant’ Epsilons. Society is quite messed up in our terms as ‘everyone belongs to everyone’ since the traditional reproduction method has been eliminated and all the people had to do was enjoy life. It seems that they enjoyed life a bit too much sometimes as they regularly took soma aka drugs. Now the good thing about those drugs was that they had no side-effects unlike the drugs we know of today and the bad thing…well it just seems immoral in today’s society, but since this is a different dystopia world we are talking about, these principles do not apply.
Let us move on to the next part. This is the climax and the turning point of the story – when Bernard and Lenina go to the Reservations. A peculiar savage is discovered there – one born from a mother who used to be a part of the so called ‘civilised’ society who got lost many years ago. This was a rather predictable plot point as in the previous chapters we hear of the Director’s past experience with the Reservation and how he lost the woman he travelled there with. This ‘savage’ of course is the sensation and is the chance Bernard was looking for to get his popularity boost with not only…well everyone, but particularly with the ladies. This brings us on to the next and last part.
John, the savage, is brought to the so called “Brave New World”. He gave it this name is he is somewhat of a Shakespeare nerd (and who can blame him if the only thing he learned to read from was Shakespeare’s collection?). The fascination and disillusionment soon crumbles as John realises how awful and alien the world he has been brought to really is. His thinking is of a more traditional sense and you can almost see the reader him or herself within John. After a series of events including failed seduction of Lenina and John’s escape into the wilderness as well as Bernard’s and his friend Helmholtz’s exile, the story comes to a tragic conclusion as the mad world becomes too much for John to bear.
The general idea of the story is good, but as I have mentioned before – there is too much information involved as well as specialist or more intellectual vocabulary. I doubt too many people would have understood those words unless they learned them on specific courses, did a lot of reading or just sat there with a dictionary.
The Characters – 2/5 stars:
Let’s just say I didn’t like most of the characters very much…at all. That was Huxley’s intention but…well this is what happens when you mess them up on purpose.
John: The young ‘savage’. John is a romanticist and a fan of Shakespeare. His values are that of a mix of the savage culture and the poetry/plays of Shakespearean world which of course leads to him rejecting the society of the civilised world. He is an outsider both in the Reservation and the civilised world, however, as the savages never accepted him…on racial and heritage judgements and John rejects the civilised society, which ironically does not seem civilised in our terms (what with their lack of engagement in literature and consumerism mania). There seems to be no place for him which is why his tragic end was inevitable, it seems.
Bernard: A grumpy misfit and outsider of the society he lives in despite his high position. His conditioning is lacking as he does not share the values of being in company, preferring solitude, and is not interested in sleeping around, not like he had many candidates anyway though. At first his character was somewhat in the area of sympathy and understanding; his drastic change of character for the worst when he gets more famous because of John however makes you dislike him more and more until you come to hate him.
You could say Bernard is a bit like this:
Lenina: The popular, perfect ‘barbie doll’. It is as Bernard described her (something among the lines of): “They treated her like meat and she quite liked being treated like it” (this is probably wrong…but it was something among those lines, honestly!). She is somewhat unusual in dating only one person at a time and has strange preferences as she is attracted to Bernard and John. To summarise her – she is the typical loose woman.
Others: There are many more characters like Helmholtz, Linda, the Director, Mustapha Mond and co. The only likeable character I found however was Helmholtz out of the extras. He is open minded and popular, yet still somehow does not fit in because of his curious mind.
Writer’s Technique – 3/5 stars:
The biggest problem I have with Huxley is his style. It is far more suitable for writing academic essays (some of which I have read and are indeed very good) rather than prose. It’s not bad, far from that, but he tends to use (once again, as I have mentioned time and time again) too much specialist vocabulary and a lot of unnecessary description which is of no use to the reader or the story yet is key to world building. It in turn leaves a stain on the actual story and the ideas which it puts forward. The thing I like about Huxley however is that his ideas were pretty well rounded from his influences like Pavlov. His idea of a totalitarian world seemed much more realistic, compared to 1984 for example. I don’t mean realistic as in how suddenly our society also abandons all literature and begins to only use artificial reproduction. What I mean is that the idea of consumerism used to control society can be seen even today, which is why I said Huxley’s dystopia was more realistic.
Overall – 3/5 stars:
This is not quite an eerie dystopia, yet there is still some atmosphere and a sense of discomfort. This is typical of dystopia novels, yet they are usually dark unlike this one. So why does it still give off a strange feeling? Most likely because of how twisted society is presented and the scary thought of how much the future society will change from the one we have now. Despite Brave New World being a peaceful dystopia, the chaos through which John, who can be seen as the patron of the reader, goes through can shock the reader to the very last pages.
This is not a book for the…well not exactly light hearted but…those searching for an easy read? Beware of the complications which await you as this book can be said to be written in code of lexicon which you shall need to decipher so bringing a dictionary may help. I would say that this is a book more for adventurous literature lovers rather than people who want to pass a good time with a book, or perhaps that might be just my opinion.
Well that is that and thank you so much for reading!
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