“You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mid to suffer the sling and arrow of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the sling and arrows. It’s too easy.”
Brave New World by A. Huxley 7/10
This was not the book I expected it to be.
I thought this would be so much more like Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 where even though the issues raised were complex and difficult the regime the book held up was obviously the worst option. ‘Brave New World’ does not exactly do that.
Let’s backtrack a little. The book opens with probably my least favourite bit, several pages of enthusiastic but uninteresting pseudo-science through the eyes of a group of students touring one of the centres. Slowly, woven in with the strange tour, we begin to see a purpose to it all. The idea of ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines. Then we meet Henry Foster, Bernard Marx and Lenina. Eventually we meet John, who is fundamentally the main character.
Let’s talk about Lenina for a second because I feel like she didn’t get enough attention in the book itself. At the beginning of the story we see that she is not as strongly conditioned as her peers though she tries to hide it from them and from herself. She questions the enforced sexuality of her society, but tries to hide that she is more comfortable with just one man, even though she knew he did not feel the same way. She’s drawn to Bernard, probably because she knows that he sees the things she is trying not to see, but Bernard is so wrapped up in himself, his own self-pity and his sexual desire for Lenina. He is willing to have sex with her but not to really try to help her see. He sees himself as superior to her.
Even John, while he sees all the fails and evils of the child-like, perverse “civilisation” he knows that Lenina is different from the other women and yet he gives her no allowances and does noting to help her. Instead he attacks her, terrifies her and then abandons her. His violent reaction to her screaming “whore!” and “impudent strumpet!” is as frightening to the reading nearly as it is to Lenina. His self-loathing and ultimate suicide add some doubt into the merits of his perspective.
Unlike Fahrenheit 451’s Montag, John is not a hero and can hardly be sad to show the correct reaction. Brave New World presents two worlds, the “savages” and “civilisation” and then leave John in the middle as they collide. However the book does not presume to answer all the questions that arise. In fact I believe John’s ambiguous behaviour and suicide is meant to leave the reader asking themselves the difficult questions.
The books was banned many places on the grounds of everything from socialism to sexual deviancy. The book does rely on a sexual under-current for much of its movement and message. The idea of casual sex as a social norm and consumerism reducing people to children were controversial ones when it was released and continue to be so now.
I’m not sure I have a conclusion to this review. I’m not sure that I’ve made my own mind up yet. So I will take a cue from Huxley himself and leave it in your minds to be considered.