Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1932 – just a century ago, but the plot takes place in 2541. However, the picture he painted of the far future (or at least some of its details), doesn’t seem so distant from today’s world. Some of Huxley’s inventions may have been inspired by fears of a world revolution, but the modern reader isn’t likely to be scared. As a matter of fact, his imagination is very relevant to our reality. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What if, God forbid, our latent desires were fulfilled? What, Where & When
So, the action takes place in London, 2541. London, however, is no longer the capital of Great Britain, it’s part of a single world state on earth, and the world state’s motto is “Community, Identity, Stability.”
The new state has a new religion, which is based on consumption. Just as our era is counted from the birth of Christ, the new world’s era – called the AF era – is counted from the release of the Ford Model T. Henry Ford is revered as a demigod, worshiped by the new man. The “T” replaces the symbol of the cross of Christianity.
Huxley, it seems, sincerely saw in Ford a certain personification of evil. He chose the conveyor belt and mass production as the basis of universal “happiness” – a cult of consumption, pragmatism as a way of life, lack of spirituality, standardization, and so on.
Do You Know What ‘Bokanovskification’ is?
Bokanovskification is reproduction – or rather, the production of people, “budding”, if we wish to use the terms of Bokanovsky’s Process. In Huxley’s new world, for the most part, children are not born to a dad and a mom, in fact, these words are perceived as curse words. Children are grown in flasks in hatcheries. Huxley’s Bokanosky Process takes human cloning to a new level: people are no longer one of a kind, but a serial. Up to 96 identical clones are made per batch, and even those who are not grown together are of the same type. Already at the embryo stage, individuals are sorted into five castes: from the most gifted (Alpha) to the most worthless (Epsilon). Everything is planned and completely regulated. This way, there can be no shortage of “workers” or overproduction of “leaders” and “geniuses.” Oh, the triumph of reason!
What is Universal, Absolute Happiness?
Unlike the picture described by Orwell in 1984 where people are subjected to torture and humiliation, and forced self-denial and deprivation are elevated to a virtue, Huxley guaranteed the World State’s citizens absolute happiness. It turns out that this is achievable through a systematic, rationalistic approach.
Firstly, desires and preferences are programmed during the embryo stage of bokanovskification. A person can’t want what isn’t allowed or impossible! There are no deep personal ties – no fear of losing a loved one. Therefore, there is no reason to be unhappy, and the absence of unhappiness is happiness.
Secondly, there is no shortage of gratification. You can have and do anything you want. Want to sleep with anyone and everyone? Go ahead. And what about family and responsibility? They’re unnecessary. What more could one ask for?
And finally, thirdly, what is happiness if not a chemical process involving certain hormones? Therefore, it is quite achievable with the help of a drug. But with drugs comes the option of addiction. In the pursuit of happiness, some can overdo it. But on the other hand, they don’t live to old age, die from an overdose while young, beautiful, and, most importantly, happy. Is that so bad?
A Fly in the Ointment
What if there is a rebel who, contrary to common sense, wants to be unhappy – but in his own way, like no one else? What if a woman decides to have only one lover? What if it turns out that someone is dear to someone else?
Here we come to the novel’s plot. But allow me to stop here: let’s not turn a review into a spoiler!