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Garrido, Nara

Vogel, Graciela

English 2nd instance

Date: March 5th, 2018

Brave New World: Utopia or Dystopia?

Back in 1931, Aldous Huxley wrote one of his best-known books Brave New World,

widely recognised for being a futuristic and dystopian novel. Based on a consumerist society,

where everything revolves around hedonism, this book is pretty close to our contemporary

reality, in which immediate pleasure is more valuable than family, God and real love.

Happiness is worthier than freedom; casual sex matters more than a steady relationship;

science and technology beat human labour; and everyone adores Ford instead of God since he

created the principles of their lifestyle, the base of consumerism (mass production). On the

other hand, John “the savage” represents the only surviving segment of a real society that has

not gone through the conditioning of the government, and still believes in family and love

values. The author presented his book as a visionary version of the world with regards to the

concerns people had during the 20’s. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a utopic world, in

which the characters seem to live a perfect and happy life, full of pleasure and comfort;

however, it is actually a dystopia, since the real world is one in which the society is

manipulated by a totalitarian government with the help of science and technology.

Utopia is, by definition, “an imaginary perfect world where everyone is happy”

(Longman Dictionary1939). At a first glance, we can think of Brave New World as a utopia

since the author describes every character as a content person who enjoys his lifestyle, lives

in a comfortable place, has a job (and prefers that job to anything else), and is adapted to

every single aspect of this perfect world. Furthermore, none of them gets sick, they never run
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out of money or food, and they never get old. In order to make people happy, the World State

gives citizens exactly what they want. In the first place, people undergo a conditioning

process in which they are prepared to work in only one kind of job and belong to one social

caste. Since they are conditioned, they like and enjoy what they do, and make no complaints

about that. In the following quote, we can notice that they have been conditioned every night

over the years, and they do not know another thing but being happy with who they are. “Yes,

everybody’s happy now,” echoed Lenina. They had heard the words repeated a hundred and

fifty times every night for twelve years (Huxley 62).

In addition, the government’s second way to make its citizens happy is a drug called

soma. It is one of the most important symbols in the story because it is used to disguise the

slavery conditions citizens are categorically living in. If any of the characters are going

through a process of sadness or if any worries appear, they are eliminated with this

marvellous drug. “A gramme in time saves nine (74)” is Lenina’s advice to Bernard when he

is undergoing a bad moment. The government freely gives this drug to the dwellers so as they

always feel happy and quickly forget about their problems since the State does not want its

people to be despondent because depressed people are a bad propaganda for them. On the

contrary, people from the Savage Reservation are not used to drinking soma. They overcome

their problems in the same way ordinary people do in our real world and do not believe a pill

can solve their lives. They are allowed to feel, to love, to suffer and to wonder about the

mysteries of nature. They represent not only the imperfection but also the spiritual and

religious side of human beings.

Another important theme that Huxley points out is promiscuity. Huxley makes the

reader believe that having sex for fun without having a stable relationship in order not to

create an emotional boundary is a way in which the characters take a break from their

everyday duties. Sex in Brave New World is not a form of procreation, it is portrayed as a
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way of relaxing the mind, as an interest pursuing pure pleasure, and therefore, as a way of

making people happy. From a very early age, children are allowed to play erotic games and

they are taught that it is a kind of entertainment. Hence, when they become adults they can

only think of sex as a form of distraction. On the other hand, we have the opposite point of

view on the Savage Reservation, since they have cultivated the feeling of love and the

importance of the family. They perceive promiscuity as inappropriate, and they encourage

their people to marry their beloved, to procreate and to live in monogamy. Moral values are

of paramount importance for the primitive people who live in the Reservation, and therefore

love is respected by all its members.

Although Brave New World seems to be a utopia at first glance, what Huxley

paradoxically wants to illustrate is a dystopia, that is to say, “A futuristic, imagined universe

in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained

through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control (Dystopias:

Definition and Characteristics 1).” Based on this definition, we can state that Brave New

World is a dystopian novel, since the author describes the government as a totalitarian

regime, as a “World State (44)” which controls every single aspect of people’s lives. This

authoritarian government manipulates its citizens from the moment they are conceived, since

they are born in test-tubes inside a laboratory, and not in the bosom of a family. However,

this is not a government that becomes powerful through punishment, but a one who does so

“through propaganda and persuasion (Huxley x)”, making people feel comfortable in the

conditions they live. Similarly, the inhabitants of the Savage Reservation live in a dystopia,

but the one defined by the dictionary as “an imagined place or state in which everything is

unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one (Oxford

Dictionaries).” Malpais is described by Lenina as an “awful [place] (91)”, a place where

living conditions are unpleasant, and probably their environment is, too. They are seen as a
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barbaric, uncivilised society, who live as primitive human beings, and have no luxury at all.

However, they are real and know who they are. They are not oppressed by any government

and are free to think and feel.

In addition, the World State makes use of science and technology in order to control

humanity. Reproduction is rigorously controlled in the fictional world they live in: babies are

born in laboratories by means of the “Bokanovsky’s process (2)”. It is a technique by which

ninety-six babies can be born from only one egg. It symbolises the idea of “progress (2)” that

the government has, since this mechanism has improved the way babies are conceived, and so

it creates “social stability (3)”, which is one of the maxims of the World State. Progress is

also symbolised by Bokanovsky’s process in so much that it is compared with Ford’s

improvement of the assembly line production and the introduction of the mass production,

which meant a substantial progress for the society of the 1920’s. Paradoxically, the characters

from Malpais do not seem to observe any progress in their community and live in austerity.

The idea that technology and science control human lives in Huxley’s Brave New

World society is not so far away from the current world we live in. The society of the

twentieth century in which the author lived was concerned about technology and its impact

on the world. However, that future can be said to be our imminent reality. Scientists

nowadays are concerned about technological advances, not only related to communication or

business, but also about creating life in laboratories, and the consequences of the fast-

developing science is depicted in the dystopian world created by Huxley.

Given these points, it can be seen that Brave New World is not the utopia it seems to

be at first glance. Furthermore, it is a dystopia but a one represented in two different ways:

one is shown in the society controlled by the World State, and the other is portrayed in the

Reservation, which is mainly characterised as being a dreadful place with undesirable living
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conditions. Equally important is the way Huxley illustrates these societies since one of them

is manipulated by the government from the beginning of their lives and given a drug in order

to ameliorate their problems, and the other is set in isolation and treated like uncivilised

people so that the sophisticated ones do not mix up with them. Moreover, the author points

out the difference between both groups of citizens according to how they conceive moral

values, reminding us of our current society, since nowadays we live in a consumerist world

that cares little or nothing about traditional values such as family or love, and pays more

attention to technological and scientifical advances, being those the apprehensions people had

during Huxley’s times.


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Works Cited

“Aldous Huxley.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 17 Feb. 2016,

www.biography.com/people/aldous-huxley-9348198. Accessed 7 Sept. 2017.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Barron's Notes,

www.huxley.net/studyaid/bnwbarron.html. Accessed 6 Sept. 2017.

“Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics.” Readwritethink.org,

www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson926/DefinitionCharacter

istics.pdf. Accessed 5 Sept. 2017.

“Dystopia - definition of dystopia in English | Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries |

English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dystopia.

Accessed 8 Sept. 2017.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Educational ed. Longman Literature. Harlow: Longman,

1991.

Longman dictionary of contemporary English: for advanced learners. Harlow: Pearson

Education Limited, 2009.