Aldous Huxley wrote one of his most famous novels “Brave New World” in 1932 which contains universal themes of the danger of a society, depriving humans of positive human qualities due to excessive usage of technology, freedom and individuality, the danger of despotism and the role of science in progress of society.
The novel “Brave New World” takes us to a world that belongs to the future where we see humans are genetically engineered in labs. They are forced to fit into strict social classes. The story follows Bernard Marx. He feels like an outsider. The second most important character is John a “s a v a g e” from outside civilization. Bernard brings John to civilization and they both become objects of interest.
John finds it hard to adjust to the new world. He feels that the society in which he lives lacks real emotions. Bernard becomes popular but he realizes that society’s obsession with conformity and pleasure comes at the expense of individuality and humanity.
In the end, John fails to resist society’s conditioning and chooses to end his own life. The novel concludes with the idea that society’s pursuit of pleasure and conformity leads to sacrificing which differentiates humans from machines.
Table of contents
Themes of “Brave New World”
The society that the author presents in the novel is obsessed with pleasure which is a grave danger to society. The writer sketches a society where people are encouraged to indulge in useless entertainment, consume drugs and engage in casual sex. It is the reason they do not grow emotionally and intellectually which gives them attributes of machines.
The writer questions the effects of technology on humans. The excessive usage of technology deprives them of their positive human qualities. The use of technology can be observed at such an excessive rate that humans are genetically engineered in labs instead of natural birth. The example of test tube babies is worth mentioning in this regard. This has resulted in a loss of individuality and relationship in human life. Thus, people are treated more like machines than individuals.
The writer also portrays the importance of freedom and individuality as one of the major themes in his novel “Brave New World”. The readers do not find any creativity in humans. They are supposed to behave and think in a certain way. It is the way of thinking that best suits machines. However, when humans are forced to do so, it does not leave any room for creativity or independent thought. Thus the society that the novelist presents in this novel values conformity over individuality.
The government is powerful and oppressive. So much that it controls the population through propaganda, censorship and the use of force. There is no freedom for people in the society. Hence the novel is warning against the dangers of a society as it is lacking freedom and individuality day by day.
The role of science and technology in society is also a raising question in this novel. It suggests that in case scientific progress is left unchecked, it can have negative consequences. Furthermore, it also moralises that the implications of scientific advancements should be essential to consider at the ethical level.
In short, the novel “Brave New World” illustrates the themes of the use of technology and the dangers of a society that values pleasure, conformity, and technological progress over individuality, freedom, and ethics. The novel compels the readers to think critically about the society we live in today and the future we want to create.
Let’s discuss these themes one by one in detail.
Obsession with Pleasure
The novelist tells the story of a society that is obsessed with pleasure. Life is a mixture of good and bad as well as joy and sadness. However, the writer shows that people always seek happiness and pleasure in life. The novel shows how dangerous this kind of society can be in various ways. Here are some examples from the novel that proves the obsession with pleasure is one of the prominent themes of the novel.
- People use “soma” which is a kind of drug in order to escape reality. In other words, they want to feel happy no matter how much worse the situation is.
- People do not have any attachment to their sexual partners even though they have multiple partners. It is a kind of entertainment for people which is useless.
- Society prefers material possessions and shallow entertainment like sports and popular music above all else.
- People are subjected to suppress their emotions. As a result, it makes it difficult to form genuine connections with others.
The novel warns the readers that a society that only values pleasure and happiness is not only inhuman but also dangerous.
The second important theme in “Brave New World” is dehumanisation. The novel demonstrates how the implementation of new technology can make people feel less human. In the novel, science and technology have advanced so much that humans are created in labs. None of the humans has unique attributes and each human is all the same. There are many examples of this in the story.
- The people in charge can control everything about humans. Even they are able to control their intelligence and physical abilities. It is because humans are engineered instead of naturally born.
- The citizens of the World State are taught to accept their society’s values and norms from a young age through sleep teaching. This makes sure they will follow the rules and not question the way things are.
- The authority uses technology to watch and control the behaviour of individuals. People wear “scent organs” that release pheromones to make them feel a certain way. The government also tracks where they go and what they do to make sure they follow the rules.
- It is not wrong to say that there is no humanity in the society. Humans are products that are not only manufactured but also used in a systematic way. Thus, people do not mourn deaths.
The novel shows that technology can make people feel less human. Everyone is the same and individuality is nowhere valued, hence, people lose what makes them unique. This can be dangerous for society, and it’s important to value individuality and humanity.
Freedom and Individuality
The third theme in “Brave New World” is about how important it is to be free. But none of the people has his own unique identity. In the story, the characters struggle to find their place in the society. Here are some examples from the novel.
- Bernard is a smart person who feels left out in society because he is physically smaller than others in his group. He is tired of being treated like everyone else and wants to be seen as an individual. He does not want to live a life being just part of his group.
- Similarly, John sees every aspect of society in a negative way as he is raised outside of the World State He does not consider society a good place to reside. He is of the view that society lacks spirituality, freedom and individuality.
- The writer puts Mond and Helmholtz in juxtaposition with each other. However, both of them want individuality. Mustapha Mond is a powerful figure who secretly wants a more meaningful life. Helmholtz Watson is good at writing propaganda but feels unfulfilled in his role.
- In the end, John cannot continue the struggle of fitting into society and takes his own life. This shows the importance of individuality and a useless life without it.
In a nutshell, individuality is one of the most discussed themes of the novel “Brave New World”. The novelist suggests that being an individual and having the freedom to make choices is very important. Life can be empty and unfulfilling without having the ability to have values and make decisions.
The conflict between an Individual’s Desires and the Expectations of Society
Society expects obedience to laws and rules from individuals but the individuals want to make their own choices. It creates a conflict between society’s expectations and the actions of individuals. Each character in the book struggles to balance his personal desires with the demands of society. Characters struggle with their attraction to others or their duty to the state. This is shown in different ways throughout the novel.
- The book also explores the tension between personal identity and social identity. People are assigned a social identity based on their genetics and upbringing in the World State. This creates a conflict between personal identity and social identity. Characters like Bernard and John are worth mentioning in this regard. They try to assert their individuality in a society that values conformity.
- The novel also shows the struggle between emotion and reason. The World State is built on principles of reason and efficiency. Nevertheless, the characters often find themselves driven by emotional impulses. This creates tension between the society’s values and the characters’ own desires.
- There is also an exploration of the struggle for power and control in the novel. Characters fight for control over their own lives or over others.
Thus, the conflict between the individual and society is there in the novel. It is a fundamental part of being human. It is important to find a balance between individuality and societal values.
Devaluation of Arts and Literature
Art and literature are nowhere valued in the society that the novelist paints in the novel as the society always values efficiency and conformity. The characters in the novel are shown to have no or very little interest in art or literature. Interest in art is given no importance at all. It is considered a useless activity. There are many examples from the novel “Brave New World” that prove this theme.
- People in the World State are taught to value efficiency and conformity over creativity and individual expression. This leads to a devaluation of art and literature.
- People seek pleasure through drugs, sex and entertainment instead of contemplating art and literature in the World State. It promotes the idea that art is not important at all.
- The State does propaganda to control the behaviour of individuals. Thus, art and literature are replaced. Art no more is a way of shaping people’s thoughts and emotions.
- The World State values conformity and uniformity over individual expression. It further reduces the importance of art and literature. Society rejects characters who value individuality and creativity.
The novelist gives a moral lesson that a society that does not value art and literature is spiritually impoverished. People cannot reflect on their experiences or connect with others on a deeper level without the ability to engage with art and literature. In this way, arts and literature and their devaluation are major themes of the novel “Brave New World”.