Reading Brave New World

Brave New World cover, Bantam, 26th printing

Brave New World, for those who don’t know, is a highly regarded work of science fiction written in the early 1930’s. It portrays a Utopian ( dystopian ) future world where efficiency and progress are paramount. Here is a short synopsis of the future world; The most efficient number of upper, middle and lower class workers is controlled by a complex artificial reproduction process. People are intentionally made mentally handicapped and afraid of things to suit their occupation. This is done through malnutrition and mental conditioning in child development. People’s place in the workforce is the sole reason their creation. Workers are kept happy through constant social and sexual activity as well as escapism through a drug ( named ‘soma’ ) with no adverse affects.

The major forces at play in the book are progress, efficiency, and happiness against mysticism, faith and the arts. Huxley is revealed in the pages to be a man very interested scientific and social progress, though his knowledge and love of the arts ( primarily Shakespeare, from whom the work draws its title ) are obviously just as valuable to him.

My main takeaway from the book is the raised leeriness of that which I was conditioned throughout my youth to accept as virtue and success. Also the dangers of escapism and encouragement to go against the progress for progress sake mentality portrayed in the book as well as present in modern culture, and to continue to focus my efforts on literature and the arts. The book is a short read, a bit preceded by its own influence eighty years after its printing, but none the less an essential to any scholars library. It directly raises awareness to modern culture’s tendency to obscure the philosophers goal of intensifying and refining human consciousness.

A little trivia about Huxley, he succumbed to cancer same day as United States President Kennedy was assassinated ( November 22nd 1963 ). He became involved with mescaline and LSD later in his life and believed in their potential to clear the interference of human perception. His last request was for his wife to dose him heavily with LSD.

While writing the bulk of this post I followed the Wikipedia page on Brave New World down the rabbit hole and found Huxley to be an extremely intelligent man, warranting a post dedicated to his nonfiction.