Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bernard is one of the Alpha Plus caste, yet feels he doesn’t fit. His life in England was proscribed from the time he was decanted. As he grew, he learned the morals and expectations of his society and his station in life. But he doesn’t feel as comfortable with his companions or in his job.
In his world there are no families, no parents or children, no monogamy, no sadness, or need of repairs. Between a stable lifestyle and the joys of the drug Soma, people can always be happy. As a child they learn by sleep rote how they should live, how they should treat members of the others castes, how to be happy. They learn their jobs, learn their lifestyles, and how to survive in a world where individual thought is quashed before it has a chance to grow.
Bernard finally attracts Lenina’s attention, but she doesn’t understand him. He wants time to be alone with her. She needs crowds, people, and the holiday she achieves from Soma use. But he is taking her to the wilds on New Mexico for a vacation. She hasn’t been there so agrees to spend time with him.
They go to a savage Indian reservation while on their vacation. Then a twist occurs. There, among the people who grow old, worship some sort of strange religion, birth babies, repair their clothes and belongings, they meet a woman who had come from England, along with her son, John. She had disappeared twenty years earlier and survived because and despite of the Indians. Bernard and Lenina take the woman and her son John back to their civilized country.
A world where all the members contribute to society and are always happy. Sounds like a perfect world, doesn’t it? But here, in Huxley’s vision, these people are little more than drones. They learn their life lessons in sleep teaching repetitions. They only experience uncomfortable feelings at the “feelie” movies or by occasional choice. Bernard has unusual impulses when he wants to be alone, when he complains about society.
John Savage was raised in a lifestyle like we normally have now, but grew up hearing about the “other world”. To him, civilization is the brave new world Shakespeare describes. When he participates in it, he learns differently.
This is an unnerving novel, showing aspects of life we are moving to. In 1984, countries were constantly at war so that people had to work to replenish war supplies. In this novel, children learn while growing to dispose and purchase new rather than repair or reuse. That is the type of world we are slowly moving to in the United States and other advanced countries. If I have a seam rip out of a shirt, I’ll probably pitch it and buy another rather than repair it. That is the mentality that is prevalent within our society. We seek happiness over pain, ease over hardship. Yet as long as we have stories like this to guide us, perhaps humans as a whole can avoid the problems that lead to this type of society.
This is a short, disturbing, look into a possible future. It was first published in the 1930’s. It’s well done, worth the read.