'Brave New World' Book Review

Brave New World

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In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley constructs a futuristic society based on pleasure without moral repercussions, and within it places a few oddball characters to stir up the plot. With eugenics at its core, this novel hearkens back to Shakespeare's The Tempest, where Miranda says, "O brave new world, that hath such people in it."

Background on Brave New World 

Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932. He was already established as a drama critic and novelist of such books as Crome Yellow (1921), Point Counter Point (1928), and Do What You Will (1929). He also was well-known to many of the other great writers of his day, including the members of the Bloomsbury Group (Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, etc.) and D.H. Lawrence.
Even though Brave New World is now considered a classic, the book was criticized for a weak plot and characterization when it was first published. One review even said, "Nothing can bring it alive." Along with the poor and mediocre reviews, Huxley's book has also become one of the most frequently banned books in literary history. Book banners have cited "negative activities" (undoubtedly referring to the sex and drugs) in the book as reason enough to prevent students from reading the book.

What World Is This?

This Utopian/dystopian future offers the drug soma and other carnal pleasures, while manipulating the people into mind-numbing dependence. Huxley explores the evils of a seemingly satisfied and successful society, because that stability is only derived from the loss of freedom and personal responsibility. None of the people challenge the caste system, believing they all work together for the common good. The god of this society is Ford, if the dehumanization and loss of individuality wasn't enough.

A Controversial Novel

Part of what has made this book so controversial is the very thing that has made it so successful. We want to believe that technology has the power to save us, but Huxley shows the dangers as well.
John claims the "right to be unhappy." Mustapha says it's also "the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what might happen tomorrow..."

By getting rid of all of the most unpleasant things, the society also rid itself of many of the true pleasures in life. There's no real passion. Remembering Shakespeare, Savage/John says: "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them... But you don't do either."

Savage/John thinks of his mother, Linda, and he says: "What you need... is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here."