Brave New World ~ A Capsule Book Review

First Edition Cover

Brave New World ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

Brave New World was written by British writer Aldous Huxley in 1931. It is the influential and highly regarded novel (number five on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best books of the twentieth century) about a utopian earth hundreds of years in the future where all people are created in a laboratory. Viviparous birth (where the mother carries the child and delivers it alive) is passé and vulgar. People are divided into castes: alpha, beta, epsilon, etc. The lower castes are created to be inferior mentally and physically so they will be well suited to performing menial jobs. There is no family and no marriage. Neither are there any moral restrictions on sexual activity—the motto is: “Everybody belongs to everybody else.” The state relies heavily on conditioning and “hypnopaedic” learning (homilies and truisms are delivered to the brain of the learner while he/she is asleep) to make sure everybody is conforming in the way they are supposed to. Those who express subversive thinking or engage in subversive activity are exiled to “an island,” in some cases Iceland. What happens to them on the island can only be imagined because we are never told.

Most diseases have been eradicated, as has any unhappiness or discontent. Nobody is allowed to be alone because solitude breeds unhappiness. If there is ever the slightest trace of depression or sadness in a person, it is made to vanish with the application of a drug called “soma.” There is no God and no religion; old copies of the Bible or religious books are considered pornographic. Henry Ford is the one man who is looked to as a sort of god. The current state of things finds its germination in his methods of mass production and conformity.

One character named Bernard Marx stands out from the others. It is believed that a mistake was made when he was created in the test tube that made him different from the others. (Being different is the one unforgiveable sin in this world.) When he goes on a vacation to New Mexico with his “girlfriend” Lenina (if you’ve seen the Diane Keaton character in Woody Allen’s Sleeper, you know what Lenina is like), he meets a strange young, blond-haired man named John, who lives on an Indian reservation with his alcoholic, bloated mother, Linda. (Linda had been impregnated by a government official and abandoned on the reservation; the result of her impregnation was John.)

Bernard becomes enamored of John (if it’s a sexual attraction, it’s never explored) and takes him and Linda back to London with him. John, who apparently is quite good-looking, is drawn to Lenina, as she is to him. When she makes herself freely available to him sexually, he is shocked and repelled.

John, who is referred to as “the Savage,” finds himself completely at odds in the strange new world in which he finds himself. His “humanness,” his moral code, is bound to get him into trouble. While he was not accepted on the reservation because he wasn’t like the Indians, he finds himself even more ostracized in the civilized world. After a while, he seeks to get away from it all. He is famous by now, though, and people won’t leave him in peace. It does not end well for him, or for his mother.

Brave New World is a highly accessible, not-very-long, twentieth century English classic. It is a “classic” in the truest sense of the word, meaning that it’s the “best of its class.” Its influence can be seen in countless other books and movies. People will still be reading this book for a long time to come.

Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp

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