Dystopian fiction, with its bleak outlook on the world, is often subject to challenges. In Brave New World Aldous Huxley explores how the advancement of science could affect civilization. In the London of 2540 the individual exists for the state rather than the other way around. Natural reproduction has been abandoned and children are born in hatcheries and predetermined to live their lives in a particular caste for the good of the state. Citizen’s value consumption above all else. Production and consumption lead to universal employment. There are no family ties and sex is for recreation only. Even sleep is not natural. Soma is used for sleep, vacations and dreams. It is in this world that John is born naturally to a woman living outside the state. He is not conditioned to live in one of the pre-determined classes and wishes to see this new world. John’s honest and unadulterated passions make him a curiosity for sightseers. John and the citizens are drawn into each other’s world with devastating consequences.
Why has this book been challenged? The language and sexual content (and there was a lot of casual sex) have been considered inappropriate for teenage readers. Some consider it to be anti-family and anti-religion and generally espousing a negative view of life. However, it seems to me that Huxley was offering a warning, albeit a nightmarish one, about what could happen to society if our greed and consumption is taken to an extreme.
If you enjoyed the thought-provoking uncomfortable ideas in Brave New World, you might also enjoy these classic novels.
1984 by George Orwell – “Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101…” publisher
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – “Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning … along with the houses in which they were hidden. Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames… never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think… and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!” publisher