Brave New World

“Brave New World” is written by Aldous Huxley. It is a futuristic novel where everyone is under the control of the World State except for the malcontent and the Savages. The plot follows several characters but it is mainly a description of the world that they live in. The descriptions that Mr. Huxley uses confounds me sometimes. On the first page there is this one:

“Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory.”

What did this mean? It took me three read-overs to figure out that the room looked lifeless and cold even though it was summer outside and the temperature inside the room was hot. Part of my incomprehension may be the fact that this was written in the last century when maybe even my grandparents weren’t born yet or were little babies. It was the same when I read the Jane Austen novels and Jane Eyre. Some words and phrases were unknown to me or were hard to understand unless I took the time to think about it.

Then there was chapter III. It alternated between different viewpoints and ended up separating the different dialogues from different conversations as well as the descriptions. It was confusing to read. I had to go back several times to make sure I had the correct thread. Come to think about it, it is almost like a conversation on instant chat- like the one I had on WhatsApp with my brother and sister. We ended up having two or three conversations simultaneously because you would answer one question and have another thought but the other person would answer to the previous reply and then continue with a response to the other thought.

Anyway, Aldous Huxley was a British author so the main story takes place in London which is still called London. In fact, many of the wards and boroughs are still referred to the same names as they have now (or as they had then). The landscape is different, though.

The Society of the World State is segregated very strictly using the letters of the Greek alphabet. I won’t list them here because I don’t know the order but it starts from Alpha and there are six or seven levels. It seemed like that in the novel. Anyway, naturally all the Alphas presented are white but in the lower level, whites, blacks and Asians were presented (deformed of course). The lower levels consists of the manual labourers. It is the job of the higher castes to keep them in line. There is hardly any violence. The world is kept in line through chemicals and subliminal learning. Class consciousness is ingrained in them very early but all strong emotions are balanced by activities and chemicals.

I think this is a horrible world. The one Savage presented in the novel with a name was actually an offspring from the ‘civilised’ world. So he was really a half-breed. He grew part of both worlds so he didn’t really fit in either. So his ending was really sad. He just ran away from it all. There was nowhere for him to go. At least he wasn’t allowed to go. So he left.

The conversation he had with the World Controller was interesting, though. I will not reproduce it here. Copyright probably won’t allow me. It was in chapter XVII. I will reproduce two quotes that the World Controller starts off with, the first is by Cardinal Newman and the second is by Maine de Biran, I think.

We are not our own any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves, we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We are not our own masters. We are God’s property. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter? Is it any happiness, or any comfort, to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way- to depend on no one- to have to think of nothing out of sight, to be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgement, continual prayer, continual reference of what they do to the will of another.But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man- that it is an unnatural state- will do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end…”

“A man grows old; he feels in himself that radical sense of weakness, of listlessness, of discomfort, which accompanies the advantage of age; and, feeling thus, imagines himself merely sick, lulling his fears with the notion that this distressing condition is due to some particular cause, from which, as from an illness, he hopes to recover. Vain imaginings! That sickness is old age; and a horrible disease it is. They say that it is fear of death and of what comes after death that makes men turn to religion as they advance in years. But my own experience has given me the conviction that, quite apart from any such terrors or imaginings, the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave to the world of sensations its life and charm has begun to leak away from us, now that phenomenal existence is no more bolstered up by impressions from within or from without, we feel the need to lean on something that abides, something that will never play us false- a reality, an absolute and everlasting truth. Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.”

The conversation between the Savage and the World Controller afterwards was to argue the point, “we have managed to produce artificially what these men talked about, why do we need God?” The Savage put forth the point that humans need to live with both ups and downs; the WCon , that humans need only stability. In the end, they both stuck to their own viewpoints.



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