Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Though this is a classic dystopian novel, the world it portrays is still strikingly original, even though it was first published in 1932. There is an oppressive, totalitarian regime ruling the world, here they are ruling it by creating a hedonistic society where everyone’s sexual and pleasurable desires are fulfilled. This is also the ultimate classist society, here people are genetically engineered for the class they will live out their lives in.
Even now this is still a very original dystopia. Huxley created a world that is shockingly class riddled, people are born via huge vitro factories where foetuses are manipulated to be one of five rigid classes. The alphas are at the top, the most intelligent and the tallest, and the epsilons are at the bottom being the basic manual labourers with the lowest IQ and shortest stature. No one questions this society because everyone is kept “happy” with legally available mind-altering drugs and the requirement to be sexually promiscuous, even the simplest signs of monogamy are frowned on.
This novel isn’t about the downfall of this society, as many lesser dystopian novels are, but how a few characters fall foul of it and what happens to them.
Huxley vividly creates his world, leading the reader through many of the different institutions that are the pillars of this society; the novel opens with a vivid description of a vitro factory. Unfortunately his characters are not as striking or as well drawn as these institutions. This is a very male-dominated world and some of them feel interchangeable. There are only two real female characters, one is the object of everyone’s desire, all the male characters want to sleep with her, and the other is a sad and old woman, her body allowed to age naturally and therefore she is now “ugly”.
The style of this novel is very detached and unemotional, so often scenes are described in a cold and dispassionate tone. The most intimate the novel gets is when Lenina is confronted by a woman who has aged normally and she is repulsed by her and when John, the savage, sits by his mother’s bed as she dies in a drug-induced coma. These are also the most memorable scenes of the novel, where Huxley gets under the skin of his characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel does not reach this same level of intimacy. I have found this is the style of other novels from the same time, but I still found it distracting, so unemotional, so detached from its characters.
There are some language and scenes here that could make a modern reader uncomfortable but this is still a very interesting and original dystopian novel, especially remembering it was first published in 1932.
Edited by Drew Payne
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