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Post Industrial Society A Brave New World
Post Industrial Society: A Brave New World?
Aldous Huxley was born on July 26, 1894 in Surrey, England. He was born to a very scholarly family, most notably his grandfather T.H. Huxley, a well-known biologist and foremost advocate for Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Aldous’ upbringing was shaped by many diverse influences, from his brother Julian, a notable biologist, to his mother’s uncle Matthew Arnold, a well-known English poet and literary critic. This mix of disciplines led to Huxley’s eclectic interests, which ranged from anthropology to zoology and from literature to mysticism. These interests eventually drove Huxley into a pursuit of a medical career as a student at Eton. Soon after he chose this as his life profession, however, Huxley was stricken with keratitis, an eye disease, and went nearly blind, forcing him to rethink his goals. Eventually Huxley would return to school at Balliol College at Oxford to study English Literature and Philology. It was at Oxford Huxley met his lifelong friend, D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence would help encourage the freedom of thought and originality that would characterize Huxley’s future works. Though Huxley took quickly to his studies of literature he always regreted that he could not pursue his dream to be a doctor, and took great interest in the sciences in his spare time. Huxley would later consider his near loss of sight as the best thing that ever happened to him, teaching him the importance of the mundane aspects of life, most notably personal freedoms. It was in this state of forced isolation and restriction due to his near blindness that Huxley was most stimulated to think critically of his surroundings and the everyday actions of normal people. Huxley’s blindness excused him from military service in World War I, though he was very much subject to the emotional effects of the war on
England. In 1919 Huxley married Maria Nys, a Belgian refugee, and fathered a child, Matthew. Maria would prove to be an invaluable asset to Huxley, typing all of his manuscripts and correspondence. Maria would die in 1955 and Huxley would marry Laurel Archera, a leading concert violinist of the time.
Soon after his first marriage, Huxley began his professional writing career, first with essays and critiques, then with his first collection of poems, Limbo (1920), and his first novel, Crome Yellow (1921). In all, Huxley would go on to author a vast number of novels, essays, poems, short stories, articles, reviews, forwards, introductions, and prefaces ranging in subject from Hinduism (Bhagavad-Gita, the Story of God), to birth control (Birth Control and Catholic Doctrine), to Braille (Studies in Hand-Reading), to art (The Complete Etchings of Goya). These topics show not only the wide range of Huxley’s ideas and interests, but also the concerns he felt compelled to comment on. Throughout Huxley’s life he was obsessed with the need to communicate his ideas and convictions. On November 22, 1963 Huxley died, hours before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Huxley’s most read and discussed novel, Brave New World (1932), is very typical of his work, expressing bluntly the concerns and beliefs of its author. Huxley greatly feared the loss of individualism in society at the end of World War I due to a variety of political movements such as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the dictatorship of Mussolini in Italy, and the Nazi Party in Germany. These movements spawned such political forces as Communism, Fascism, and Socialism, each of which
demand an allegiance to the State above the individual and total allegiance to the doctrines of the regime. Also, with the rise in power of capitalism in America, Huxley saw an enemy of originality and work ethic that threatened the identity of the individual. This rise took place in the form of the Industrial Revolution, where mass production became essential to increased profits. With mass production came corporations, which Huxley believed destroy personal identity by viewing individuals as mere consumers and producers, or simply part of the machine of capitalism. Taking this further, Huxley believes that people then become comfortable as a simple statistic to industry, and lose their sense of responsibility, respect, and inevitably, their very humanity. Brave New World is Huxley’s call to arms against all these horrors of his contemporary world.
In the novel, society has “progressed” past death, poverty, disease, old age, pain, fear, hunger, and suffering. The horrible truth, however, is that this state has been accomplished at a much greater cost than the result merits. A single World State governs and controls the entire world’s populace. People are no longer conceived but almost manufactured in groups of up to 95 identical humans from a single female egg. Specified men are allowed to donate sperm which will be chemically conditioned then injected into a specified female egg to create the desired characteristics in the offspring. Even after birth, these humans are conditioned for a full 8 years to think, believe, and act exactly the way the government dictates. They are split into castes consisting of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The Epsilon class is mass-produced and made to be unintelligent “sub-humans” that are conditioned to be happy to perform medial tasks for
their lifetime without question. At the other end of the spectrum, Alphas are individually produced to occupy leadership roles and conditioned with the intelligence and lack of emotion to lead efficiently. Different mixtures of intelligence and other skills are given to each of the other castes in order to provide them with a set place in society. High classes fear the manual work of lower castes while lower castes fear the complexity of higher castes, maintaining balance by eliminating any desire for social mobility. Orders are put in daily for certain numbers of each caste and skill to precisely fill the needs of the World State. Each response of all individuals in every situation is dictated by the government through the conditioning process. Genuine fulfillment through the pursuit of truth and beauty has been replaced by mindless contentment. The World State has banned religion and the Bible as these things promote God and heaven, illogical ideals that would instill fear of the future into the citizens. In the place of God, the people worship Ford, a clear representation of Henry Ford who pioneered the Industrial Revolution with his assembly line. Ford’s autobiography of sayings related to the virtues of work is the secular “bible” of the world. Men and Women are kept in optimal physical and emotional shape until the age of 60 when they are promptly killed. People are conditioned to view this as a simple process of the functioning World State. Like a broken piece of machinery, they simply don’t function anymore and thus must cease to exist in order to promote order and functionality. Huxley presents a clear view of how man is now a slave to technology, and uses his characters to show how this progressed from our present day society.
Huxley has often been criticized for having very unsophisticated characters in Brave New World. I believe, however, that it is the genius of creating shallow, easy to understand characters that illustrates his point perfectly. Beginning with Lenina Crowe and moving backwards to John the Savage, Huxley illustrates how the World State formed natuarally from the situation beginning in the world of 1923.
Lenina Crowe is an allusion to Nikolai Lenin, who played a key role in the formation of the USSR and the growth of communism. It is thus fitting that her character would represent the average citizen in the World State, which seems to embrace many of the ideals of communism. Lenina holds a job at the Predestination Center where she helps condition embryos and children for their future roles in society. She is a very young and desirable woman. She embraces the speed, productivity, and functionality of her world, as she is conditioned to do
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