Huxley's Brave New World: A Study of Dehumanization

Imagine living in a world without mothers and fathers, a place full of faceless human clones. This is the society portrayed in Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel entitled Brave New World. Huxley describes a futuristic society that has an alarming effect of dehumanization. This occurs through the absence of spirituality and family, the obsession with physical pleasure, and the misuse of technology. In this world, each person is raised in a test tube rather than a mother's womb, and the government controls every stage of their development, from embryo to maturity. Each new human is placed into a certain class, such as Alpha, Beta, and so on. The embryos are manipulated chemically to stimulate or to retard their physical and mental growth. By repeating phrases over and over while the children sleep, the government can condition each person to accept his role in the world around him and to behave in what the government deems to be a "safe" manner. This creates a society full of human clones, completely devoid of personality. Every person is conditioned to love three things: Henry Ford, their idol; soma, a wonder drug; and sex.

In Huxley's book, he portrays several unique characters who struggle with the society. Bernard Marx is a deformed upper class Alpha who constantly struggles with his own shortcomings. A young woman named Lenina Crowne becomes romantically involved with Bernard, and they both travel to a Savage Reservation, one of the last places on earth where people are allowed to live without the modern amenities such as soma, birth control, and helicopters. Bernard and Lenina meet a young boy and his mother Linda, originally from the civilized world. Linda had become pregnant many years ago, which was an illegal and incredibly disgraceful offense, became lost on a trip to the Reservation, and had to remain there. Both savages are brought back to the New World, and the young boy named John, known as the Savage, becomes quite a celebrity. But the differences between the two worlds tear at the young man's soul as his values and morals clash with those of the new society. Following the death of his mother, he eventually isolates himself from everyone. Sight seekers still pester him in his hideout and drive him to commit suicide in the end.

One of the things that makes the society in Brave New World so different from ours is the lack of spirituality. The pleasure-seeking society pursues no spiritual experiences or joys, preferring carnal ones. The lack of a religion that seeks a true transcendental understanding helps ensure that the masses of people, upper and lower classes, have no reason to rebel. What religious ritual they have begins as an attempt to reach a higher level of understanding as a community but quickly turns into a chance to please the carnal nature of man through orgiastic ritual. This denies the human soul, which is usually searching for a pleasure not experienced in the flesh but in the mind, and preserves the society based on happiness which they have established.

The novel addresses the importance of family values and the family structure as an integral part of our society. A new way to be born and raised has done away with the family and brought in a dehumanizing strict class structure and psychological messages to replace it. There are five rigid classes in this world, each with its own characteristics ranging from jobs to clothing to intelligence level. These classes are enforced from birth through experience and suggestion. A dislike of roses and books, for example, is enforced through electric shock while the children are still babies. The knowledge of the different classes in the world and why it is best to be in the class you are in is implanted in the child's mind through hypnopaedia, a series of hypnotic suggestions played while the child is asleep. Through the suggestions that make up the childhood of the adults in this society, the adults are "raised" by the leaders of the State to think and act as they are told. Rather than individual parents instilling their own values into their children, the State chooses how and what each child will learn. The parental relationship of a father and mother to a child has become a dirty and improper idea. Feelings have become obsolete. It is this lack of family that helps keep the different classes in their place. They are conditioned to think and act only as a member of their class, rather than as an individual. Things that create problems in society's class structure, such as the desire of parents to want something better for their children, or people striving for something better for themselves, have been eliminated with the family.

Brave New World takes a look at human obsessions with pleasure. In the society in the book, there are several quick and easy ways of feeling good. First of all, there is soma, a readily available drug used to escape from reality for a few hours or a few days. The "feelies" are a common form of entertainment. The audience sees, hears, smells, and feels a sort of action-adventure adult movie. Casual sex is a third popular way to spend spare time. Since "everybody belongs to everyone else," commitment is a non-issue.

The novel deals also with the effects of advances in science and technology on human society. Technology is a crucial requirement in order for the society of Brave New World to form. One might consider whether Huxley argues that science and technology are inherently evil. In fact, he does not. The World Controller states that science is dangerous to the society, since it can destroy stability (231). Since Huxley portrays that society negatively, science and technology are therefore put in a positive light. However, Huxley gives examples of how the problems raised by new technology can be solved poorly. When mass production becomes simple, the Brave New World society allows production to increase and requires that consumption increase, a solution that seems flawed by current American standards. Huxley provides a strong warning against the misuse of science. Through factories that produce children, drugs that evoke pleasure, and conditioning that replaces families, technology becomes a dehumanizing force.

Work Cited
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperPerennial, 1946.