Friday, November 21, 2014

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.

I have wanted to read Brave New World for several years. I had read books that discussed similar themes: C.S. Lewis's Abolition of Man, George Orwell's 1984, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. So when one of the members of our book club recommended that we read it, I was glad.

In Brave New World Aldous Huxley presents us with a future Utopia "in which humans are processed, conditioned, regimented, and drugged into social conformity." The story is set in a future London and focuses on the "misadventures" of Bernard Marx. Bernard is unhappy with his life in this society, so he takes his girlfriend, Lenina, to visit an Indian Reservation in the American Southwest. The Brave New World allows certain unfit individuals to live in uncivilized societies. This is quite ironic since in the Brave New World does not affirm the sanctity of life. One could say it is a culture of death. It could be related to Walker Percy's Thanatos Syndrome. 

While visiting this Indian reservation Bernard and Lenina comes in contact with John and his mother. In conversations with John finds out that John's mother is from the Brave New World and was accidentally left on this reservation years ago. Bernard and Lenina will bring the "savage" and his mother back with them to the Brave New World. The savage is what the occupants of the Brave New World call John. At the beginning the society is enamored with this savage from the uncivilized world. Later they see that he is a danger to their society and must be exiled with his two friends, Bernard and Helmholtz.

Huxley does a good job of contrasting these two societies through the interaction of John with the Brave New World. Based on what his mother told him this is the greatest world possible. He is greatly excited when Bernard told him that he would take him to this utopian society. The savage is quickly disillusioned by this new world. A particularly strong reaction is the death of his mother which the culture tries to sanitize. The savage is horrified how this society looks at death.

The title, Brave New World, comes from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Shakespeare is a central element of this novel. The works of Shakespeare was one of the few books that John owned. He basically learned to read from it. He reads it like a devout Christian reads his Bible. He notices that the world of Shakespeare and the Brave New World are in open conflict. This is because the worldview of Shakespeare is Christian Humanism. Christian humanism affirms the sanctity of life. The world Shakespeare provides for human flourishing. The Brave New World works against human flourishing. Maybe, Huxley's Brave New World is a warning to our culture if it continues in its current path.

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