Technology has been used negatively in Brave New World to create a future where individuals are incapable of producing or affecting change. Discuss this statement and show HOW Huxley has demonstrated this idea to his readers.
Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” explores the extreme impact of science and technology on an unreal world. The novel fits the science-fiction genre as a dystopia to the reader. Huxley wrote the novel in1932 and presented his thoughts which were influenced by many key events taking place before and during his lifetime. The “Brave New World” portrays a “perfect” society possessing no flaws due to its extremity of control. This was possible with technology. The individuals in this society can neither alter the system of control, nor can they affect it.
Rapid advances in technology have provided the society with this opportunity, which had unfortunately been taken for granted. Huxley has established the negative aspects of the use of technology in this world with the general theme of the novel being difficult for the reader to empathise with. Several contrasts have been provided to compare better themes with the worse which show the obvious difference between good and bad to the reader. There are allusions to sources as well as specific symbols and characters which have been portrayed with meaning. The clever use of these devices assists in developing a negative perception towards technology.
The use of technology has resulted in conformity. The “Brave New World” symbolises a dystopia to its readers, which is a society reflecting the negative aspects of current society in a futuristic time. The political powers breach the freedom of individuals, luring them into a completely controlled life without them realising. This whole world symbolises a test tube which has trapped everyone. People are born or “decanted” in test tubes in a process known as the “Bokanovsky’s Process” which is “one of the major instruments of social stability”, as stated on page 4. “Social stability” is the way in which this society is steady and rigid. Manipulation cannot occur because of it, meaning that people are unable to think and so they blindly conform to the World State system. As technology has strongly impacted the lives of the people, orthodoxy exists.
Individuals are incapable of naturally producing offspring. Due to science’s major advancement, test tubes are the only source of the production of people. This is made evident on page 18 where the Director says “For you must remember that in the days of gross viviparous reproduction, children were always brought up by their parents and not in State Conditioning Centres.”
“Parents” is considered a “smut” word in this society because “viviparous reproduction” does not occur. This juxtaposes to our society which is also technologically innovative but still maintains the natural form of procreating. This emphasises how immense the impact has been of technology, allowing it to break through the barriers of even giving birth naturally. Through this example, Huxley is indicating the deep influence of technology on a range of aspects of natural human instinct.
Another significant product of technology is of drug-controlled happiness. “Soma” is a drug used by almost everyone in the “Brave New World” to conquer any mental difficulties or complications. It requires to be taken in a “gramme” as a tablet to substitute problem-solving. Lenina, a human product of the system of control, says “A gramme in time saves nine” and “A gramme is better than a damn” on page 74. The first example substitutes “stitch” for “soma” as the new lifesaver. This alteration of the proverb symbolises the power of this drug. Individuals do not embrace change because they are happy with the drug abuse of “soma”. This drug is referred to as a powerful substance which has the ability to alter one’s mind with a temporary “soma holiday”. Technology has produced a drug which has been given much praise because of its essential soothing treatment for people’s minds.
History is not referred to by any means. This is so, since there are many flaws and “smut” events which have occurred in history. By exposing these aspects to the modern society, the people would become confused due to the large amount of thought and analysis required in comprehending the former times. Mustapha Mond, the Controller, is aware of this however he is not convinced that it cannot equate with or overrule science and the current methods.
He highlights this when he states that he has a “whole collection of pornographic old books” on page 189. By referring to the books as “pornographic”, he expresses his dislike for the past. Then, he clearly says that he has “God in the safe and Ford on the shelves,” using imperative language to plainly indicate his decision. The use of this direct tone reinforces the power and control that exists in Mond as the Controller. It also depicts how he cannot be easily influenced by anything. As the world is advanced, history is not thought of as a necessary knowledge and so it is abandoned.
With the existence of a different smaller place, the World State can be compared. The Savage Reservation is a place similar to the era of primitive communism when society was not advanced, land was not owned by anyone and food and belongings were shared. It was the time before civilisation. John, a product of this traditional system, serves as a comparison between the World State with its civilisation and advancements, and the Reservation. Juxtaposition is deliberately used to present the differences between the two societies. The characterisation of John mirrors his impending protagonist nature.
The reader can easily empathise with him because of his likeable character and the similar thoughts, such as the questioning of the presence of such an unusual society. When John asks the Controller about why he chose to pay “a fairly high price” for everyone’s artificial happiness, the audience can relate to this due to similar concerns arising. John’s character has also functioned as a catalyst for a different thought pattern for the reader – thus, a change. The character of John plays a major role in the progression of the novel and how he sees the technological advances as negative.
Information in the “Brave New World” is censored before being published. The Controller reads through articles before being distributed to the people. This is shown on page 145 where Mond is having reflective thoughts. He thinks “The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious.” This indicates that he understands the writer and how the ideas presented are like thinking outside of the box. He then writes “but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive.” Then he reflects back on other thoughts such as “It was the sort of idea that might
easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes.” He thinks about history and how articles have had so much power over their readers by influencing them and making them “think”. So if the present society starts to “think” and wonder why everything is happening the way it is, then there would be a dilemma which would encourage protest. This would cause unhappiness, which is completely against what the Controller wants for everyone. Thus, to keep the society stable with the technological advancements, written works need to be amended before being revealed.
In the World State society, religion has been given a substitute. God is no longer mentioned because Henry Ford is the new God. For example, Bernard says to Lenina “Oh, for Ford’s sake, be quiet!” on page 74. Instead of using “God” he uses “Ford” and this is a signal of this significant change. Huxley uses this allusion to Henry Ford because the whole World State is based on his idea of the Mass Production.
Everyone follows this principle and recognises “Ford” as a potential substitute for God. Another replacement for religion, such as of going to church or a place for worship, is of a Solidarity Service which uses the theme of an orgy, shown in Chapter five. The aim of this service was to make everyone feel perfect and peaceful by dancing and being fused into the “Greater Being.” Through the use of this allusion to “Ford” and the replacement of places of worship, the reader can further understand the impact of Mass Production’s technological improvement as a replacement for religion.
Furthermore, literature from the past is forgotten. Shakespeare in particular has been banned as his works reflect strong feelings and emotions of love – which is classed as “smut” in this world. There is a motif regarding his plays by being given allusions to them. Texts such as “Romeo and Juliet”, “Othello”, “King Lear” and “The Tempest” are referred to in subtle ways. John relates to “Romeo and Juliet” many times during the novel because this play is based on many types of relation and love such as friendship, familial love, romantic love, lust, hatred and rivalry. However, these emotions and feelings are not allowed in World State and so Huxley cleverly uses Juxtaposition to draw out the immediate differences between history – which is Shakespeare, and the current society of “Brave New World”.
An example of this is towards the end of Chapter twelve where John is reciting a few lines from “Romeo and Juliet” to Helmholtz Watson. When John tells him about how Juliet was forced to marry Paris by her mother, “Helmholtz broke out in an explosion of uncontrollable guffawing,” because of the smut word “mother” referring to the familial love and the force Juliet is being given by her mother. Helmholtz also is confused about how Juliet should “marry” one man with whom she will spend her entire future. The motif of Shakespeare which juxtaposes its theme with the science of World State encourages the thought of how technology has ceased the natural way of expressing feelings.
The title “Brave New World” comes from a source which is forbidden in the society. Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” gives the origin in Act 5 Scene 1 when Miranda, the daughter of the Duke of Milan, sees different people for the first time after experiencing a shipwreck which forced her and her father to stay on an island.
Apart from her father, Caliban and Ferdinand she is exposed to Gonzalo, Alonso and Sebastian. It is ironic that Huxley chooses to utilise part of Miranda’s lines “Oh wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t!” because technology has completely abolished the use of old literature. The title suggests that if such a great playwright as Shakespeare is banned, then the overall level of intellect present would be very minimal. With the use of irony in the title “Brave New World”, the reader is shown the negative impact of technology which has destroyed the ability to judge and reason with ideas.
The theme of the society is derived from one of Shakespeare’s plays. Once again, “The Tempest” is the source for this allusion. Gonzalo, a nobleman from this play, gives an insight into how he would control his kingdom if he was entitled to one and what rights and freedoms he would give to the people in his dukedom. This is in Act 2 Scene 1 of “The Tempest” where Gonzalo states a few characteristics of his perfect commonwealth. The ideas which relate to “Brave New World” include “Letters should not be known. Riches, poverty … none”, “All men idle, all. And women too”, “No sovereignty” and the existence of “Whores and knaves” due to the lack of marriage taking place.
These ideas mean that people should not be educated, there would not be a gap between the rich and poor because everyone would exist in a communist state, people would be “idle” – meaning that they would not have anything to do, there would be no ownership or ruling and individuals would “have” each other all the time instead of spending their whole life with one person. The effect this creates is that it gives the reader a better idea of what message and theme the writer is aiming to convey. The World State serves as a reality of Gonzalo’s idea because it portrays his ideas through the use of science and shows that his idea would not have been the best, due to the many aspects of a dystopia being exposed. Huxley’s novel alludes to the idea of Gonzalo and manifests it negatively with the developments of technology.
Equality consumes all of society’s ranks. The characterisation of Bernard Marx’s character demonstrates this idea. The novel refers to the time it was written by Huxley. Bernard’s surname “Marx” is derived from Karl Marx who was known as the father of communism because he came up with the concept of communism which is subtly portrayed in “Brave New World” in the new society. There is less discrimination. Bernard is known as a character who occasionally thinks “outside the box” which highlights his uniqueness.
This enables the reader to empathise with him. The reason he is conveyed as an outsider is because there is a rumour that there is “Alcohol in his blood-surrogate” on page 72, which was a mistake that occurred to Bernard whilst he was being decanted. This impacted on his state of mind, his condition and his physical appearance – by having a small, thin body. As the society can be classed as a dystopia, the reader is implied that if Karl Marx’s theory of communism became practical, then it would not have had a good outcome. Bernard’s character provides a link back to the idea of Karl Marx and how equality would not have been the best choice because of the continuous technological improvements.
People are restricted from experiencing the true meaning of life. Huxley offers lessons on what a real life feels like by contrasting a character that is well trained in the State Conditioning Centre to our current society which is well educated. For example, on page 19 a boy called Tommy is asked “do you know which is the longest river in Africa?” He shakes his head. Although he had been told the sentence “The-Nile-is-the-longest-river-in-Africa”, the true meaning of this sentence hadn’t been embedded into his mind and instead the sentence had been fixed into his head and it made no sense to him whatsoever.
Thus, Tommy is symbolism for a complete product of the “Brave New World” and its ineffective education system. Maslow’s Hierarchy of self-actualisation indicates that the World State only fulfils the first category of “Physiological needs” and some of the next category up – which is of “Safety”. The example of Tommy demonstrates that people have the inability to think and make sense of situations. The symbolism of this little boy as a product shows the negative impact that technology has on individuals by restricting their thought process and exposing them as products of control.
The novel “Brave New World” shares many messages about the changing world. At the time it was written, Huxley predicted many themes which are portrayed in the story about science’s negative improvements. This was effectively done through the use of various techniques which contrasted ideas, and references that gave background information to the reader in order to further understand the text. Thus, this made extra sense and contributed to showing the adverse effects of technology that create a dystopian world. As this is the main reason that “Brave New World” is an undesirable civilisation, Huxley urges his readers to comprehend that the world is gradually following the wrong path of life. If they take technology for granted and use it to the extreme, then the current world may be seen as similar to the imaginary, unpleasant world of “Brave New World”.