I find the hedonism of this novel quite uncomfortable; I suppose absolute lack of inhibition has its dangers. The people of this so-called brave new world are living the Eden paradise ideal; they feel no shame about their bodies and indulge on its needs and desires. It’s called “recreational sex” which has already become an integral part of their society. According to the World State that is the governing power over the masses, sex is a social activity, rather than a means of reproduction. But there’s something very clinical about it too; even injecting drugs into their system to derive pleasure is ironically practical for them. Sexual relations are held to the most extreme level. Everyone belongs to everyone, as they say. But the book also depicts caste systems where embryos are ‘harvested’ in capsules and labeled from Alpha to Gamma. The very concept of family is cast aside because biological dependence is perceived as a hindrance to evolution. Intimacy is reduced into mere polygamous associations and that is the most terrifying theme of this book as far as I’m concerned, as well as how they don’t encourage individuality at all. In Brave New World, human societies reached ‘utopia’ by discarding the self completely and stressing the importance of systems and communities. The characters view any kind of emotional vulnerability as a glitch in their systems and must therefore be purged out.
However, there are still societies who were untouched by this project and they live in an area called a Savage Reservation. The way this place was portrayed is the same as our world (with families living together) which the New World finds disgusting and barbaric. We are introduced to the character John and his mother Linda and their tale follows the liberation and hardships of being considered ‘uncivilized’. John falls in love with Lenina, who was Beta-born, and she shares the attraction; but theirs is a thwarted love affair because they have different values and cultural perceptions. My favorite part of this book is the really poignant moment in the novel when Lenina offers herself for sex because it feels natural for her to do because that’s how they do things in the New World but John rejects her because he still holds obsolete traditional values of courtship and marriage. They feel love differently because of their respective social conditioning and the glaring differences in their humanity made them unable to emotionally connect.
Another character I adored is Bernard, an Alpha-bred who was too short in height for his DNA so he becomes quite a misfit among his other chromosome-sufficient brothers and sisters, and his journey to individual uniqueness is quite touching take on the importance of being original. I also like his best friend Helmholtz Watson. He is an ‘emotional engineer’; a starving artist whose creativity is trying to break out of its cage, eager to express art that defies his conditioned state. All these characters consider themselves free to make their own choices because the New World has shattered all conventions and taboos and yet its version of humanity loses that beautiful spark that make us strive and thrive for love and acceptance, and has become rather a copycat, cloned versions of everyone else.
As much as there is a comedic approach to this, the underlying sadness seeps through anyway. It brilliantly evoked primitive fears and they certainly haunted me for days. Christian Bale’s movie Equilibrium was also loosely based on this book.
Huxley has written an incredibly horrific novel with poignant sensibility. He captured what human beings fear and desire the most—and how they could be the same things all along.