In 1932, Aldous Huxley published, a riveting novel about a futuristic dystopian society called ‘Brave New World,’ which challenges the future we know today and begs the question over the timeless debate of nature vs nurture.
This society is focused around science and efficiency, although their culture is far different from the one we know today, he posses the idea of control in a contrastingly different perspective, in a world where there isn’t an importance put upon god, relationships, individualism or even our emotions. Afterall, the mere basic interactions we have are based on a complexity of reactions that trigger emotions. Aldous argues that we have become weak by these natural reactions and because of them we have become divided. He portrays this trivial idea of an extreme society in the after effects of war (after WWI and the time before WWII), which makes us beg the underlying question of the century — are we truthfully happy in this world we’ve found ourselves living in?
Happiness (in layman terms) is about feeling good, in which things go well, our needs and desire are easily satisfied and with a lack or stress or worry. In contrast, happiness in ‘Brave New World’ is seen as an artificial reaction that the world state (the government in the new world) is controlling and prescribing to everyone (ie. Soma). If they saw anything that could jeopardize that stability (of artificial happiness), such as personal connections, spirituality, independent thinking, is vilified and culled. (Wilder 2) In other words, the quality of life in ‘Brave New World’ is probably the most controlled or taboo culture contrasting with what we can find within popular literature.
There isn’t an idea of marriage or even the concept of being monogamous, they lack a sense of family as they have all been made and modified by the World State, which as a result they don’t have kids in a natural way (decanting or test tube babies). They even limit what they can read by censoring it and labeling it as pornographic and prohibiting works of classic literature as those within the ‘Brave New World’ wouldn’t understand it as they are not bred to understand it. In this society, emotions and individuality are conditioned out of children at a young age, and there are no lasting relationships because “everyone belongs to every one else” (a common World State dictum).
Huxley begins the novel by thoroughly explaining the scientific and compartmentalized nature of this society, beginning at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where children are created outside the womb and cloned in order to increase the population. The reader is then introduced to the class system of this world, where citizens are sorted as embryos to be of a certain class.
The embryos, which exist within tubes and incubators, are provided with differing amounts of chemicals and hormones in order to condition them into predetermined classes. Embryos destined for the higher classes get chemicals to perfect them both physically and mentally, whereas those of the lower classes are altered to be imperfect in those respects. These classes, in order from highest to lowest, are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon.
The Alphas are bred to be leaders and the Epsilons are bred to be menial labourers. Afterall, we all have our place and in Chapter One, on page one we are introduced to the World State’s motto, “Community, Identity, Stability.” The society undoubtedly aims to work for the good of the community as a whole and places an immense emphasis on stability. The identity piece of the motto is much more intriguing concept. People are cloned and conditioned to fill a certain role in society, they are given an identity. They are educated only on what is important for their predetermined task and their intelligence level is even adjusted. The role of the individual has almost ceased to exist.
In BNW, happiness derives from consuming mass-produced goods, sports; such as, Obstacle Golf and Centrifugal Bumble-puppy, promiscuous sex, “the feelies”, and most famously of all, a supposedly perfect pleasure-drug, ‘soma’. The main solution used to keep everyone happy is soma. If someone is ever feeling even slightly depressed or thinking too deeply about something, he simply takes a soma holiday to forget about everything. When Bernard is talking to Lenina about his thoughts on freedom, she tells him that soma is the answer: “Why you don’t take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly. So jolly” (92)