Aldous Huxley offers an appalling vision of conditioning through pleasure and distraction in Brave New World. The ready view of controlling the civilized world through the state is achieved through conditioning things like art, science, religion, history, old age, family, individualism, solitude, or meaning to serve the will of the industrial complex are the cachet that Brave New World deals in.
As far as my review of the novel goes, the novel has really good and really hard going concerning the narrative itself. The first third of the book provided the basic devalued, conveyor belt morality. The notion of the Director of Hatchery and Conditioning providing students a tour of the facility as a way to introduce the methods and basics of “civilized life” was cleverly done in both language and effect. We learn of the cloning/birthing process, the caste system, and many of the fundamental tenets for the way that society is organized.
The crash course in the history of this world feels natural, obvious, and demonstrated with an appealing economy of demonstration. Huxley‘s mass production-based society of enforced hedonism and anti-emotion was editorially compelling in its styling.
Beyond this setup, the really important conversation of the book to me was the conversation, or philosophical debate, between John (called the “savage” by Huxley) and Mustapha Mond, the World Controller. Ultimately this is where you see Huxley attempting to argue as Mond for crassness, mindless hedonism, and wanting nothing but conditioned happiness with chemically controlled feelings as a replacement for the human condition with John as the “savage” arguing for a world of pain, suffering, disease, familial structure, and pain that we see in the world.
The storyline of Bernard Marx, where he had spent maybe the first half of Brave New World looking as though he would be the champion of the individual against the conditioning, is dashed more by his interest in excelling socially than in defining his individuality, that is, he cannot exceed his conditioning. Bernard’s conditioning outweighed his capacity for bravery.
John the savage, and the way he dies, ultimately explains if you feel Brave New World is individually redeeming or not.
Do you take John’s death as optimistic? Does John achieve freedom in death? Did the state kill free will with John? The abrupt end perhaps is the least courageous thing that Aldous Huxley did with Brave New World.
The drawing in of the first third of the book was amazing in it’s mental picture. The philosophical debate between Mond and John was interesting and worthwhile. The Bernard Marx storyline was too much, overdrawn, and ultimately unsatisfying. The rhetorical question of free or not as the overarching point brought not enough to me. My final rating is 3.5 stars out of 5.
Matt – Tuesday, March 21, 2017