By Eve Brown
Are we living the Brave New World?
Nothing can be as farfetched as a sci-fi set in 1931, but somehow through a stroke of genius, Aldous Huxley manages to predict some of the great moral questions of our time, meaning Brave New World may still be seen as being relevant in 2017. Following some of the major contemporary themes in dystopian fiction today, such as a totalitarian society and the responsibility of the individual, Huxley has made the book a timeless classic. Brave New World may perhaps be seen as equal in dystopian-worth to Orwell’s 1984, which shares the same concern over the totalitarian nature of government and how this limits freedoms. Whilst also exploring the idea of individual responsibility – through the characters of Bernard Marx and John ‘The Savage’ which draws parallels with Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the idea of self-sacrifice and what it means to be an individual.
Set within the context of 2031 (Exactly a hundred years following from when it was written), it takes on the form of a futuristic world and through the mistakes and moral dilemmas of that world Huxley acts to warn his contemporary readers and future readers of where humanity may be going.
At what point playing with genetics makes us God?
This is perhaps the biggest and most far reaching of the topics he covers. Gene editing is big news, in January of this year it was reported that an EU lawyer (Michal Bobek) had made a case for gene-edited crops. Huxley then has posed the question and it’s our generation and our children’s generation who will answer it.
Huxley also acts to address an increasingly sexualized society, even in 1931 – ‘every one belongs to everyone else’ – and where promiscuity is expected. Sex drives are governed through the administration of ‘Soma’ which also stagnates any feelings of love and wanting a family. In short, sex is depicted as a pass-time, and a competition. Although this remains to be shocking to a reader today, thoughts on sex and promiscuity have changed vastly in the past seventy years (since 1930s) and will continue to change further. Huxley really challenges and delves into the idea of individual desire and through doing so, sends us a pertinent warning for the future.
The only real criticism one can throw at Huxley is that he didn’t write enough dystopian literature – Brave New World (1931) and Ape and Essence (1948) were his only two.
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