As I was reading this book parts of the story were somewhat familiar to me, though I cannot really say that it isn't original since most of the familiarity comes from stories that were produced long after this book originally hit the selves. One particular movie that comes to mind is 'Demolition Man' staring Sylvester Stallone:
Okay, this is an action movie, but I feel that there are a lot of similarities between this film and Brave New World, though the ending does come out differently (the dystopian world of Demolition Man is destroyed and people once again learn freedom of thought). The idea is that the world experiences a very devastating war, and as a result of this war the winners decide to remake society so such a tragedy never happens again. In a way they pretty much remove history from the minds of the people (and history is one thing that creates wars because we get to a point, as is seen in places like Northern Ireland, were people fight simply because that is what they had been doing for centuries) and destroy everything that is old. Further, all relationships are destroyed so there is no more family unit, and literature is also destroyed so that the only things that exist are scientific text books and mindless entertainment (such as movies like 'Demolition Man', though this film would be considered subversive).
It is interesting the arguments that are put forth in favour of this world. The idea is to have stability and to have happiness, but not the greatest amount of happiness. The reason for that is the happier one becomes the greater the propensity there is for unhappiness. Therefore, literature is destroyed, and while families make people happy, families break down and thus create unhappiness, which in turn upsets the stability of society (and families also tend to be exclusive and isolated units that can also lead to conflict with other families). It is not happiness that is important but rather stability.
This is the major point of the novel. Like Demolition Man, a chaotic element is introduced into the equation. In Demolition Man this was Simon Phoenix and John Spartan, and in A Brave New World this was Linda and John. Both examples came from a time and a place outside of the perfectly stable world, and their introduction to this stable world creates instability. However, as it turns out, this introduction (in the case of Simon Phoenix in Demotion Man, and in the case of John in A Brave New World) was to serve a purpose. However, Hollywood had to have the conclusion of its film result in the destruction of this world, whereas with Huxley things end up going on as they have always been going on (which to me makes for a much better ending).
The idea of history is interesting. The idea that I see here is that history has ceased to exist. Progress creates instability, and as I have previously mentioned history creates bitter feelings and blood feuds and the only way to maintain stability to to simply remove history. The other thing about history is that it creates a memory of a time when things were different, and in many cases people yearn for that time when things were perceptively better – which in turn creates unrest, unhappiness, and in turn instability. Therefore, once this society had reached the point of stability history ceases to exist. Every day was the same as every other day, and people simply go about doing the same things as they have always done. I guess it is the same with literature in that what literature does is that it introduces change, and what change introduces is instability. For instance, I have finished this book, and thus I move on to the next book, and in moving on to the next book, there has been a change in my life.
Literature, and in particular Shakespeare, plays a significant role in this book. The title of the book, 'A Brave New World' comes out of the play [book:The Tempest] where Miranda, having been exposed to a man that is not her father, cries out:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.
She is referring to men, because up until that part of the play (which occurs at the end) the only people she had been in contact with was her father and the monster Caliban (though one person I was speaking to suggests that Miranda is referring to the jester and the servant – the two buffoons of the play). This occurs entirely on an island ruled by her father, but her father introduces her to the new world, the world beyond the island, which she eventually leaves to become a queen.
I can see that Huxley has taken scenes from his book right out of Shakespeare, in that John has grown up on a reservation with only his mother to keep him company, and upon travelling to London he is exposed to a new world, and thus he cries repeatedly 'oh Brave New World'. It is no coincidence that John is extremely familiar with the works of William Shakespeare as he has grown up with them.
The other play that is mentioned regularly is Othello, not one of Shakespeare's most violent, but the one in which we see the worst of humanity expose itself. If you are not familiar with Othello you should check out my commentary on the play, but basically it is about this guy (Iago) who convinces another guy (Othello) that his faithful wife is cheating on him, so Othello kills her. This is not a play that encourages stability, but in fact it is a play that takes place on the fringes of civilisation and that on the fringes, civilisation begins to collapse.
Maybe that is the reason why John is so interested in Othello is because it is about how civilisation is not always stable. However, in this society, stability is the key. People are bred in test tubes and are then conditioned through hypnotherapy, and are then given a job to do. There is no ambition, simply contentment as they go about their lives working, and when they are not working, they are resting (or taking drugs). Things are different at the top though because there is ambition at the top, and experimentation. They experiment with shorter working days only to discover that the masses do not know how to use their leisure time (the level of drug use increases if the masses have more time). They also experiment with making everybody alphas, and that fails because the knowledge that the alphas have means that they all want their rights (and they are also incapable of doing anything for themselves because alphas will not do the work of the lower classes). Therefore, they create the masses, or the working classes, who do not think, they simply do.
The society that we see in this book is the society of a machine. The machine simply keeps on moving with no point and no purpose. It simply exists. In a way this is what our society is becoming in and of itself – it is a machine. The alphas in our society have discovered that there are flaws with universal education in that people think, and by thinking, they cannot be controlled, so they cut back on education and put them to work. It is a more stable society where the masses work, and then go home and watch sport and drink alcohol as opposed to going out onto the streets demanding equal pay, equal rites, and access to essential services. It is better to put them in menial jobs and have their time caught up in those jobs than to give them free time where they can cause trouble.
This is the problem with technological development, and is where our world is breaking away from the world of Aldous Huxley. As our technology advances, and as machines take the place of human labour, it displaces humans, putting them out of work, which means they become idle. An idle human is an unstable human, because idle humans have too much time to think, and by thinking, and organising, then can in turn attack, and even overthrow, the system. This is what happened in France, particularly among the middle classes, during the revolution. It is much better to keep people occupied in work than to have them out of work. However, the catch is that a person out of work can be kept idle through the use of drugs, and we see this in our society where many of the unemployed dull themselves with drugs so that not only are they exposing themselves to criminal sanctions, but they are also remaining dull so that they cannot revolt against the established order.