English 10 Honors
People cannot experience being human without individuality. The general public in Brave New World is not truly content because they cannot experience all that life has to offer. Aldous Huxley once expressed that he wrote to be more himself, to be more of an individual. (Huxley “Individuality”) Huxley wrote Brave New World as an argument for individualism, as established by the discontent of individuals in the technologically controlled society of Brave New World, the fact that people in the World State are not truly living the human experience, and that their freedom is sacrificed for health and comfort. Huxley demonstrates that when technology overrules society, individualism is lost.
Brave New World is universally known as a book showing an example of scientific progress actually harming the populace, the individual. “Huxley’s Brave New World is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. In many parts of the world, its title has become a catchphrase for the misuse of the technology to subdue the individual and manufacture an artificial happiness” (O’Neil 601). Brave New World presents the state of the World in 623 A.F., 623 years after Henry Ford died. Society has been overrun by technology, allowing people to have complete security, comfort, and happiness. Huxley conveys life without technology through a reservation of people who are not ruled by the World State. A boy born (note that in the World State, childbirth is considered taboo) to parents raised in the World State is brought up inside of the reservation. No one completely accepts him in the reservation, and neither does anyone in the World State once he is taken there. He and two other characters simply are not satisfied with society in the World State. Despite the World State’s best efforts to place everyone perfectly into society, they simply refuse to or do not fit in. Helmholtz is a character too creative for his assigned job as a catchphrase author and Bernard Marx desires time alone with himself. Spending time alone is considered taboo by the World State, and Helmholtz isn’t allowed to change his preset role; he cannot expand and improve his field, for that could cause rebellion and less control. There will always be individuals, no matter how hard one tries to suppress them, these individuals are rejected by society and are promptly sent to an island with the rest of the outcast individuals. These individuals were discontent under the government of the State because they did not have freedom.
People in the technologically controlled society of the State miss out on the grand experiences being human has to offer, because forming one’s own personality, interests, likes, dislikes, body, and family are all things worth experiencing. The general public in Brave New World is not allowed to develop themselves as we do now as shown in this scene where (John) the outcast’s mother (whose name is Linda) is talking about his curiosity. “There’s so much one doesn’t know; it wasn’t my business to know. I mean, when a child asks you how a helicopter works or who made the world—well, what are you to answer if you’re a Beta and have always worked in the Fertilizing Room?” (Huxley 122). If Linda had been able to choose what to do and learn herself in life, perhaps she would have known the answer to John’s question, therefore bringing the two of them closer together, bringing them happiness. The citizens living in Brave New World’s World State live in a very advanced society, and their interests, likes, body, work, children etc. are formed for them by the government; they themselves were stripped of these valuable experiences. “Sentiments, ideas, and practices which liberate the human spirit find no place in Huxley’s scientific utopia and are, in fact, put down as harmful to the stability of the community. Parentage, family, and home become obsolete; sex is denuded of all its mystery and significance” (Magill 1405). Sex is mysterious and significant in any man or woman’s life, but in the State, sex is merely a tool for keeping people happy, nothing more. The World State’s psychological conditioning is what abducts the significance and mystery from sex. If the State citizen’s are constantly bombarded with happiness, then individuals in a technologically controlled society do not desire to advance the state of humanity, if no citizens are trying to improve their life, then humans are not progressing. “Essentially, the new world applies the principle of mass production to people. Huxley saw the danger in what he called technological idolatry, a belief that technological advance automatically means human progress” (O’Neil 612). As demonstrated with the State—a place which is now effectively frozen in time. The people cannot improve under these conditions, and if they do not satisfy the human desire to improve themselves, they will become discontent.
Individuals in the technologically controlled society of the World State are discontent because technology strips them of their freedom and gives them nothing but happiness to replace it. Sole happiness does not bring deep contentment to the citizens, because they are missing out on rest life has to offer, things like love, wisdom, intelligence, awkwardness, and solemnity. The populace in Brave New World is forced into happiness with Soma and interminable entertainment. These cause their discontent; they are not experiencing all of the emotions people have been given. Neither do they have freedom, because they gave it up in exchange for niceties like perfect health, no pain, and no sadness. Things that could potentially cause discomfort were discouraged by the World State ”Our Freud had been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life. The world was full of fathers- was therefore full of misery; full of mothers- therefore of every kind of perversion from sadism to chastity” (Huxley 39). That is why the people are discontent, because key things, such as chastity and parents, are completely stripped from the people, simply because they can cause discomfort or sickness. These things the World State forbids are very important, and mustn’t be lost, otherwise one will not find rewarding life. Though one would believe everlasting happiness to be satisfying, if this happiness is artificial, one is not experiencing all life has to offer. Huxley feels the citizens are living without purpose “A recurring theme in his work is the egocentricity of the people of the twentieth century, their ignorance of any reality transcending the self, their loneliness and despair, and their pointless and sordid existence.” (Magill 1399) If humans find no greater purpose to their existence, the search for love and wisdom becomes futile. The people living in the World State are living without purpose, and therefore are discontent. If individualism is promoted, the people of the World State would be able to find purpose for their lives, because one cannot feel that they have truly succeeded or accomplished anything worthwhile when they are not in control of their life. However, in a society where technology plays such a key role in daily life, people find ways to control everyone else, and that limits how much one person can differ from his neighbor.
When technology overrules society, individualism is lost, as this is the case in Brave New World. “You will see that no offence is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behavior. Murder kills only the individual, after all, what is an individual?’ With a sweeping gesture he indicated the rows of microscopes, the test tubes, the incubators.’ We can make a new one with the greatest ease-as many as we like” (Huxley 148). Clearly, the World State cares more about how many people there are, and what they are doing, than the actual people themselves. They are willing to kill, and just as easily create a replacement. No value is placed on the individuals themselves. “By various methods of psychological conditioning, they are trained to live in total identification with society and to shun all activities that threaten the stability of the community” (Magill 1617). There comes a point where technology allows for complete control over the development of people—in the interest of stability. However, controlling the development of humans in such a uniform manner completely stunts individuality because everyone is given the same set of experiences. Having vastly different experiences than those around you is the very definition of individualism. Control limits one’s freedoms.
By sacrificing freedom for health and comfort for the luxuries of genetic modification (perfect health) and babies solely being produced by the government (no one has to experience the pains of childbirth– natural reproduction is disallowed), the State people are placed into a cookie cutter mold and are trained to be the same. These citizens are not allowed freedom, and without freedom, one cannot be an individual. The State controlled the people through subtle training that had profound effect. “By various methods of psychological conditioning, they are trained to live in total identification with society and to shun all activities that threaten the stability of the community.” (Magill 1617) Ultimately, without freedom, one is only good to die, because life cannot be improved. Huxley lamented the idea of a completely scientific, and so he wrote about it in order to show its horrors. “In the first of these novels, Huxley, defrauded of the hope his grandfather had felt that science would create a new and better world, protested the obliteration of all human values by a society completely controlled by science” (Moody 431). Freedom is an essential human value that was stripped of the State’s citizens, this clearly did not improve the lives of the people. “By his heretical views on sport and soma, by the scandalous unorthodoxy of his sex life, by his refusal to obey the teachings o four Ford and behave out of office hours, ‘even as a little infant, ‘ (here the Director made the sign of the T), ‘he has proved himself as an enemy of Society.” (Huxley 149). Clearly this is not something that is going to bring happiness to Bernard, the man who the Director accused here. Bernard’s freedom is controlled, and he pushes its boundaries, resulting in himself acquiring the label of public enemy. The State believes him a threat to the comfort and serene stability of people’s lives.
Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World as an argument for individualism, as demonstrated by the discontent of individuals in a technologically controlled society, the fact that people are not truly living the human experience, and that their freedom is sacrificed for health and comfort. He demonstrates that when technology overrules society, individualism is lost. All of these points convey the need for individualism, for it brings freedom, true human experience, and contentment. Because individualism benefits humans universally, Huxley argued this by writing Brave New World.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998.
Huxley, Aldous. “Individuality.” Proverbia.
Magill Frank, Harr-Low. Critical Survey of Long Fiction. New Jersey; Salem Press Inc., 1983.
Moody William Vaughn, Morss Lovett Robert and Fred B. Millet. A History of English Literature. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956.
O’Neil, Patrick M. Great World Writers: Twentieth Century. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2004.