It has always been strange that science fiction novels have been relegated to pieces of pulp fiction, or criticized for their literary merit when books like ‘Brave New World,’ ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ and ‘1984’ are read by high school students everywhere. It’s strange when Jack London, the great naturalists writers penned books like ‘The Iron Heel‘ ( and a multitude of scifi short stories), and Voltaire even dabbled in the practice.
That’s why we are going to take a look at ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley for this week’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past.
Now, there are some who may not have chance to read this novel in high school, so I’ll lay it out for you. In the future, no one gets married and we all have a lot of sex.
Sounds like a utopia, right?
In fact, it’s not. ‘Brave New World’ is one of the first cases of science fiction trying to create a perfect future that is in fact a closeted dystopia. It’s a theme that future science fiction like ‘Gattaca’ and ‘Logan’s Run’ borrow heavily from.
There is nothing to hate about the brave new world Aldous Huxley creates. War doesn’t exist, no one has to raise children any more because machines do it, and there is no struggle for natural resources because the population is capped 2 billion. Everyone is genetically designed for a specific place (there are five castes), and they are very happy within it. It is an obvious allusion to current society’s idea that everyone has their class and should remain there. In fact, the upper castes deliberately curb cognitive functions and ambition of the lower castes, in what seems to be a very obvious metaphor for wealthy ham-stringing the poor so they can never rise in class.
In this world, the mantra “everyone belongs to everyone else” is repeated over and over as a way means to create harmony in a place where one class obviously exploits that of another.
So, that’s was the first seven or so chapters. The plot finally begins with Bernard, and Alpha Plus (the highest of the castes) who does not fit in. He’s shorter than everyone in his caste, and he doesn’t like the drug ‘soma’ which everyone uses (the very literal opiate of the masses). As such, he’s not particularly well-liked, and he struggles with this.
On vacation, he and his… not-really-girlfriend-but-sort-of-is, Lenina visit the natives (a group of people who procreate the normal way, and are more akin to us than Bernard’s people). They find a woman named Linda who had been apart of their world, but became pregnant. Since pregnancies and therefore abortions were things that no longer happened in the new world, Linda stays with the natives because she feels ashamed of her conditions. There, she is treated as an outsider and beaten for her promiscuity, and her son, John (called The Savage) is ostracized for the color of his skin. The real meat of the story then starts two-thirds in when Bernard takes John back with him.
There isn’t a whole lot of plot to the book, to be quite frank. But it is a classic, through and through. The treatment of two societies opposing one another, and the description of the people who are trapped between two worlds feels a lot less like science fiction, and a lot more like a comment on the world as it is now… which of course, is exactly what the book is doing.
‘Brave New World’ is a classic piece of science fiction because it extrapolates what is and would could be in order to create a cautionary tale that both bewitches and arouses the mind. So, if you haven’t read, what are you waiting for?