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November 10, 2018
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a novel that showcases a utopian society, a society which goes by the motto “Community, Identity, Stability” ( Huxley 1). By reading this motto, one may feel that such a society would be no less than heaven and in a way, it is true. Everybody is happy in this world, no one is lonely (loneliness being a taboo), no one gets too sick, one has features of youth till sixty years of age, etc. But this all comes at the expense of “Identity” and dictatorship. The society of World State is obsessively stable. “No social stability without individual stability” (36), says the Controller. But in Brave New World, those people are produced in factories and “conditioned” so that they live their life in a particular way, the way being decided by the World State. They are “conditioned” like certain things and hate and fear others, have no feelings about the other, not taught about any of their ancestors, past history, etc. If we take a closer look at the society in Brave New World, we never see the people to be sad, lonely, depressed, anxious and jealous. In other words, we do not find a trace of human emotions (except happiness). Everybody is happy. In Brave New World, the people are so conditioned that the work they do and the life they live is their dream life, they feel like they couldn’t ask for more. This is because the things other people do, is either uninteresting to them or they are terrified to do it. The thing is, the thought of doing something other than what they do or living a life other than theirs doesn’t even cross their minds, not even once. Well, if due to some circumstances they do experience certain undesirable emotions, “soma” is there for their rescue.
So, the first aspect that could be changed in Brave New World is the way children are the way they are conditioned while producing them and after their production. Children are produced (like goods!) rather than being born. They are produced in test tubes at the “Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre”. The “Gammas”, “Deltas” and “Epsilons” are first fertilized then after thirty-six hours, they go through the “Bokanovsky’s Process”, producing ninety-six identical humans from a single embryo (4). The problem in that world is not the production of children, it is way they are produced and then conditioned, engineering their way of life. Like, the “Alphas” and “Betas” are not cloned. This allows the World State to have more individuality among Alphas. While developing, “Alphas” are kept in oxygen rich conditions so as to develop their brains nicely. The “Delta” children are conditioned to grow short and not intelligent. They are developed so that they hate and have a terror about “flowers” and “books”. They are given electric shocks and loud sirens are wailed at them in the conditioning room, when they showed curiosity at these things. In the novel, when asked, the D.H.C explains that “Gammas, Deltas, even Epsilons” were conditioned “to like flowers in particular and wild in nature”. But this reduced their working efficiency. They used to waste their time in admiring the nature, instead of working. As a result, they did end up “consuming transport”, but it reduced their efficiency of work. So, the World State decided to “condition the masses to hate the country, but simultaneously condition them to love all country sports” (18). As, we can see that in order to gain profit for the World State, the people are manipulated and tortured in any way the World State pleases to. It shows how robotic the World State is.
Thus, Creativity, literature and history have no place in that society as the World State develops the individuals such that they never think out of the box. “History is bunk” (29) is a principle in that world. The point is that the World State fears that if the people learn about history, they will compare their present lives with that of the past. This shows the evil motives of the World State. They know that the way they are making people live their lives is unhuman and unethical. In the ending of the book, when Helmholtz and John argue about life and happiness, he(Helmholtz) surprisingly quotes Shakespeare. When asked if it is read in England, he explains John that such literature is “prohibited” there. He explains that people there would not be able to understand the tragedies in the novel as they are always happy (thanks to “soma”). The past art and literature is beautiful and the State does not “want people to be attracted to old things” (193).
It means that the government controls the way people think, the things they like and hate, the things they do for recreation, the work they do, etc. People are made to accept the life they will live the rest of their lives from the second they are born; they are subjected to “hypnopaedia”, “erotic play”, conditioning them based on consequences, etc. Phrases such as “cleanliness is next to fordliness” (94), “everyone belongs to everyone else” (34), “Every one works for everyone else. We can’t do without any one. Even Epsilons are useful” (64) are programmed in minds of people. In fact, we start to think that they (the World State) are just playing around with the technology they have, just for fun.
Any event that does not take place according to the script that was written while producing the people, the people try and relate by remembering and repeating phrases or taking “soma” and just escaping the situation. This brings us to second aspect, the consumption of “soma”. As Henry Foster describes “soma”, it has “all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects”. “Soma” is a part of the life of each and every person that lives under the dictatorship of the “Word State”. People take it to escape from sorrow, depression, anxiety, jealousy; which are natural human feelings. These are bound to be experienced sometime or other. Like, only if ancient literature and art was not banned, while learning that in schools or just reading, the children and people would have realized how pathetic life they were living; that they were treated like nothing more than a robot servant. They would have realized that is much more to life than work, party and sex. But, the World State ensures that none of this nonsense happens. So, the solution: “soma”! It takes its consumer on a “holiday”. On returning from the holiday, i.e., after waking up from sleep, the person forgets all the negative feelings (according to World State) that he/she was experiencing. If we think, it is not that people are born (here, engineered) to crave soma whenever they experience a low point; they are made addicted. They are fed it since childhood. They are made its addict. Also, their minds are programmed in such a way that whenever the situation comes, they involuntarily think of “soma”. Like, there are many phrases that involve “soma”: “a gramme in time saves nine” (77), “half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon...” (47), etc.
So, as we can see that “soma” is the ultimate escape from reality in Brave New World. But, taking drugs is not the ultimate solution to any problem (unless advised by a doctor). Only if the World State saw it citizens as actual human beings, rather than machines, they would not have introduced such a drug. It has made people depend on it so much that the people cannot live without it at some point. So the question here is that is everyone so weak that they cannot experience any emotion? Well, that is not the case. The thing is that the World State doesn’t want their citizens to experience any human emotions. This is because, if the people experience emotions, they won’t work efficiently, they will start to thin k on their own, they will start to think about what caused those emotions; well, all of which is a lose-lose situation of the World State. This will eventually lead to the downfall of the empire, the World State.
The society is so cleverly engineered in Brave New World that it is near perfect society. and the possible holes in the structure, holes that are in places where the society is connected and glued, are filled with “soma”. “Soma” is what holds the cards together. It is the fuel that drives the society. The society is structured such that loneliness is sin. It’s a taboo. But, the main feature of the novel, “engineering” and “controlling” the people is what is horrible and heinous. It is possible that a technology be developed, that makes making babies in test tubes feasible, but “conditioning them” and programming them is what is unethical and inhuman. But, if the people were not conditioned to live their lives in a particular way, think in a particular way (first change) and had there not been “soma” (second change), the scene would have been different, very different. The people would have the ability to control themselves, i.e., the way they think, eventually the things they like, the emotions they experience, the way they live their lives; all of it would change drastically. The people would explore the notions like “liberty”, “love”, “freedom”, “art”, “literature”, etc. The people would live rationally So, not conditioning people to live their life a certain manner and letting them experience the emotions of a normal human by not offering them an escape through soma is what will reduce the anarchy of the World State. People will be able to think what is correct and what is wrong. There will be inventions for the sake of humanity rather than World State. Yes, there might be some chaos, but the ability to think will enable the people to come up with solutions to that. People will experience a whole new world. They will experience affection, they will experience love, they will be able to decide what is wrong for them and what is right, they will be able to decide to what extent their lives will be governed. They will develop as humans, rather than as machines. It will surely open a new world of opportunities.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1984. Reprint. Vintage,2010.
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