Brave New World

Aldous Huxley
Various Publishers
Number of pages: 
180 pages
Grade / Age level: 

Free love, birth control, test tube baby factories, cloning, mutants, and sex, sex, sex. There are good reasons to have your mature students read this book, but you must do YOUR homework and read it first.

Huxley, writing during the giddy early days of the eugenics movement, has written a remarkable novel. His story portrays that movement's ideas taken to their logical consequences. There is a complete disconnect between sex and procreation. Sex is STRICTLY for pleasure (not even for unity). Babies are 'decanted' in factories by impressive scientific processes.

His story speaks on many levels. His brilliance is in deducing the way in which men could rationalize what unfolds before the reader as a revolting world pretty much at peace with its incredibly selfish self.

Huxley has developed what could be our future. He has taken more than a little thought to account for the sustainability of this world. As in our own world, there are occupations which require more and less intellectual acuity. By decanting babies of different intellectual ability AND training them differently everyone should be happy in their station. Some embryos are given all the benefits during development and become "alphas". Some are given less than perfect treatment and become "betas"... And some, by selective poisoning and light deprevation etc. become epsilons (semi-morons, but therefore happy in their lowly functions in society).

Everyone enjoys sex, so everyone is conditioned from day one to be 'free-lovers'. And since babies are decanted no one has to carry or care for offspring (the words "mother" and "father" have become foul language!).

This is clearly the natural consequences of a society which wants to divorce sex from procreation. Thirty years after Huxley wrote the book mainstream society was just picking up on the theme. This selfishness steamrolled into abortion. In Huxley's world this is no longer necessary (usually). But for those who are not sterilized at birth (some fresh eggs are needed to keep the factories going) contraceptives (and strong conditioning to use them faithfully) are provided.

This brave new world has even done away with money. In fact, there is a much more direct transaction on payday - as the workers leave their place of employment on Friday they are given their payment/ration of soma - the perfect drug with no hangover or anything!!! Huxley nails it again. Such a selfish society needs an escape - it is drugs. Did he see the 60's coming or what? And is he right about where we are headed?

But not everyone is happy. There is an "odd" fellow in the book. He just doesn't feel satisfied even with every thing one could lust for (an alpha of course). Huxley's world even has a place for him. He gets exiled with all the other misfits to Greenland.

There is more and more and more in this book. It doesn't preach about the evils of contraception, of free-love, of drugs etc. It simply displays them and their consequences without remorse. In doing so, even in the best of circumstances, their evils are laid bare. And in this way the book is both thought-provoking and good for discussions. But there is more. Huxley has wrapped many layers into this book. The story is sickeningly believable on it's surface. But he has put in symbolism and allusions to many more things that I cannot even begin to tell here. See this article from Envoy Magazine for examples. Or consider how peace is obtained by making men LESS than full men.

One more note. To return to the admonition that you read this book before your child; there is a lot of sex in this book. That can be difficult for any teenager. However, when the student is prepared to look seriously and critically at the messages in the book this should not be a problem. Huxley does not aim to arouse but to inform.

Click Here for Study Questions

Additional notes: 

While some might suggest that this book belongs on our "Red Flag List", we think it should suffice to warn parents that this book is for mature readers and to highly recommend, if not insist, that parents read this book before giving it to their children (in order to determine whether their children are ready to handle the content and be prepared for some heavy-duty discussions of sexual ethics.) Our Study Questions will also give parents an idea of the scope and content of what this book delves into.

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