Have you ever heard someone call a group of people, “sheep” or say that someone is “woke”? They are usually referring to those who are or are not being seduced and deceived by propaganda. Those who have for some reason or another been able to dissent and question the socially accepted norms. Written in 1931, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is an intimate tale of a dystopian future where every detail of life in the main civilization is under the intense control of the accepted authority. The characters are controlled not by force and fear but by manipulation through suggestion and pleasure. The rulers have discovered that “all you need to do … is teach people to love their servitude. The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want — which is basically sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and lulling them into complacency.”(McGrath) Psychological manipulation of the mass public by authoritative institutions, while an extremely effective way to control Huxley’s Civilization and to provide and maintain its stability, is deeply flawed in that it incorrectly assumes a blanket standard for the human psyche as exemplified in the characters of controller Mustapha Mond, citizen Bernard Marx, and outsider John “The Savage”.
Mustapha Mond is in a position of power in Huxley’s civilized world as one of only a few of the world’s Controllers. This is a position that he chose to take because he agreed with the concept that for the stability of civilization people’s happiness is better than their knowledge of the truth. Mond was one of the individuals that were able to free themselves from the psychological shackles of the civilization’s manipulative mental conditioning. Mond explains that he “was given the choice; to be sent to an island … or to be taken on to the Controllers’ Council with the prospect of succeeding in due course to an actual Controllership.”(Huxley) Mond was happy knowing and understanding the truth but believed that most people wouldn’t be. He was confidently convinced that the vast majority of people could and would only be happy if they remained ignorantly in the dark to the truth.
Bernard Marx is an Alpha member of the civilization who works with the very conditioning programs that manipulate the people with propaganda. As an Alpha, Bernard is in the class of people with a higher intelligence. A class that generally seems to understand but is unconcerned that they are being manipulated. “Huxley’s dystopia is especially terrifying in that the enslaved population absolutely loves their slavery. Even the characters who are smart enough to know what is going on (and why they should be concerned) are instead content with everything that is happening. Perhaps more terrifying than other dystopian novels, in Brave New World there is truly no hope for change.”(Hendricks) Bernard flirts with the notion of dissention by questioning the propaganda and turning down the promoted mind-altering drug, soma. “Bernard finds that his own individualist tendencies make him unable to function comfortably in this conformist society.”(Booker)
John “The Savage” isx the child of an Alpha member but has lived his whole life on the outside of civilization in a place that is referred to as a “Savage Reservation”. As an adult, John is discovered by Bernard Mar and brought to civilization where he is exposed for the first time to conditioning, soma, feelies, and all the other forms of propaganda that make up the lifestyle of those in the civilization. Having not been properly conditioned to this lifestyle from birth as all of those who live in civilization had been, John is unable to adjust and unable to cope with his new understanding of reality. The way of life in the civilization is appalling to him. While debating his contradicting philosophy with the civilization controller, Mustapha Mond, John proudly proclaims that he prefers and desperately chooses a life of truth and all the horrible things that come with it. Speaking with Mustapha Mond, John claims “the right to be unhappy.”(Huxley) John is granted that right, and in the end “he finds himself so unable to fit in that he is driven to suicide.”(Booker) The final scene of the story describes that John “The Savage” has taken his own life by hanging himself.
The characters of Mustapha Mond, Bernard Marx, & John “The Savage” show us that even the best mental conditioning and propaganda are not always successful in controlling people. For most people, “technology, in the control of powerful elites, can control our decision-making with social media, pornography, and the commercialization of sex, advertising and reality TV.”(Dacre) Some minds occasionally find a way to see through the vail of manipulation. Those that do, interpret the truth they discover in different ways. Some appreciate it and wish to assist in preserving it, some see it as an evil that must be fought against, and some break under the stress of its weight. Mustapha Mond reveals that although “Huxley’s freethinkers are threatened with expulsion to a small island … the joke turns out to be that this isn’t really a punishment because all the cool artists and original thinkers wind up together and are much happier in their own hipster enclave.”(Smith) Those in power have and will always seek to remain in power. Their most effective tool in achieving this goal is to keep those without power happy and content with the life they have. However, in every civilization there are always dissenters and rebels who refuse to be coerced into conforming to the lifestyle of mindless happiness. There will always be the freethinkers who choose to live life on their own terms.
Booker, Keith, and Isra Daraiseh. “Guide to the Classics: Donald Trump’s Brave New World and Aldous Huxley’s Dystopian Vision.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 17 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/guide-to-the-classics-donald-trumps-brave-new-world-and-aldous-huxleys-dystopian-vision-93946.
Dacre, James. “James Dacre: Are We Living Brave New World’s Nightmare Future?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Sept. 2015, www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/sep/18/james-dacre-brave-new-world-theatre-dramatisation-aldous-huxley-nightmare-future.
Hendricks, Scotty. “Good Ford!” Big Think, Big Think, 13 Oct. 2018, bigthink.com/culture-religion/brave-new-world-prediction-novel?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World: with the Essay ‘Brave New World Revisited’. Harper Perennial, 2010.
McGrath, Charles, and Siddhartha Deb. “Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right: Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/books/review/which-dystopian-novel-got-it-right-orwells-1984-or-huxleys-brave-new-world.html.
Smith, Kyle. “Brave New World (Is Here!).” New York Post, New York Post, 29 Apr. 2012, nypost.com/2012/04/29/brave-new-world-is-here/.
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