In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, individuality is denied and social conformity is law. Within this society, Bernard Marx experiences both internal and external conflict.
It is clearly evident that Bernard is seen as the misfit since his introduction. Fanny Crowne frequently refers to Bernard having too much “alcohol in his blood surrogate”, giving an explanation behind his different nature. Henry Foster also indicates that he does not “respond well to conditioning”. These qualities led Bernard to feel alienated from the others, and in effect yearned to fit in as a normal person. Yet, from the heavy pressures of Lenina and other normal World State citizens, Bernard often times gave in. After he gained much fame for bringing the Savage to London, Bernard’s character shifted, even more, to conform with his society. He bragged about his newfound fame with Helmholtz Watson and even said that “he had six girls last week”. Saying these boasts gave Bernard an illusion and a sense of fitting in. As Bernard experiences this outward conformity, he questions inwardly about this effect. In response to Lenina’s conditioning, Bernard states, “what would it be like if I could, if I were free – not enslaved by my conditioning”. This “odd” reflection emphasizes a central theme to the story by making Bernard’s individuality obvious. Lenina’s presence when Bernard says this makes a clear contrast to the tension between conformity and individualism.
The struggle of trying to find his own identity, yet balancing his actions to be seamless with the World State suggests that individualism through self-awareness is much more important than social conformity. The contrast of Bernard’s attempt to fit in and his flowing stream of internal questions paints a larger picture of the two opposites sides of society. The inward questioning side of Bernard is analogous to the society promoting individualism. On the other hand, as in Brave New World, Bernard’s attempt to conform promotes non-individuality. In the story, there was no social advancement everything was a result of scientific advancement. The tension between these two forces within Bernard’s character emphasizes that is it essential to question inwardly about your being and your surrounding so that you can change your community. The tension is necessary for this to happen, because one cannot question about what it means to possess individuality without knowing how it is to be like everyone else. This follows the same idea where you cannot understand what good is without understanding what evil is. For society to socially advance, individualism must outweigh social conformity because advancement cannot occur without change.
In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley creates a world where only social conformity exists. Bernard Marx, who possesses the opposite quality, faces struggles in trying to reach outwardly among his peers and at the same time questioning his odd point of view in the World State. The tension between these two struggles suggests a central theme to the story, in that society can only advance if individualism outweighs social conformity. The two opposing sides sharply contrast with each other, and in Bernard’s case, helps the audience grasp the central meaning of Brave New World. Bernard’s actions of conforming outwardly yet questioning inwardly are a representation of the author’s voice and attitude. The author portrays his voice through Bernard’s action. The author wants the reader to question this dystopian society and the restriction of freedom. Through the process of reading the story, Bernard’s personality urges the reader to ponder the importance of freedom and the dangers of scientifically driven society.
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