Rating: 3 Stars
The concept of Utopia has been around in Literature for quite a while. As far back as 400 BC, Plato described in his Republic an ideal society ruled by philosophers where women are communal property and children are bred by eugenics. All riffraff claiming artistic or literary ability are naturally banned. Brave New World, published in 1932, is the first modern novel to develop further the ideas expounded by Plato. The author leaves it to the readers to judge the virtue of such a society.
In the year AF 632, the World State governs on the doctrine of Community, Identity, and Stability. To ensure that there is no deviation from these guiding principles human beings are produced in labs to conform to the State’s requirement for uniformity. Viviparous birth has become tantamount to obscenity, and the bottle-bred infants are subject to social conditioning from birth that they may adhere to a strict caste system, and imbibe the commandment that ‘Happiness is the Sovereign good.’
Pursuant to that ideal, soma is distributed to all to dispel any negative emotions that may discombobulate the populace. As the saying goes, “Better a gramme than a damme.” To add to all this perfection, it’s a world where women are not only…’pneumatic’, but also have a delightfully laid-back attitude about getting groped, or being ‘had’ by every male in their social circle. The ‘F’ in AF 632, by the way, stands for Ford, and the crucifix has been supplanted by the symbol T.
This charming world of happy pills, free-range promiscuity, and unlicensed consumerism receives a titillating surprise when it encounters John Savage. Savage is of accidental viviparous birth, and has been raised on a Native American reservation. His brain befogged by Shakespeare, and nursing alien hang-ups about sex, Savage is an anomaly in the World State, but determined to claim his right to God, discomfort, inconvenience, and unhappiness.
As I’ve said earlier, sometimes a work of fiction is remembered not for having done something the best, but for having done it first. It’s probably this criterion that allows Brave New World to be labeled a ‘Modern Classic’. Without over-reaching for wisdom, Huxley settles for snippets of cleverness and long-winded, fatuous philosophy. In a hodgepodge of anthropological incoherence, residents of the World State guzzle down Indo Aryan soma; the boy raised on a Native American reservation has oddly Puritanical and sado-masochistic tendencies; and, the dark-skinned races are classified as having sub-par intellects. The novel is broadly derivative in its inspiration, and simplistic in its prognosis of all the possible moral and spiritual ailments that may beset society. It’s a trait unique to dystopia fiction that the writers will persist in their dismal glass-half empty perspective. As a depressing consequence, their reader is left to chase away the blues…and without even a gramme. Damme!