"A masterpiece. . . . One of the most prophetic dystopian works." —Wall Street Journal
Aldous Huxley's profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order—all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization.
Brave New World, his masterpiece, has enthralled and terrified millions of readers, and retains its urgent relevance to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as a thought-provoking, satisfying work of literature. Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New World likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites.
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A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin fight glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The fight was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.
"And this," said the Director opening the door, "is the Fertilizing Room."
Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were plunged, as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning entered the room, in the scarcely breathing silence, the absentminded, soliloquizing hum or whistle, of absorbed concentration. A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director's heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. Straight from the horse's mouth. It was a rare privilege. The D.H.C. for Central London always made a point of personally conducting his new students roundthe various departments.
"Just to give you a general idea," he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.
"To-morrow," he would add, smiling at them with a slightly menacing geniality, "you'll be settling down to serious work. You won't have time for generalities. Meanwhile . . ."
Meanwhile, it was a privilege. Straight from the horse's mouth into the notebook. The boys scribbled like mad.
Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big rather prominent teeth, just covered, when he was not talking, by his full, floridly curved lips. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? Fifty-five? It was hard to say. And anyhow the question didn't arise; in this year of stability, A.F. 632, it didn't occur to you to ask it.
"I shall begin at the beginning," said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. "These," he waved his hand, "are the incubators." And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. "The week's supply of ova. Kept," he explained, "at blood heat; whereas the male gametes," and here he opened another door, "they have to be kept at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes." Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs.
Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical introduction- -"the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months' salary"; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the excised ovary alive and actively developing; passed on to a consideration of optimum temperature, salinity, viscosity; referred to the liquor in which the detached and ripened eggs were kept; and, leading his charges to the work tables, actually showed them how this liquor was drawn off from the test-tubes; how it was let out drop by drop onto the specially warmed slides of the microscopes; how the eggs which it contained were inspected for abnormalities, counted and transferred to a porous receptacle; how (and he now took them to watch the operation) this receptacle was immersed in a warm bouillon containing free-swimming spermatozoa at a minimum concentration of one hundred thousand per cubic centimetre, he insisted; and how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the liquor and its contents reexamined; how, if any of the eggs remained unfertilized, it was again immersed, and, if necessary, yet again; how the fertilized ova went back to the incubators; where the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process.
"Bokanovsky's Process," repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.
One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a fall-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.
"Essentially," the D.H.C. concluded, "bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding."
Responds by budding. The pencils were busy.
He pointed. On a very slowly moving band a rack-full of test-tubes was entering a large metal box, another rack-fall was emerging. Machinery faintly purred. It took eight minutes for the tubes to go through, he told them. Eight minutes of hard X-rays being about as much as an egg can stand. A few died; of the rest, the least susceptible divided into two; most put out four buds; some eight; all were returned to the incubators, where the buds began to develop; then, after two days, were suddenly chilled, chilled and checked. Two, four, eight, the buds in their turn budded; and having budded were dosed...
Table of Contents
|Brave New World||3|
|Foreword by Author||5|
|Brave New World Revisited||233|
|Foreword by Author||235|
|II||Quantity, Quality, Morality||248|
|IV||Propaganda in a Democratic Society||262|
|V||Propaganda Under a Dictatorship||269|
|VI||The Arts of Selling||277|
|XI||Education for Freedom||321|
|XII||What Can Be Done?||332|
Reading Group Guide
In Brave New World Aldous Huxley conjures up a horrifying, but often comic, vision of a future Utopia in which humans are processed, conditioned, regimented, and drugged into total social conformity. The story, set in a futuristic London, focuses on the misadventures of Bernard Marx. Disaffected with the regimentation of society, Bernard and his girlfriend, Lenina, visit the American Southwest where Native Americans are permitted to live in an "uncivilized" state. There they come upon a fair-skinned young man named John, who turns out to be the son of a Londoner, and Bernard brings John back to "civilized" London.
For a while, the "Savage" creates a sensation. Eventually the Savage becomes increasingly horrified by the "brave new world" and retreats into reading Shakespeare's plays. The Savage has fallen passionately in love with Lenina, but has convinced himself that any sexual contact between them would be a grievous sin--a stance that completely baffles Lenina who has been conditioned to enjoy promiscuous sex without any emotional commitment. In despair, the Savage precipitates a riot. Bernard is exiled for his participation and the Savage holes up in an abandoned lighthouse, where he grows food and mortifies his flesh as penance for his lust for Lenina. In the end, reporters discover the Savage and photograph his bizarre rituals of self-flagellation. A nightly carnival ensues as swarms of London curiosity seekers come to witness the antics of this strange creature. Finally the Savage, in shame and desperation, hangs himself.
1. Few ofHuxley's predictions have proven to be perfectly accurate, yet many aspects of the Utopia of Brave New World feel uncomfortably like our world. Talk about the book as a prophetic vision of the future. Which aspects of the book did you find most disturbing? Which hit closest to home? Which seem the most far-fetched?
2. When Brave New World was first published in 1932, the world was plunged in depression, fascism was on the rise in Western Europe, and Marxism appealed to increasing numbers of intellectuals in Europe and America. Place the book in the context of its historical moment. Which parts transcend its time and place?
3. The two greatest obscenities in the society of Brave New World are birth and mother. Why?
4. Toward the end of the book, the Controller Mustapha Mond sums up the benefits of living in the "brave new world" Utopia: "The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get." It sounds like perfection, and yet the world Mond describes is deeply, intentionally horrifying. Why? What exactly is so bad about this society of the future? Is there anything good about it, anything we could learn from and try to adapt to our own uses?
5. As dehumanizing and oppressive as the brave new world Utopia is, the alternative in the "savage reserve" is in many ways worse - dirty, violent, unhealthy, cruel, uncomfortable. What point is Huxley making about human nature and the nature of human communities? Is his vision totally negative - or does the book hold out some shred of hope, some alternative mode that fosters both freedom and community?
6. One of the most striking - and comic - aspects of Huxley's Utopia is the way our sexual mores and assumptions have been turned on their head: monogamy is bad, passion is deviation, casual, meaningless sex is the socially approved norm. What is Huxley getting at here? Is there any expression of human sexuality that he finds acceptable? Is sex at the heart of the "problem" in his view of human nature?
7. Talk about the morality of the book. Is it a Christian morality? Socialist? Anarchist?
8. In many ways, the main characters of the book are cartoon figures - Helmholtz Watson the alienated superman, Bernard Marx the cowardly, hypocritical intellectual, Mustapha Mond the cynical all-knowing leader, John the doomed idealistic. Discuss the book as an allegory and elaborate on what each character stands for.
9. When John first starts reading Shakespeare, he discovers that the words make his emotions "more real" - they even make other people more real. Talk about the power of language in the book, the power of the word to influence thought and behavior. Why did Huxley choose Shakespeare as the medium of John's intellectual awakening?
10. Huxley wrote many other books, yet this is his most popular and most enduring. What is it about this book that has captured our imaginations for so long? Are there aspects of it that seem dated?
11. If you read the book earlier in life - say in high school or college - compare the experience of reading it again later on. Does it hold up to a second reading?
12. Talk about Huxley's use of narrator. Does the fact that Huxley's vision was impaired for part of his life have any bearing on the way he narrates the story and sets the scenes?
13. Could anything like Brave New World really happen? Has it happened in some form that we don't fully recognize?About the Author
Poet, playwright, novelist and short story writer, travel writer, essayist, critic, philosopher, mystic, social prophet, Aldous Huxley was one of the most accomplished and influential English literary figures of the mid-20th century. He was born in Surrey in 1894, and his books include Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves, Point Counter Point, Brave New World, and The Doors of Perception. From 1937 on, Huxley made his home in Southern California. He died in 1963. Today he is remembered as one of the great explorers of 20th century literature, a writer who continually reinvented himself as he pushed his way deeper and deeper into the mysteries of human consciousness.