Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is set in a dystopian future (once again, aren’t they always?) that delves into the debate of what is more important: a right to freedom, or the right for happiness.

Imagine a world where few people get ill.  Not only do you avoid pesky colds and stomach bugs, but also the big stuff.  No cancer.  No auto-immune diseases.  No gut-wrenchingly awful birth defects that change a person’s life forever.  None of that.  Furthermore, in this world obesity isn’t a problem.  For the most part, neither is looking good.

Imagine a world where not only are recreational, hallucinogenic drugs legal, but they’re happily doled out by the government.  Win.  In this world, people are happy where they belong, they’re not bothered by IQs or what social caste they belong to.  And men and women aren’t treated differently, but rather as equals.  Lastly, sex is something that is encouraged, and promiscuity is downright approved.  Everyone does it.  Literally.

Sounds fantastic right?  I think that’s the point.  But remember, this is a book about a dystopian, not utopian (they never are, are they?) future.

In this world, there are no families.  Mother and father are considered the basest of swear words, and the concept of a family is foreign and unbelievable to its inhabitants.  People don’t fear death because they are taught to not love anyone else, so there is no unhappiness when a person leaves their life.

In this Brave New World, you’re not encouraged to be in a relationship, instead all relationships are superficial and interchangable.  And there’s no God, or anything of substance.  Still sound like the perfect world?

While I thought that sections of Brave New World were a bit slow and clunky, particularly the beginning chapters that, while necessary, seemed a bit tedious.  Perhaps that’s because science confuses me and I don’t understand the first thing about cloning, but either way, I was bored.

However, the core message that Huxley is trying to resonate with the reader is phenomenal, and is often compared against George Orwell’s 1984.  While they both have their similarities the difference between the two is the right to freedom over happiness, and vice versa.

In Brave New World the majority of its inhabitants are happy.  They have all their needs met, they’re rarely disappointed and they don’t age or get sick.  But at the same time they don’t get to be free.  They don’t get the opportunity to experience things in the way that they may want to, or to know what passion or love feels like.

And why?  Why are they not allowed to feel these things?  Why are they not allowed to understand the concept of God, or to worship something that isn’t tangible or, as bad as this sounds, useful?  Because when someone has the right to their freedom it allows choices, and when a person has choices there’s the chance they’ll get it wrong, and as a result be unhappy.

The other thing that I thought that was incredibly interesting, and while still a hyperbole of reality, quite accurate, was the social caste system in Brave New World.  The concept that people are specifically created in such a way that they belong to certain social classes, and what’s more, they like it.  There’s the Alpha-Pluses who are necessary for the more intellectual aspects needed to keep things running, but there’s also the Epsilon Semi-Morons who do factory work, and what’s more, enjoy doing factory work.

As commentary of society today (well, seventy years ago but its still accurate), it makes you think about the amount of importance we place on where we stand within our society.  Furthermore, the generalisation that people are ‘ranked’ largely because of their intelligence hasn’t changed, and we have to question why.  If we think its acceptable to judge people based on their social ranking, are we any better than the people in Brave New World?

What do you think?  Have you read Brave New World?  Do you think it’s better than 1984?

brave new world by aldous huxley

Brave New World-(image taken from http://www.wikimedia.org)

Advertisements