Having artificial free will encourages people to ask questions about a society or existence, but having none leads one to live happily without seeking truth. The Savage Reservation, being closed off from the rest of society, allows reading of ancient literature Christianity. John, living in the reservation, enjoys reading Shakespeare and is inspired to ponder about true ways of life. John later in the book emerges as a protagonist as he leaves his own reservation and begins to experience the way the rest of the planned society lives and questions the Controller, Mustapha Mond, himself. This book presents how two people from the extremes of societies discuss the differences between empty happiness vs. painful freedom.
Free will is defined as the power to act without constraint and at the power of one’s own discretion. In a related sense, author Alders Huxley portrays an alternate reality, that takes place in the future, in his book Brave New World where nearly all free will is removed from each individual for the supposed good of society. This constrained society represents one that is an extreme solution to complications caused by free will. Similar to many other books written during the Great Depression, it provides a solution as to how to keep a happy and stable society prospering. Therefore, Huxley portrays a society in which seriously limiting humans’ free will is the deciding factor in creating a functional, peaceful, and stable society.
Alder Huxley wrote Brave New World, a bizarre, unsettling and futuristic novel in the year 1931. Huxley noticed that with the introduction of technology after the turn of the century, society started to reinvent manufacturing and improve upon technology, which made life simpler and easier than it previously was. For example, at the start of the 20th century, Henry Ford created the assembly line, and the world converted to manufacturing nearly every type of good with his system. Being one of the first inventors of technology, Alder Huxley considered Ford to be the father of a new era. Back then, the world was in great decline and, inspired by technology, Huxley wrote a novel which unrealistically could help get the world back up on its feet. He fabricated that a new society could be created by advanced technology and a society of stability and harmony would be the goal. Huxley’s Brave New World brings to life his thoughts of this newly created society and how technological advancements required to maintain stability in the society ultimately cost humanity’s free will.
In Brave New World, The World State attempts to conform each individual to the rest of society through drastic, and technologically unsound measures. The World State is a group of individuals who become the governing force in charge of the society in this novel. Brave New World takes place in the year called 632 AF, which stands for “After Ford,” and depicts Henry Ford as the creator of the new era. People in year 632 AF no longer are conceived, but instead, they are developed. New inhabitants of this society are created as test tube babies, and their free will is immediately diminished from them at the very beginning of life. New individuals are created in a batch of ninety-six identical humans (Huxley 6). Not only do all ninety-six look alike, but they are also all raised together in the exact same environment which causes them to think and rationalize identically. This futuristic way of creating babies, rather than a mother’s conception with children being raised in a family environment, takes away all originality of thought and visual characteristics of the person. As a result, The World State holds only the goal of maintaining “stability” throughout the world through logical, yet unorthodox means as depicted in this extreme case of creation.
Essentially, each person in this “new” society has been conceived through the technology of mass production similar to an assembly line. The World State then, uses a technique similar to brainwashing, called hypnopaedic learning as the infants mature into adults, which is the process of filling the scientifically created people with knowledge while they sleep (Huxley 27). When people are happy, Alder Huxley believes that the society will maintain stability and people will not question the way things are done. Since any thoughts or actions of any of these individuals can be predetermined due to the World State’s excessive brainwashing of citizens in their infancy, and every individual becomes preconditioned to hold a certain position in society and this decision can not be altered; preconditioning every individual further guarantees the social stability and functionality in the world.
Again, the reasoning behind abolishing the free will of the people is to maintain “stability,” mainly meaning no war, destruction, crime, or even jealousy or hated of another. This “civilized” society is based on complete happiness and as long as everyone in the society is happy the harmony is kept. There are, however, always sacrifices to maintaining euphoria and in this novel, and in this case, it is humanity’s free will. The people in Brave New World are left in the dark when it comes to rationalizing or having a choice to gain knowledge of origin or any other soul seeking understanding. These people are so uninformed and ignorant to life that they believe all people are created in test tubes, and they cannot even imagine such a thing as a mom or dad ever existed.
As these people live in the society, each person is required to take their daily dose of Soma, a narcotic produce by the World State. Soma causes anyone who ingests it to feel immediate happiness at anytime. This happiness replaces any other feeling and when people are happy in this society, and consequently, they do not inquire about the unjust and unsubstantiated laws in this society. Not only does Soma make humans happy, however, but it also further reduces their free will and judgement. Inevitably, the Soma maintains the stability in the environment. Not only is this drug used as a sedative to combat violence, but it is also used as a weapon given to be able to capture people by reducing their destructive thoughts to happy ones.
To maintain what Huxley’s book refers to as “stability,” the individuals are required to give up a lot. Included in the freedoms given up, citizens forego their free will. These people are placed into predestined classes of society based on the intelligence of the individual. Since every person is created identically at first, the World State adds alcohol into certain test tubes when the embryos are developing to create less intelligent people. The more alcohol added into the blood surrogate of a human the more ignorant he or she becomes, and the less freedom of choice they have after the embryo develops into a human being. In this very controlled environment, every human is placed into a group labeled Alpha, Beta, Delta, Epsilon, or Gamma, depending on the level of society they are destined to be in.
The class system the World State developed is a very structured system, with the lack of free will, and intelligence as the basis of each of the castes. Alphas are allowed a slight amount of free will, for their intelligence is superior when compared to humans in the other castes. They, along with the Betas, who hold somewhat less intelligence than the Alphas, hold mostly jobs in the main department of creating a stable society, such as preforming cloning or indoctrinating children as they sleep. The classes named Delta, Epsilon, and Gamma are at the bottom of society. They are considered slaves, for all their free will has been depleted and they only have enough intelligence to do simple minded tasks. These last mentioned three groups make up the majority of society, and perform the jobs like paving roads or constructing buildings. Every individual is placed into one of these classes when they are initially created as a blood surrogate, which is based on intelligence. Huxley felt that having these classes would solve problems of society falling apart as one giant class. It is depressing, however, that his world had to resort to such extreme circumstances in this society to create ignorant people just to perform the “grunt work” in the world.
Hundreds of years before the story in Brave New World takes place, people were not manufactured, and as a result had all their ability to reason and make choices. It was only after a nine year war ended that the World State wished to create a stable world where destruction of such magnitude would not happen again. Following the war, people revolted as the World State began to take over and attempted to control the people, but it caused economic upheaval to occur. Museums and ancient literature became disallowed and technology began to develop in the new world. People then favored the change, for it reminded people of the unstable society that once existed (Huxley 47). None of the people in charge of the World State were power hungry. They only wished to create a stable society in which everyone could live. Thus, this peaceful and happy society evolved with the World State removing the vast majority of the population’s freedom of choice.
Every governing system in the world has a Controller to oversee that its society maintains stability. In Brave New World, there are only a select few in the new world who are granted infinite free will, for they are the ones in power and oversee everything. The way of earning the chair, ironically, is to prove that one does have free will to be able to control and maintain stability.
Only the Controller has access to the great literature and culture of the past. He enjoys discussing Shakespeare with John the Savage. Huxley, by making his primitive character have only Shakespeare’s works on which to base his perceptions, shows the power of such great literature: that it can capture an enormous range of human experience, to which the citizens of the brave new world are completely oblivious. In the end, however, the people who accidentally attain knowledge have only two choices if they are to survive: they can become oppressors or outcasts (Brave New World 61)
Mustapha Mond is the Controller in Brave New World. His primary function is to retain order in the created society, and in accordance with its rules, banishes those who gain free will to islands all over the world. A human from a real, non-created reservation is John, who possessing rebel like characteristics, is called John the Savage. Originally, just as John the Savage likes to study Shakespeare, Mustapha Mond is a scholar who once liked to study and research science. Unfortunately the World State strictly prohibited the studying and research of science, for fear that individuals may uncover truths, such as the true origin of humans. Yet, out of curiosity, Mustapha Mond still continued to research. The World State become furious because this went against the society’s laws. Mond is able to reason more so than anyone else in Brave New World, and the World State had fear that an incident resulting in destruction would occur in society. The way the World State dealt with rebels like him would be to banish him to an island. Mond wanted to be banished to live a life free from the monotonous society he currently lives in, but he was ordered to become the society’s Controller, and now leads the society he so desperately wanted to leave. Mustapha Mond represents that every human has the want to learn and gain knowledge.
In the novel, every character who obtains free will questions why everyone cannot obtain it. John becomes one of the first to confront Controller Mond with questions of this nature. Mustapha Mond stated, “We believe in happiness and stability. A society of Alphas couldn’t fail to be unstable and miserable. Imagine a factory staffed by Alphas–that is to say by separate and unrelated individuals of good heredity and conditioned so as to be capable (within limits) of making a free choice and assuming responsibilities” (Huxley 214). Mond’s thought was that if everyone was intelligent then everyone would seek to have the more prominent jobs, and no one would do the lesser class positions. Without people performing jobs in all different capacities, the society will cease to exist. This is the basis of why free will and the ability to reason and choose is taken away, along with intelligence of humans in any lower classes.
In comparison to the reader’s world of today, the caste system in Brave New World could result in massive disturbances in society; however, removing free will from those in the lower classes allows them to continue with their lives, a life working as slaves. Lenina Crowne, a citizen of the Beta class, discriminates against the other castes by saying, “I’m glad I’m not a Gamma” (Huxley 59). It is not exactly fair to discriminate against others based on their class, considering they have no opportunity to decide which to be in for themselves, and since no individual would choose to be part of the lower classes in society, it is not possible to switch classes. This is unlike how people can rise up from the lower to the middle class in society in our world through hard work and determination.
Bernard Marx is an individual in the Alpha class who has developed more free will than most other Alphas due to his extraordinary intelligence. Marx refuses to take Soma for any problems he has and develops a conscience full of curiosity, wondering why things work the way they do in his society. Due to his inquisitive mind, evidenced by his inquiring why people have to take Soma, and his unusual emotions uncommon to his society, he is considered abnormal in Huxley’s novel. He is considered unusual by many of his friends, but to the reader, he is one of the closest characters in Brave New World to a human of today’s standards, which is why reader is able to relate to him.
To diminish jealously, that can be brought on from not being able to be with a desirable man or woman, marriages do not exist, and any human in this society can be with everyone else (Huxley 42). Unlike the vast majority of individuals in the novel, Marx’s emotions cause him to become jealous. As Marx first appears in Brave New World, he demonstrates jealousy over a female Alpha named Lenina Crowne because she had been with another Alpha, named Henry Foster. Bernard Marx believes that one man belongs with one woman, but in their unreasonable society, everyone can belong to or with everyone else. Any other human in Marx’s society would be satisfied with what they are able to obtain, but Marx shows that his expansive free will causes unhappy emotions that, in turn, could lead to chaos.
In hopes of maintaining a stable society, each person in Brave New World who begins to question the society, due to a developing rationalization and free will, are ostracized or sent to a distant island. Bernard Marx is an individual of the Alpha class, which as previously addressed is considered the highest society level, who thought more thoroughly and in depth than others in his social class. Even though he was perfectly normal to our standards, people always assumed there was alcohol dropped in his blood surrogate because of his constant questioning of the way society works (Huxley 82). Marx adamantly disagreed with the fact that any man or woman could be with any other sexuality, and how the World State forces each person to have values that are unreasonable to human life such as people accepting the way values are treated.
In Brave New World, there existed a village inhabited by humans, resembling a Native American Reservation that could be more closely compared to the reader’s world than the World State governed society present in Huxley’s book. Each individual in what was refereed to as the Savage Reservation holds untainted free will, for the humans living there had not been developed but born and raised by in a family. Only members of the Alpha class were allowed to visit the Savage Reservation. Despite being the only civilization left not controlled by the World State, it was retained for the purpose to persuade Alphas to stay in the modernized society that has been created for them. The Savage Reservation acts as another reinforcement to sway the Alpha’s into thinking their way of living is supreme, and so they remain content in their society. The members of the Savage Reservation do not involve themselves with extreme technological advances affecting creation and in doing so allow each person to be unique and not have to conform to the rest of society. The World State kept these humans away from the stable society formed. In short, this village was one composed of true unaltered human beings.
Having a lack of ability to reason and choose results in everyone having no individuality. Every person in the World State controlled society acts and dresses exactly the same. This is immediately noticed when Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne visit the Savage Reservation one holiday, to experience the way life there compares to their society. In the reservation was Linda, an inhabitant who was previously under the World States rule and part of the Beta class while pregnant with her child John. When Crowne talks to Linda, the first thing Linda says is, “A civilized face. Yes, and civilized clothes” (Huxley 112). Linda, in that simple sentence, states that every person who is part of the World State’s society is uniform. Functioning without free will results in all humans acting as one and all doing the same thing. Vice versa, Lenina Crowne’s are opened and she only talks about the features Linda or John hold and how they are so different from people she has seen before.
Having artificial free will encourages people to ask questions about a society or existence, but having none leads one to live happily without seeking truth. The Savage Reservation, being closed off from the rest of society, allows reading of ancient literature Christianity. John, living in the reservation, enjoys reading Shakespeare and is inspired to ponder about true ways of life. John later in the book emerges as a protagonist as he leaves his own reservation and begins to experience the way the rest of the planned society lives and questions the Controller, Mustapha Mond, himself. This book presents how two people from the extremes of societies discuss the differences between “empty happiness vs. painful freedom” (Macdonald 2).
So many restrictions are in place, significantly limiting people in this new society. Everyone’s job is static and hardly anyone is informed about many of the qualities of life. Not only are those restrictions present, but also all literature and religion have been banned. The World State had declared that books could be a cause of disruption of such stability. With the goal of stability at the core, the World State removed religion from the newly created society. “Call it the fault of civilization. God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness” (Huxley 226). Christianity no longer followed, has traces of its existence in its society. Instead of making the sign of the cross for religious purposes, people make the sign of the T. “This absurd gesture confirms Ford’s divine status, but the primacy of stomach over head and heart implies a faith premised on consumer satisfaction rather than spiritual fulfillment” (Meckier 2). This example reassures that the World State does not necessarily care about faith or values, but only the end product of quality, stability, and what seems like happiness.
Futhermore, families do not exist in the newly created society. One reason is because the death of a family member would bring out sadness or anger in one’s life. These sentimental feelings toward one another were eliminated when people no longer had families, as humans now live independent lives. “The Savage meets the utopia of his dreams and finds it wanting, a dystopia of too-easy progress against which he violently reacts. In a debate with the World Controller after the death of his “soma” drugged mother, he ineffectually demands the right to be unhappy” (Macdonald 2). Eventually, John kills himself out of the sadness related to his mother’s death. This prime example supports the idea of no longer having families in the society. Even if a person wanted to live with someone else, the World State would convince him or her of how understandable and senseless this would be. The only way that an individual would allow these drastic changes to happen would be to take most of everyone’s free will and teach them different values.
No individual seeking knowledge of his or her own existence can be happily retained in a society with the goal of hiding it from its people. Many islands have become home to those who became too intuitive with the attempt to disturb the stable society that has been formed. People have been sent to the island because “All the people who, for one reason or another, have got too self-consciously individual to fit into community-life” (Huxley 218).
People do not only wish to just survive, but also wish to live their life the way they choose. This “stable” created society may work to keep a controlled environment, but removes the key intentions worth living for. Mustapha and many other Controllers want to create a society that is peaceful and endures and in doing so removes all humanity, in the sense of free will, from the Earth. The technological advances in drugs, hypnopaedic learning, and cloning people in the future create an easy solution for preserving the “civilized” society.
Huxley wrote Brave New World with the intention of showing one extreme outcome of a society in which people are so afraid of another war that mostly all free will has been removed from the person. Without noticing, the World State has taken away the reason to live, and that is to live as one’s self. With no free will, people are just living for the society to stay together. The fact is that the whole society cannot experience what achievements they have attained when everyone, even those in the World State, are enslaved by society. Huxley includes in his book that there can be “no civilization without social stability. No social stability without individual stability” (Huxley 41). The logic is that if there was no stability then there would be no civilization.
Alders Huxley through Brave New World shows the reader an unrealistic future of his or her reality. Deciding on whether to allow humans to possess free will or not is the decision making factor in a society. In the readers’ word today, we engaged in wars due to the freedom of choice and freedom to ascertain. Another option would be to take away each individual’s autonomy and condition them to make constructive decisions. Clareson puts into perspective the key point Huxley was trying to accomplish by writing his utopian society book:
By and large the citizens of the Brave New World are incapable of constructive, imaginative thought; Mustapha Mond asserts that they have been so conditioned–in order to preserve the stability of their world. On the other hand, with the exception of the incident in which he builds his bow and arrow and puts into practice the knowledge old Mitsima taught him, the Savage shows himself incapable of constructive, imaginative action. He can act only in a frenzy, as when he pointlessly destroys the Soma of the Delta workers. It is on the horns of this complicated dilemma that Huxley’s thesis lies. (Clareson 2)
The excerpt points out that although the society is seriously structured and monotonous, people are conditioned to do the right thing and everyone is happy and stable.
Brave New World brings into question the idea that stability and harmony can be more important than the free will and decision making of a human being. Huxley stresses, as his book supports, that he approves of a conditioned society even if it costs the society its freedom of choice. Viewing this book in respect to the readers’ society disregards free will whereas is should be cherished throughout the lives of every human being. The ultimate decision leads to either meaningless happiness and stability or volatile freedom of choice. The deciding factor is the free will of the people.
Therefore, Alders Huxley reveals through Brave New World that removal of most, if not all, freedom of choice from individuals, results in a society that would be more prosperous and stable. A feeling of happiness will be common throughout everyone and Huxley exclaims that is the key to maintaining a firm and secure society. Huxley also cautions and includes numerous downfalls of a society created through taking away the citizens free will. The book successfully shares Huxley’s point of view on how to maintain a well kept society. Huxley portrays a society in which taking away free will is the deciding factor in creating a functional and stable society.
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Clareson, Thomas D. “The Classic: Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’.” Extrapolation 3.1 (Dec. 1961): 33-40. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Literature Resource Center. Web. 15 Mar. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.cpl.org/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CH1100001351&v=2.1&u=clevnet_cpl&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Macdonald, Gina. “Aldous Huxley: Overview.” St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers. Ed. Jay P. Pederson. 4th ed. New York: St. James Press, 1996. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 Mar. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.cpl.org/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CH1420004194&v=2.1&u=clevnet_cpl&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>
Meckier, Jerome. “Aldous Huxley’s Americanization of the Brave New World typescript.” Twentieth Century Literature 48.4 (2002): 427+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 Mar. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.cpl.org/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CA108194336&v=2.1&u=clevnet_cpl&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>
Cover of Brave New World