Huxley’s Brave New World is hailed as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and with good reason. With the rapid rise of science and technology, the dystopian setting of the ‘Fordist world’ has many echoes even in today’s world.
Bernard Marx is an inhabitant of the ‘World State’, established by it’s founder and quasi-mystical idol, Ford. Unlike his peers however, Bernard is curious about the ‘reservation’ that lies on the fringe of ‘civilised’ society, and the ‘savages’ that live there. Whilst in the ‘World State’ embryo’s are genetically engineered, behaviours conditioned and suffering eradicated by the systematic use of ‘soma’, the reservation is wild and full of freedoms unimaginable in the world of Ford. After visiting this strange place, Bernard returns with John the ‘savage’ who struggles to adapt to the regimented, cold and base way of life overseen by ‘His Fordship’ Mustapha Mond.
As the two worlds collide, Huxley embarks on an exploration of what it means to be human. This not only entails the implications of genetic engineering, behaviour conditioning and desensitisation particularly towards death, but also the pathologising of pain and suffering, ritualisation and perhaps most importantly, freewill.
The end result is astonishing, and made all the more surprising by the fact that the novel was written in 1931, and published just a year later – in many ways Brave New World was ahead of it’s time.
So if you haven’t already, it’s definitely worth a read. Far from the content being off putting, the dystopian setting and fascinating narrative should keep you gripped until the very end.