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Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World | Context


Story Structure and Language

The descriptive passages in Brave New World mirror the particular settings being described, while the dialogue reveals the characterizations of the speakers. For example, the terse sentence structure and description of the opening scene reveals the cold, sterile Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. This creates the impersonal and robotic mood developed in the subsequent scenes by characters who obediently abide by their conditioning. The chapters that focus on the World State's philosophy, descriptions in and around London, and ceremonies such as the Solidarity Service also use this detached writing style. Huxley's more expansive dialogues between Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson illustrate the men's upset with the repressive society, while Lenina and Bernard demonstrate their emotional sides in their more expressive dialogues. John the Savage's language combines the contemporary speaking style he learned from Linda and the Indians with Shakespeare's Elizabethan syntax and vocabulary. Mustapha Mond's lectures are similarly wordy but remain composed, mirroring his more balanced nature.

Dystopian Literature

The prefix dys- negates the root word it precedes. A utopia is a paradise, while a dystopia is a hell. Most dystopian novels are social commentaries or social satires. Dramatic irony is a mainstay of this genre since it is an effective vehicle for writers to present the imagery of an ideal world with a negative subtext. In the novel only the audience realizes that the government is repressive and that all aspects of people's lives are controlled—from where they live or work to what they think or believe. Citizens are dehumanized through genetic engineering, and their intelligence levels and emotions are predetermined by genetic engineers. The study of the humanities, science, political ideology—anything that might make people question their social order or disturb their carefully channeled emotions—is prohibited. Most important to social stability, everyone obeys the constant repetitive conditioning that programs all humans to adhere to the same messages enforced during sleep.

The conflict between positive and negative viewpoints is necessary for a believable dystopian novel. On the positive side, the lives of the novel's characters are stable and happy, although the characters are blind to their suppression as a result of their conditioning. Shallow characters such as Lenina, Fanny, Linda, Henry, and all of Bernard's Solidarity Service acquaintances show total acceptance and obedience to the accepted ideological tenets. Their actions add depth to this illusory world. Balancing their admiration are the critical views of the government shared by the characters Bernard, Helmholtz, and John. These perspectives reflect their dissatisfaction and struggle to escape the oppressive society.

Conditioning Methods

Aldous Huxley deftly meshes the stimulus-response conditioning method of physiologist Ivan Pavlov with various advertising practices in the World State's sleep-teaching methods. The advertising slogans are the stimulus, learned by the population as they sleep (the response). Requirements for writing the sleep messages include appealing to beauty and happiness. The "hypnopaedic" messages of sleep-learning employ propaganda approaches such as appealing to the crowd (the "bandwagon" technique), presenting an object or idea favorably ("card stacking"), using words that are connected with their principal values, such as community, identity, stability, and happiness ("glittering generalities"), and promoting products that appeal to the masses ("plain folks").


Satires criticize aspects of society, including government, that the author feels must be changed. The best satires have readers believing that the scenarios posed are possible, perhaps even desirable. In Brave New World Aldous Huxley creates a benevolent dictatorship, but he does so in order to belittle societal characteristics that he views as ridiculous. Among his targets are the hypocrisy of government officials, materialism, the acceptance of group mentality over individualism, the tendency of people to accept defeat instead of taking personal responsibility, the desire for decadence over morality, and the discriminatory potential of test-tube babies.

Huxley uses satiric elements such as hyperbole to emphasize the positive and negative sides of characters' beliefs and lifestyles. Verbal irony in the form of overstatement, understatement, and parody abounds in the book. Situational irony (the variation between what is expected to happen and what does happen) and dramatic irony (readers are aware of something that story characters are not) underscore his points. The author's goal is to open readers' minds to issues that will make free societies vulnerable to the machinations of power-seeking leaders whose goals are to prohibit independent thinking and to fracture the scientific, technological, philosophical, moral, historical, and literary foundations of civilization.

Historical Framework

When Aldous Huxley started writing Brave New World in 1931, World War I had been over for fewer than 15 years. The flu epidemic of 1918 took more lives than all of the casualties of that conflict. The 1920s ushered in the frivolous Jazz Age with its looser rules regarding sex, drugs, and alcohol. This more carefree era collapsed along with the economy in 1929 with the onset of the worldwide Great Depression. When people are discontent, they often turn to an ideology that offers them the promise of a happier and more economically stable life. During the period from 1917 to 1931, the year Huxley began his dystopian novel, fascism in Germany and communism in Russia promised such utopias. The citizens of these countries didn't always see the dark side of the politicians' rhetoric, but Huxley did. Brave New World is the result of this turbulent 14-year span in history.

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