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Brave New World | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, first published in 1932, is a dystopian classic. It introduced the concept of the world state—a staple now of many other works of dystopian literature. In Huxley's World State, the population is controlled and heavily influenced by media and targeted propaganda.

Huxley wrote the novel to define the factors that might contribute to the development of a real dystopian society, such as a widespread discouragement of critical thinking and free speech. For decades Huxley's novel has opened the eyes of readers to the importance of recognizing the signs of totalitarianism as modernity advances. As a result Brave New World is important not merely for its popularity, but also for its role as a warning of how society can be controlled and coerced under the guise of advancement.

1. Huxley was accused of plagiarism in Brave New World.

Author Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We is a dystopian examination of society written in 1924 as a response to the autocratic Soviet regime, and it has some similarities to Brave New World. Author George Orwell accused Huxley of plagiarizing the dystopian ideas in Zamyatin's work, but it was later discovered that Huxley had not read We before writing Brave New World.

2. Huxley 1984 and Animal Farm author George Orwell's teacher.

Huxley was George Orwell's French teacher at Eton College. Upon publication of 1984, Orwell received a letter from Huxley that praised Orwell's novel. But the letter also stated that Huxley's dystopian future was more likely to become reality than Orwell's version: "The nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that ... in Brave New World."

3. It only took Huxley a few months to write Brave New World even though he generally worked for short stretches.

Huxley wrote the novel in 1931 in his home in Sanary-sur-Mer, France. Later in life Huxley explained that he tended to work steadily, but not for too many hours at a time: "I usually work four or five hours a day. I keep at it as long as I can, until I feel myself going stale." Huxley said that Brave New World began as a "parody of H.G. Wells's Men Like Gods," but it "turned into something quite different."

4. The title Brave New World is from a Shakespearean play.

Huxley's title is an allusion to Shakespeare's The Tempest, in which Prospero's daughter Miranda exclaims:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O, brave new world
That has such people in 't!

The concept of a "brave new world" in Huxley's novel refers to the dystopian side of a seemingly advanced society.

5. A chemical plant inspired Huxley's writing of Brave New World.

Huxley visited the Brunner Mond chemical plant in Billingham, England, prior to writing his novel. The author cites this visit as his inspiration for the technologically advanced, socially destitute realm he creates in Brave New World. Huxley's character Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller of Western Europe, got his last name from Sir Alfred Mond, a founder of the chemical plant.

6. Huxley didn't expect Brave New World to be popular because it parodies utopian fiction.

Because of the satirical way Huxley treated utopian fiction in Brave New World, he did not expect book sales to be strong. He wanted to satirize fiction that presented a functional, utopian future for mankind. In a letter Huxley called the writing process "very difficult" and claimed, "I have hardly enough imagination to deal with such a subject. But it is none the less interesting work."

7. Brave New World was banned in Ireland and Australia in the 1930s.

The novel was banned in Ireland in 1932 for inappropriate sexual content, and in Australia it was banned from 1932 to 1937, with ban supporters citing its "advocacy of promiscuity." More recently, Brave New World appeared at number 3 on the American Library Association's list of most frequently challenged books in 2010. According to ALA, reasons for challenges include "insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit."

8. Huxley wrote a nonfiction sequel to Brave New World.

In 1958 Aldous Huxley published Brave New World Revisited, a nonfiction sequel to his dystopian novel. The book examines the ways in which society has, in Huxley's opinion, progressed further toward his dystopian view of the future since Brave New World's publication. Huxley urges readers to keep in mind several then-current events that he thinks have caused this progression toward dystopia: creation of the hydrogen bomb, the Hungarian uprising of 1956, and "those endless columns of uniformed boys ... marching obediently toward the common grave," referring to the soldiers involved in World War II and the subsequent tension.

9. Huxley's characters in Brave New World are allusions to historical figures.

Many of the characters that appear in Brave New World are named after historical figures or have names derived from combinations of famous leaders. For example, the character Benito Hoover is a combination of U.S. President Herbert Hoover and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Mustapha Mond takes the first name of a Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

10. Huxley modeled Brave New World on American values.

Huxley took note of the way the United States was using media as propaganda, as well as the enormous amount of power that media had within the country. In Brave New World he also connected commercial and political influences based on what he saw happening in the country during the 1920s. Like other writers of the "lost generation"—disillusioned intellectuals after World War I—Huxley challenged the "traditional values" by satirizing them and pointing out how people were being manipulated.

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