No Place Else: Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction

By Eric S. Rabkin; Martin H. Greenberg et al. | Go to book overview

6
On Brave New World

William Matter

In an interview with a representative from the Paris Review, Aldous Huxley once commented that he began Brave New World as a parody of H. G. Wells's Men Like Gods.1 But the novel thus initiated as a simple parody was altered and broadened by the creative process until, in 1932, Huxley published his masterpiece of dystopian fiction -- an incisive, satiric attack upon twentieth-century man's sometimes ingenuous trust in progress through science and mechanization. Brave New World warns the reader that "perfection" of the state entails absolute social stability, and social stability entails the effacement of personal freedom. The pleasantries of Obstacle Golf, scent organs, sex-hormone chewing-gum, and other mindless diversions garishly mask the loss of the individual's right to feel.

The novel is set in the distant future, specifically 632 years After Ford. As the Huxleyan chronology indicates, conventional religious worship has been replaced by the celebration of Henry Ford, whose assembly lines greatly advanced progress through mechanization. Symbolically, the top portion of the cross has been removed to form the sign of the T -- in honor of Ford's Model T. This change is indicative of the high esteem Huxley satirically accords to science and the machine in his society. The reader sees many such "improvements." For example, the story begins as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning escorts a group of students through the Central London Hatchery. The official explains the modern processes employed to produce children. Embryos, he tells the students, are created scientifically. Women who are not freemartins (sterile) donate ova to the state. The eggs are put in expertly prepared test tubes which provide an artificial environment better than mother herself. A withdrawal is made from the sperm bank, and life begins before the watchful eyes of the supervising workers. Children are not born in this new world; they are decanted. In fact, the word "mother," as a symbol of past decadent social structures, is considered to be horribly vulgar. The family unit in

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