Aldous Huxley's Americanization of the Brave New World typescript.(Critical Essay)

By Meckier, Jerome | Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Aldous Huxley's Americanization of the Brave New World typescript.(Critical Essay)


Meckier, Jerome, Twentieth Century Literature


When Aldous Huxley revised the Brave New World typescript (1) between 27 May and 24 August 1931, he strove to Americanize his dystopia. His cleverest expedient was to ink in additional insults to Henry Ford, so that a novel that began as a satiric rendition of the future according to H.G. Wells grew increasingly anti-Fordian. With Ford as synonym and stand-in, each new uncomplimentary use of his name further condemned the World State for being America writ large. Mustapha Mond's jurisdiction forms part of an insanely rational society for which several of Huxley's finest holograph insertions blame America's archetypal technocrat.

In the choicest of emendations herein called Americanizations, Huxley writes a new paragraph of two short sentences:

      "Ford's in his flivver," murmured the D.H.C. "All's right 
   with the world." 

This paragraph becomes the last two of 15 lines on TS 49; the other 13 lines are typewritten and only tightly edited. Lives in the brave new world are "emotionally easy" Mustafa Mond boasts, because the interval "between desire and its consummation" (BNW 50) has been eliminated. Huxley added a fervent outburst from the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning to complete this vignette. (2)

Huxley's two-sentence autograph addition discredits its utterer, castigates Our Ford, and ridicules the brave new world. Despite the D.H.C.'s piety, all is not "right" in the World State. The opening pages of chapter 3 switch back and forth from Mond's impromptu history lesson to Lenina's conversation with Fanny Crowne about irregularities in Bernard Marx's sex life. The World Controller's speech to the D.H.C.'s new students about the splendors of the brave new world is undercut by Lenina's growing dissatisfaction with promiscuity and Bernard's penchant for solitude.

A travesty of religious sentiment, the lines about Our Ford resemble slogans such as "Everybody's happy now," one of many bromides brave new worlders use to reassure themselves that the World State is the perfect place. Given a bookless society of nonreaders, one doubts the Director knowingly makes a literary allusion. Nevertheless, Huxley reveals an embarrassing contradiction between Robert Browning's robust optimism and the new situation parodying it. Instead of God overseeing the universe from heaven, brave new worlders envision Our Ford superintending their affairs from his "flivver," a slang expression for a small, inexpensive automobile, hence a decline misrepresented as apotheosis. (3)

In Browning's closet drama Pippa Passes (1841), a young girl from the silk mills of Asolo hopes to improve everyone she encounters on her annual holiday. As she passes by singing "God's in his heaven--/ All's right with the world!" (Browning 15), her words confound Sebald and Ottima, an adulterous couple who have just murdered the latter's dotard husband. Stung by remorse, they atone through double suicide. Pippa's song voices Browning's "basic view" of the universe: "under an omnipotent, benevolent God, all must, at least in a cosmic sense, be right with the world," Kenneth L. Knickerbocker contends (Browning xvi). Due to the influence that Pippa's songs have on several parties during her daylong release from Ottima's husband's silk mill, "All is a hit righter."

This sense of augmented rightness is absent from the brave new world because standards have been lowered. Proof sheets substitute "All's well with the world" (PS 50) for "Ali's right," which is quoted correctly in typescript. The brave new world trivializes Browning's conception of a totally responsible God. Indifferent to questions of rightness, this supposedly utopian society only seeks wellness, "the maintenance of well-being" as Mond later defines it (BNW 209)--effortless comfort without the bother of a metaphysics.

TS 49 is partly blank. It could be a retyped leaf that ends at midpage "to fit a pre-existent following page" (Wilson 31). …

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