Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

In the future, everybody’s happy except Bernard Marx. Despite the selective breeding and the constant conditioning throughout his entire life, he doesn’t seem to fit in. (He prefers solitude to company, and he’s hardly promiscuous, so he’s quite a weirdo in this “ideal” society. People gossip that his problems stem from alcohol contaminating his blood-surrogate while he was still in the bottle.) He could always take some soma, the government-provided drug, and he’d forget about all his problems, but Bernard just wants to feel something for once.

Interestingly, Bernard acts as our protagonist at the start of Brave New World, but things shift about halfway through, after he visits the Savage Reservation, one of the few places left relatively untouched by everything that comes with this future civilization. The people there seem to have a culture made up of a combination of elements from America’s First Nations as well as our modern world, including religion, literature, and actual families, all of which are missing from this “ideal” one. So, when Bernard brings John, one of these Savages, back into the civilized world with him, John proves to be a reasonable reader stand-in, allowing Huxley the opportunity to explore the intricacies and pitfalls associated with the collective “happiness.”

And, as effective as I suppose this proves to be overall, in doing so we more-or-less abandon Bernard’s story before finishing it. I mean, he remains in the story pretty well up to the end, and his character still develops as we move along, but, by the end, his part of the story still seemed ripe for further exploration to arrive at a satisfying (not necessarily happy) conclusion. For he––and his only real friend, Helmholtz––seem to only start to understand the terrible sacrifices made in the name of this “happiness,” the unethical nature of this future society’s stability. And it’s unfortunate. As intriguing as it is to talk about the importance of personal autonomy and the wonders that accompany strife, we almost had one or more characters’ entire world-view shattering simultaneously, and I’m just suggesting that that would have been a better read.