Aldous Huxley’s most well-known literary creation, “Brave New World”, is a dystopia which sets itself apart from the rest of the genre. It does so by managing to stand at the boundary between dystopia and utopia.
The question is asked about Huxley’s magnum opus as to whether it is one or the other. In theory, the two genres stand in complete opposition but, in this context, it boils down to what approach you take, to the point of view from which you analyze the literary work when looking to see which one of the two it really is.
From one point of view, from a purely materialistic one, the world which Huxley created is a utopia. And that is because the point of the entire World State is the happiness of its citizens. Nothing is more important than that. The entire society, with its social castes, its decantation process, with its twisted, upside down moral and cultural norms, the entirety of it was created for the people.
The social castes were created because every workplace in the world needed a type of worker suitable for it. That, and the fact that, as is pointed out in the book, a society composed only of Alpha individuals would be a highly unstable one, because each person would attempt to seize as much power and as many resources for themselves, destabilizing the society. Therefore, so as to ensure that everybody is perfectly happy with his workplace, their intellectual capabilities often needed to be diminished. Certainly, an enormous amount of conditioning also had to be put in place in order for each member of the society to be perfectly happy with their place in the world.
They have been taught to avoid complicated issues such as history, art and intense emotions because they can cause discomfort and gloom, and essentially lead to social instability. As such, people in the World State are taught and encouraged to spend their time only with the most uncomplicated of pastime activities: sports, sex and soma. Thus, everybody can be perfectly happy all the time.
And even when someone from one of the higher castes, usually an Alpha, becomes more independent and starts going against the norms of the society, gradually turning into a threat towards social stability, they aren’t killed or incapacitated. Rather, they are simply sent to an island, which they can choose, where they can live with other people like themselves and where they don’t affect the rest of the world.
So, truly, without forcing the perspective on the matters one could view Huxley’s “Brave New World” as a utopia.
In my opinion, however, it is clear that the novel is a dystopia for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the individual liberty of each citizen is almost completely inexistent, with certain exceptions. Every person who lives in this world is literally made according to a plan, the life of each of them being carefully designed before they are even born. They have no liberty whatsoever regarding what they do with their lives. Through biochemical engineering of the developing embryo egg, and later through sleep hypnosis and other types of conditioning, people are forced into liking certain activities and completely avoiding others. As such, through this type of mental manipulation, they are made to love everything that is “good” for society and hate everything that is “bad” for it.
Another aspect of the book which comes as an argument for it being a dystopia is its deviation from what people still call common sense. And it is not just deviation from common sense, but often its complete annihilation. In Huxley’s creation, children are allowed and, moreover, encouraged to have sex or, as is called in the book, “erotic play”. They start doing this as early as six or seven years old. cite The reason for this is that sexual relationships are seen only as a source of pleasure and nothing else, a view towards which our society is gravitating more and more.
Sex has been and is continually being stripped of its downsides, of its disadvantages, of its drawbacks, which is another way if saying that it is being deprived of its reproductive dimension. It has been transformed from a means through which human life is created to every adolescent’s favourite toy. Childbirth has been turned from a blessing to a nuisance, if not plainly a curse.
People in the World State are taught to live “in the moment”, to enjoy only the hollow, fleeting pleasures of the body or of the mind such as carefree sex, time-wasting sports or Soma, denying the ugly and unpleasant aspects of the world. In the same way, people are taught in our current days, whether through the preachings of the consumerist culture clergymen or through those of the “present-moment” missionaries, to simply “enjoy life”.
In this Huxley’s society, nothing is more important than happiness. And it is not any sort deeply spiritual or emotional feeling. It is the plainest, most shallow kind of happiness, and, quite unfortunately, one which resembles that of our current days. In other words, people, both in Huxley’s world and in ours, are driven and drive themselves towards simply “having fun”, flatlining their emotional, intellectual and spiritual experiences and turning their lives into an entertaining void. More and more our society grows to resemble that of the “Brave New World”, the only difference being the means through which people get their “happiness”.