Brave New World: Utopia or Dystopia?

A common misconception with Dystopian novels is that our immediate assumption is that in an effort to create a world of ideals, those ideas somehow go wrong and that the mechanisms in place for these societies are twisted and perverted. We are looking for reasons as to why these societies could never work and very rarely do we entertain the idea that perhaps, indeed, they could.

And yet, that is exactly the question posed in “Brave New World”. It is not an evil society and the moments we wait for, the big reveal, dissipate. Depending on who you are, you might very well be happy in this society, if you can look past the horrors.

The Premise

With stem cell research a hot topic nowadays, I find it fascinating to read about a novelĀ  published in the thirties that has a society based on individuals incubated in test tubes. The dystopian twist is this is how classes are formed within the “Brave New World” society. In theory, everyone could be born an Alpha or a Beta, as it only requires an oxygen adjustment to the tank. Yes, that’s right. Depending on the amount of oxygen one receives during incubation will ultimately determine who that person will become. Less oxygen means you’ll slide closer to gammas, deltas, and epsilons. As can be guessed, Alphas rule over society and have the most freedom, Betas do important work but generally lead simpler lives while epsilons exist at the bottom of society, doing the undesirable work. To make matters worse (as if oxygen starvation wasn’t enough), toddlers are conditioned to hate that which nature intended for them to love. At night, inaudible words are played to dictate behavior and you have a recipe for a perfect dystopia.

And Yet…

The book touches on themes such as lifespan and poses a rather interesting question; would you rather live until 60 in perfect health or live past 60 with the potential of decline? In the book there isn’t much of a choice but the question has stuck with me even years after reading the novel (yes, I started this review years ago). Through Soma (the typical Dystopian happy pill), a world free of pregnancy, and open relations like you’ve never seen before, one might argue that this society doesn’t seem all too bad (at least for Alpha and Betas). One could also arguably make the case for Deltas and Epsilons that ignorance is bliss in what is just one of many controversial ideas of this book (still shocked this was written in the 30’s).

Hard to Say

The book also touches on the idea of Reservations and explores the concept of whether or not we are truly better off with unabated technological advances. The reservations preserve the culture and are left largely alone by the “modern” society. The book touches on many themes during this portion of the novel and is best read fresh. I could go in more depth but pondering the questions raised in this book while reading was quite enjoyable.

The Verdict

Even after years of reading the book, the concepts and ideas stick. This is a Masterpiece of literature and a must read. The ideas discussed and analyzed are some of the best I’ve ever read in any dystopian novel, putting it in a class all on it’s own.