What’s so bad about a future where everybody’s happy? Well, you’ll see.
It’s the Year of Our Ford 632. Science and technology enable the assembly-line breeding of ideal humans, as well as happy grunts to do the drudgery. All disease has been eradicated. Subliminal messages stream pleasant, affirming thoughts to citizens in their sleep. And the mind-altering wonder drug, Soma, is distributed to the masses, leaving no one with any reason to feel pain or distress.
The result of these advances? No war, no aging, no religion, and no struggle of any kind. Unless you count striving to defeat your partner in an afternoon round of Obstacle Golf.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic, dwarfs all other applications of the phrase “ahead of its time.” Here’s a book that was considered by its contemporary readers to be mildly amusing at best, and at worst… well, the perverted ravings of an overeducated dingbat.
Perverted because people didn’t take kindly to the “erotic sexplay,” for one, that prepubescent children were to partake in with each other as introduced in Chapter Two. Of course, it’s part of the book’s greater criticism of an oversexed society, how carnal pleasures are so over-prescribed that they cease to be pleasurable. While many 1930’s readers may have understood Huxley’s point, they still generally viewed the novel’s eroticism, no matter how sterile, as lewd exploitation.
BNW has come a long way to be appreciated the way it is now, and not just through Huxley’s wit and wordplay, though that’s certainly a pleasure to be had from the book, too. In the next post, I’ll be talking about the lasting relevance of Brave New World — where this book hits our 21st century, and rattles our teeth:
- The Culture of Noise
- The Manufactured Everything
- Soma and Drugs, in General
Even today, BNW is a read that’s both zany and disturbing — and one of the most celebrated dystopian novels for good reason. When the babies get electroshocked in Chapter One, you know Huxley’s here to play ball.