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In The Pursuit of Happiness: A Reflection of Huxley’s Brave New World

May 22, 2008

The idea of “utopia” differs from one individual to the next. A utopia is an “ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.” (Dictionary.com) Such a “state” would also be called “happiness.” However, Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, dispels such idealism by subtly presenting these considerations as a dystopia, “a state in which the conditions of life are extremely bad as from deprivation or oppression or terror” (Dictionary.com).

Seemingly, from the beginning of the novel, a level of perfect contentment has been reached and people are happy, free and satisfied with the new way of civilization. There is no mention of violence, war, divorce, pain, disease, economic or political problems. Everything seems to be perfectly stable with people being complacent and working together for the good of all. However, while the beginning of the book sets the reader up for some kind of science fiction type story, it does not take long to realize that Huxley’s intent goes much deeper than the surface of story-telling. Huxley uses satire and subtle irony to intently heighten the senses and stir the emotions of the reader to take notice (and be warned) of the impending dangers of passivity toward a belief in God and the foundations of faith as these relate to one’s pursuit of happiness, or “utopia.”

The first and most obvious ideal of the new civilization to alert the reader to Huxley’s ploy starts with the tour of the “Hatchery and Conditioning Centre” (Huxley, p.3). From the Fertilizing Room to the ongoing hypnopaedia or conditioning, this new society exemplifies man’s innate desire to “be God,” or do better than God by their efforts to re-create or improve upon nature and creation. For example, the Bokanovsky Process by which standardized men and women are created in uniform batches by the scores is described by the Director as “one of the major instruments of social stability” (Huxley, p. 7). He arrogantly dishonors God by noting that “they” are in control, “for the first time in history” through conformity to the designated caste system and the planetary motto of “Community. Identity. Stability” (Huxley, p. 8).

The genetic engineering and cloning ability were most likely considered science fiction to the reader of 1932 when this book was first published. However, in 2008, it is not such a far-fetched idea. Whether Huxley was prophetic or simply imaginative, he uses these scenarios at the beginning of his book to alert (and even scare) the reader to the dangers of passivity concerning issues that were being considered or debated during that time. Such ideals could have been the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925 (Lindner) or Hitler’s plan to genetically create the perfect race and eliminate all others, which began in the late 1920’s – early 1930’s. Just the same, readers of 2008 may be similarly incited by the bizarre ideas of Brave New World as modern technology has brought these issues into common practice in today’s world through stem-cell transplants, in-vitro fertilization, sperm banks, abortion, euthanasia, genetic testing, and selective breeding.

Relating to one’s faith and belief that God is the Creator and Sustainer of Life, those who read this and are familiar with Holy Scriptures will aptly recall the story of creation where God created man in His own image (The Holy Bible, New International Version, Genesis 1:27). In contrast to Brave New World, by God’s design humanity and nature are as diverse as anything one could imagine. While those in the Brave New World seek to change and improve upon that, God put His stamp of approval on His Work (Genesis 1:31). God said that “it was good” knowing full well that human nature would break down the perfection of His creation. As the tour of the facility continues, readers are given obvious clues that the new civilization disregards God and faith, and believes that nature and divine providence are powerless against the conditioning processes and technologies that have been put into use. By misrepresenting two biblical references (Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9), the Director tells the group, “What man has joined together, nature is powerless to put asunder (Huxley, p. 22). Ironically, the “controllers” of Brave New World could not even see their creation crumbling right before their eyes. by the subtle discontent of characters such as Lenina, Bernard Marx and Helmholtz, as well as the later revelation of Linda’s unplanned pregnancy and the birth of John Savage (Huxley, pgs 43, 69, 94, 118 ).

Another early alert to the reader is by the reference or replacement of God with “our Ford,” (Huxley, p. 25, 29, 39). Through this subtle exchange of terms, because Ford represents industrialization and technology, Huxley is suggesting that society has come to idolize technology and modern conveniences and now worships them. This is in direct contrast to Holy Scriptures, and most specifically the Ten Commandments where God says, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me,” (Exodus 20:3-4). However, in this story, God as the Sovereign, Supreme Being has been dismissed and all aspects of life revolve around the consumption of goods and the production of more goods to keep society going. Ironically, the new civilization tries it’s best to mimic or create opportunities for fulfillment or atonement through weekly Solidarity Services that resemble contemporary (or modern-day) worship services and man’s need to connect with God. There is even an included ritual very similar to Holy Communion practiced during this weekly gathering. Even these services are filled with technology, music, lights, smells, and illusions to create an atmosphere conducive to “fulfillment.” Present day readers might find this strangely familiar to worship services of today that have become overwhelmingly infiltrated with technology as a means to motivate the worshipper or create “transformational” and more intimate moments with God (and self). But the reader will be surprised, if not appalled, to recognize that this gathering in Brave New World soon evolves to a sexual orgy (Huxley, p. 84). However, this too parodies man’s need for and his futile attempt to attain intimacy and personal fulfillment by his own devices and often without any regard to God.

While there are subtle (and misconstrued) references to Holy Scriptures throughout Brave New World, in the end the World Controller, Mustapha Mond, explains to John Savage (and the reader) that “God is not compatible with machinery, scientific medicine and happiness,” (Huxley, p. 234). He claims there is no need to acknowledge God because in this time, He “makes Himself known in His absence.” (Huxley, p. 234). According to John Powers, Doctor of Ministry and author of the book, “I Believe: Bridging Belief with Behavior,” this relates to natural revelation and how God manifests Himself to man through nature (Powers). “We can learn some things about God this way, but it’s limited. For example, it doesn’t teach us about God’s love or providence.” Powers said. Thus, man cannot be satisfied by knowing God ONLY through natural revelation because it leaves one asking questions rather than giving answers. In Brave New World, this concept is perfectly demonstrated by Bernard Marx’, Helmholtz’s and John Savage’s relentless pursuit of answers to questions about identity, purpose, and existence. Such answers can only be found through a combination of biblical revelation (reading God’s Word) and personal revelation (by the Holy Spirit through study, prayer and teaching) and natural revelation (Powers). While this contradicts the Controller’s belief that civilization has chosen or prefers technology over God in order to be happy, it gives platform to Huxley’s warning of how closely modern society is to accepting this ideal.

This brings about another alarming concept of Brave New World in that the “free will” (a part of God’s design) of man has been diminished. There IS basic freedom to travel about and enjoy the implements of society. But there is no support for freedom of personal will, opinions or ideas. Searching for knowledge, thinking and experiencing life outside the norms of the “civilized society” are strongly rejected. Bernard Marx is considered an outcast because he “chooses” not to participate in recreational activities such as obstacle golf, promiscuous sex and does not take soma, the standard and acceptable drug, to cope with reality. There is an implication that society is stable and productive because the citizens do not have to think about personal life choices such as these … it has all been decided for them. Utopia (happiness) is realized through conformity and Bernard is unhappy because he does not conform.

However, readers who are familiar with Holy Scriptures will likewise find these ideals contradictory to biblical truths and values associated with faith in God. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Romans 12:2). Conforming, or passively going along with societal norms deteriorates objectivity or the opportunity to renew one’s thinking regarding values that have been held as true. Ironically, God encourages man to think critically and make choices based upon that critical, objective thinking (Romans 12:2). The World Controller discourages and even forbids it and forces conformity. Conformity can be forced, but utopia cannot. According to Powers, “Utopia is [philosophically] impossible without freewill.” This ideal supports Huxley underlying implication that this “utopia” is in fact a “dystopia.” Furthermore, he leads the reader to examine the levels of conformity that he/she has already adopted and to recognize the dangers and losses that can occur by remaining passive toward such truths and values of one’s faith.

Huxley’s Brave New World, perhaps one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century, cannot be read without having one’s mind challenged by the extreme ideals of “civilization.” There is a crisis of belief regarding what constitutes true happiness. And, the reader must face the realization that society has indeed evolved to the point that technology (modernism) takes precedence over traditions (values). With stability at the top of the priority list for this “Brave New World,” the “powers that be” insist that this is only achieved by dismissing all the former values that were held dear by savage worlds of long ago. In this new society, people are “designed” to serve a certain purpose in order to keep society stable. There is no regard for the individual, elderly, sick, fat or otherwise “imperfect” people. This is represented in several instances of the novel including conversations about the disposal of people in the crematoriums, the reactions to the effects of time and wear on Linda’s debilitated mid-life appearance, and Bernard’s and Helmholtz’s queer behavior toward conformity (Huxley). Modern day readers would have to recognize and evaluate the same attitudes prevalent in today’s society (through media and marketing) regarding what it takes to be beautiful, successful and acceptable.

The problem is that while most of the characters in Brave New World appeared to be happy with not having to think about anything beyond work and the required criteria for keeping society stable (sex, drugs and conditioning), Huxley cleverly presents the anticipated objections of the reader through Bernard Marx, Helmholtz and John Savage. They are openly antagonistic toward the free reign of drug use, orgies and the blatant disregard (and disrespect) for personal ideas or interests. One thing that most people in western society value is the freedom of choice and the options available in the pursuit of happiness. While this may sometimes include such promiscuity, chemical dependency and being subjected to societal norms, it also includes one’s free will to think, believe and make choices. To have these practices or ideals inflicted upon you without any choice is oppression and contradictory to “happiness.” Huxley wants the reader to recognize such freedoms and values are at stake and must not be taken for granted.

Huxley provides incredible insight to future developments and how advancing technologies consume every aspect of modern-day life. From medicine to finances to home conveniences, society is absolutely dependent upon and basically dysfunctional without technology. The irony is that he also provides the reader with a clear picture of what can happen when the quest for happiness is overshadowed by the acquisition of things, particularly via technology, that just promises momentary pleasure. This thought is supported by recent studies by Dr. Robert Lane and Yale University finding that the American level of happiness has steadily declined over several decades as technology and modern conveniences have advanced and made Americans “seemingly” more productive, wealthy and successful (Swanson).

Upon concluding this work, a reader is challenged with how to process the novel and what to do with the insights that have been gained. Obviously, the road has already been paved to Huxley’s Brave New World and it represents many aspects of modern day society. By processing this book through the eyes of faith, one can recognize how much of life truly revolves around a system of beliefs and values … FAITH. Faith changes a person on the inside, but it has great potential to change society as well. To have faith, one has to think. The Bible says that “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is,” (The Holy Bible, King James Version, Proverbs 23:7). The people of Brave New World were not programmed to think … they were programmed to exist. But if a man is not allowed to think and does not know why he exists, then he doesn’t even know that he exists (Powers). If utopia is impossible without free will, and if free will requires that a man be able to think about his choices, the only conclusion is that to have any kind of understanding of life … including community, identity and stability … and in order to attain that ultimate utopia, man has to have faith in the answers that he finds. And that, in a nutshell, is the basis of Huxley’s Brave New World.

Works Cited

“Dictionary.com/reference/browse/dystopia.” WordNet 3.0. Boston: Princeton University, 14 May 2008.

“Dictionary.com/reference/browse/utopia.” The American Heritage Dictionary of English,

Fourth Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin, May 2004.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins, 1932.

Lindner, Douglas O. An Introduction to the John Scopes (Monkey) Trial. 10 July 2000. 18 May

2008 <http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm&gt;.

Powers, Dr. John. Doctor of Ministry, Author “I Believe: Bridging Belief With Behavior” Carole

Hicks. 16 May 2008.

Swanson, David. Why Aren’t Americans Happy? n/a. 18 May 2008

<http://www.opednews.com/swanson&gt;.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. New York:

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

The Holy Bible, King James Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987.

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1996.

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