It’s our first book club pick! Upon finishing Huxley’s Brave New World, I have to say I have mixed feelings about the novel itself, but we’ll get to that later.
First, I’ve got a few questions to get you thinking:
1)A number of things in Huxley’s World Society seem to mirror aspects of our own world; mass production, consumerism and to an extent, genetic engineering.
Did you find the World Society to be disturbing? If so, was there a particular similarity that you found to be most uncomfortable, and why?
2) Towards the end of the novel, World Controller Mustapha Mond says, ‘the world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill, they’re not afraid of death…’.
In a world where almost all of the inhabitants are ‘happy’, why is Brave New World a dystopian fiction? Is a utopian society an impossible idea?
3) We are introduced to Bernard Marx as a revolutionary; the lone figure that sees the World Society as evil.
Did your view of Bernard shift towards the end of the novel? How does he compare with John Savage?
4) Throughout the novel, John continually quotes and refers back to Shakespeare, particularly King Lear. On the contrary, the World Society condemns art.
Why did Huxley use Shakespeare’s work as the basis for John’s artistic awakening? What do you think about Mustapha Mond’s argument that art forms the basis for unhappiness?
5) Toward the end of the novel, Huxley focuses primarily on John and his ideas of what it means to be human.
How did you feel about the ending? Is John the real hero of the novel?
By the time I’d gotten halfway through Brave New World, I’d pretty much decided that I didn’t like the novel.
However, I feel totally different now I’ve finished it! I actually do see what all the fuss is about.
In a futuristic new state, the World Society, science and efficiency take precedent over ever aspect of life. Emotion, individualism and self-control are nowhere to be found, while uniformity and passivity are conditioned into the minds of every person on the planet – with the help of state-administered drugs and unlimited sex, that is. In turn, to be happy and to be human are two concepts entirely divorced from one another. It seems that only Bernard Marx sees the World Society for the evil institution it really is.
‘One egg, one embryo, one adult – normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress’ (p. 4).
Brave New World is one of those books that everyone says you absolutely have to read. I have to admit, initially I didn’t understand the hype. I feel like the beginning of the novel is a slow start, though I do understand that Huxley is providing the reader with a purposefully detailed outline of a futuristic idea; the mechanical reproduction of the human. I did find the first 5 chapters in the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre hard work. While I enjoyed Huxley playing around with different narrative voices, after a while all I could think was ‘we get it, get on with the rest of the book’.
That said, Huxley’s masterpiece soon picked up. It was interesting to me that in a Dystopian novel, there are distinctly feminist undertones coming through. Lenina goes for what she wants and 9 times out of 10, she gets it. Attitudes toward sex and relationships in the crazy World Society seem far more equal that our own world’s. How depressing is that?
People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We’ve gone on controlling ever since. It hasn’t been very good for truth, of course. But it’s been very good for happiness. One can’t have something for nothing’ (p. 201).
Bernard is a tricky character. He definitely didn’t turn out the way I thought he would, particularly after Huxley introduces John into the novel. I won’t say any more about Bernard so as not to spoil it, but I think that John is the real hero. Visiting the Savage reservation was interesting; while Huxley paints it as a base, dirty place, it also provides a snapshot of the importance of morality and a sense of community that the World Society distinctly lacks. The novel comes together towards the end as John and Mustapha Mond discuss the ethics – or lack thereof – of the World Society vs the pre-Fordian world.
Overall, this wasn’t the novel that I thought it would be! I guess I started the novel with pre-conceived ideas so that’s my own fault. However, I did really enjoy it and I get the hype.
I hope you enjoyed Book Club Round 1!! There will be info on our next pick in the next few days!
If anyone has any questions or would like to join the book club for next time, message me<3
Our next pick is Queenie!
Lots of love,