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Huxley's family all consisted of upper class intellectuals, His father was a biographer, editor, and poet, and his grandfather was a famous biologist. Living around these people, he not only received a superior education in a wide variety of subjects, but had to deal with the constant pressure of living up to their expectations. Living in England, Huxley describes a very harsh class system in his novel, no doubt taken from the same system in his country. There was also an emergence of fascism throughout Europe, coupled with an economic depression, which also made their way into the book. Although fascism was just surfacing in the 1930's, Huxley saw the impending harms that could result from it, and so decided to use a totalitarian government in the book to illustrate this. Finally we see that social morals were changing, with a more open view of sexuality, more equality between man and woman, and a great deal of consumerism. These social changes sparked an interest in Huxley, and were exaggerated for the book.
When the book was first released it didn't receive much attention. However when a similar, more popular novel, 1984 was released people began to see the similarities between the two and further realized that Brave New World was a more realistic interpretation. The book touches on subjects of government and civilization as a whole, and the realism of his predictions on them are what shocked so many people.
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When John, the protagonist, enters the story, he brings the other side of the argument. Because John has grown up in a lifestyle more similar to ours, he sees the World State in the same respect we do. He sees how the citizens are denied the truth of history, literature, emotion, and ultimately humanity. When John confronts Mustapha Mond, a world leader, he argues these points. Mond explains that stability and happiness are more important than humanity. Although he realizes what John is saying, he insists that social stability requires the sacrifice of the things John values. Mond tells John that "The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get... [And sacrifice of many things is] the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art." (1:220). John protests that, without these things, human life is not worth living, even with happiness. Mond explains that the government's plan is foolproof, with the help of soma, a drug which offers a way to deal with unpleasant emotions that lead to inefficiency and conflict, and keep people from trying to change the way they live. He says
If ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now (185).
Much of Huxley's vision is already reality today. We are already seeing the development of the fundamental principles evident in the novel with things like cloning, government control, drugs to make us happier, and being a consumer based society. Now, when a scientific breakthrough is discovered, people will refer to us coming closer to the "brave new world". We are more conscious of changes that technology brings upon us and try to recognize its potential threats. This is the reason why there are always opposing groups of certain advancements, trying to see not only the pros but the cons of new technology.
Huxley therefore hasn't so much aided in the creation of new technologies, instead he has made us guarded or worried about these advancements. The book helped the population see a future which may not be so appealing, compared to many other futuristic novels which portrayed a much happier lifestyle. Huxley's upbringing, along with the world events going on around him, were contributory in some ways to the writing of Brave New World. More significantly however, are the effects the book has had on modern society. Not so much, that people have consciously taken ideas from the book and tried to implement them, more that the ideology has served as a gauge against which we judge the advents of technology. Brave New World forces us to consider the universal question, what is the role of mankind? Should we merely strive for a life of happiness, or should human beings maintain the right to freedom of choice as the ultimate goal? The reader might argue that free will is a basic human instinct and must be preserved at all costs. The argument against this is, if somebody is happy in a real sense or even in an artificial sense as seen in the book, what difference does make? The answer is simple; humans have an obligation to fulfill a higher destiny. The government in the novel believes that happiness should be the ultimate goal for their citizens. That would be fine if humans were merely equivalent to all other animals. That which separates us uniquely from all other species in the world, is exactly why we must answer to a higher purpose.
"Aldous Huxley: The Author and his Times." Somaweb. 2005. 18 June 2005. < http://somaweb.org/w/huxbio.html>
"Brave New World" NovelGuide. 2005. 18 June 2005. < http://www.novelguide.com/bravenewworld/index.html>
Cambell, Courtney. ""Brave New World: Soma, Shakespeare, and Suicide: The Terrors of Techno Utopia" 1997. 18 June 2005.
Freund, Erica. "Brave New World." BookRags Book Notes. 2 May 2003. 18 June 2005.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books, 1975.
Phillips, Brian. "Brave New World." SparkNotes. 4 Mar. 2004. 18 Jun. 2005 .