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Since good literature transports the reader to immersion, absorption and sensation of plot, the successful literary experience often unveils a segment of the self's concealed character. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World immerses the reader in a State scientifically constructed to produce perpetual happiness without hardship. Six centuries into the future, a world leader has designed a civilization flabbily devoid of balancing challenges by eliminating illness, geriatrics, fear of death, passion and love, parenting, poverty, and pursuit of anything. Its inhabitants exist in a bureaucratically controlled state of stability sans emotion. Brave New World is the citizen's polar experience to the prehistoric caveman's solitary existence of self. Today we struggle individually to establish satisfactory symmetry between these two states of bureaucracy and independence while bench-pressing multi-weighted challenges. A journey to Brave New World's civilization of the ridiculous elicits an excellent measure of the 1998 reader's centeredness between the self's grip of autonomy and its interdependence with State.
Franz Boas, primo cultural anthropologist, subscribed that studying the varied threads of cultural tapestry (what's different) facilitates the understanding of culture. Published in 1932, Brave New World presented greater bureaucratic exaggeration to a general readership unengaged in the battle of the balance. Government was barely a gadfly on the barbell, while the 1932 self indeed included the entire village of extended families and neighbors bolstering each other. Sixty-six years hence, government has infiltrated human life stealthily, while the individual has gradually isolated itself with a transient society and fast-track economy bearing down upon the burden-lifter like additional weights. Although hardship labels remain the same, the 1998 challenge of dealing with these afflictions is more complex. Health and psychiatric practitioners caution us that balance is next to godliness. Therefore, we strive in solitude to balance corporate positions with family disasters, our yin with our yang, our left brains with our right brains, and most importantly, our debits with our credits.
Our state of autonomy depends upon our frame of reference, for it is easy to remain autonomous without adversity. Consider the reaction of the Brave New World reader who has experienced a loved one's serious illness and painful death as a solitary struggle to provide emotional, financial and HMO medical support. Through the assistance of Brave New World, the reader subsequently tours "The Park Lane Hospital for the Dying, a sixty-story tower of primrose tiles. The air is continuously alive with gay synthetic melodies.
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"Experiencing Brave New World in 1998." 123HelpMe.com. 11 Dec 2019
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Similarly, the reader raised in a Newark project welfare family journeys to a society bereft of poverty, brutality, unemployment and homelessness, and longingly peruses the Brave New World brochures soliciting citizenry. "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." Conversely, a corporate visitor earning $350,000 annually in a backstabbing environment struggles to sustain a certain level of existence for self and family with an roving eye on the dancing DOW. Boas would declare that these two societal examples have more in common than they would care to admit. Both weary weight-lifters, these individuals may opt for early retirement in neighboring Brave New World condominiums.
Coping with a parent's senility, fragile health, nursing homes and elder-care trusts, another Brave New World guest encounters a civilization free of geriatric woes: no guilt, no anger, no flooding memories of a child, now the parent. At the least, the reaction to the new society could be quiet contemplation of the parent's freedom from senility's bondage and the dependent's freedom from obligation's yoke.
The 1998 reader's psychological reaction to Brave New World's civilization may be vastly different from that of a 1932 visitor. Scientifically, sociologically and technologically our current civilization and Brave New World's society has blended: test-tube babies and clones, Prozac and Viagra, vanishing family units, multi-partnered sex with non-committed partners, and technological governmental invasion. One difference sets us apart from Brave New World and our 1932 comrades who bench-pressed before us: the bureaucratic isolated struggle which we wage to manage these complex challenges. Revisiting this novel in 1998 may be an eye-opening experience for those who have journeyed there previously. Sojourners may discover softened reactions and startling reflections as they gauge the price for balancing life's freight. A cavalier attitude toward certain societal segments could indicate a slip in the score for self; while an adverse reaction could point to a healthy edge toward autonomy. As our yoga instructors subscribe, "It's good to check in once in a while."
Huxley, A. (1932, 1946). Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
Huxley, A. Website. http://www.primenet.com/~matthew/huxley/ .
Hyatt, M. (1990). Franz Boas, Social Activist, The Dynamics of Ethnicity. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
Prof. David Valentine. Cultural Anthropology Class. September 14, 1998.