Read Huxley’s Brave New World tonight. I can’t decide whether I’d call it great literature, but it’s at least given me a lot more to think about than the other works I’ve been reading. It’s a variety of fiction I’d been looking for recently: I’ve wished I could read a piece of fiction depicting a different society, without it screaming on every page how wrong the differences are. (Sarah wrote something recently that I enjoyed for similar reasons.) Taken as a whole, “Brave New World” is clearly criticizing the society it depicts; but I think Huxley at least gave that society half a chance at speaking for itself. Seems to me that he really thought about what sort of philosophy, morals, or ethics would allow and embrace that sort of culture; and he did a good job of showing what it would feel like to be an intelligent person who couldn’t imagine living in the old, often unhappy world of today. I can imagine being an Alpha unable to imagine being me, and I like that.
While I agree with Huxley that a society built on intelligent individuals (“Alphas”) doing menial work is inherently unstable, his introduction of unintelligent humans (such as the “Epsilon Semi-Morons”) missed the opportunity to explore the possibilities of automation. Given that in the Brave New World both population and science are fully controlled, the Controller’s argument against increased lower-class leisure strike me as fallacious. This is not to say that Huxley’s society would have been improved by growing no more Deltas or Epsilons and replacing them with machines, only that the reasoning given to oppose such a move is wrong. Of course it would have been a very different book without artificially physically stunted people.
I would have liked to have known how Huxley envisioned Mustapha Mond reacting to the final events of the book. How did he see it? A last science experiment for the suppressed physicist? A disappointing tragedy? Did he even care?
Could the public even make sense of John’s actions? Their society suppressed all the background needed to interpret anything he did.