View Poll Results: Aldous Huxley's "A Brave New World"

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Thread: Aldous Huxley's "A Brave New World"

  1. #1
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    Aldous Huxley's "A Brave New World"

    First and foremost, I feel that I need to mention that I loved this book: it is a great literary achievement and the ideas contained within it are nothing short of brilliant. However, the reason I feel that I must mention this up front is because I must now comment more critically. This book started out slow, and very slow at that. The first few chapters in which Huxley introduces to us this imaginary society drag on with little more than scientific explanations and no plot whatsoever, making me wonder whether the author was simply too eager to explain his ideas, or rather if he had these ideas in mind but no story to follow them in his immediate imaginings. And, just like the beginning of the novel, the entirety of the storyline is a complete mess.

    A few chapters in, Huxley seems to realize that he can't write a work of fiction without any storyline, so he begins introducing characters. I have no complaints about this finally coming about, but I feel like he throws them into the mix rather quickly and unthinkingly. They do not seem well planned out at all, and there are many points throughout the story where I wonder if the author has any idea how his novel is going to end, for he seems to get bored with his characters before he has made any real use out of them. For example, the character who is the focal point of the story, the Savage, is not even introduced until halfway through the book, and his story is thrown upon us after having already invested a hundred pages of our time in the character Bernard Marx. He writes it very well, I can't argue with that; the words flow smoothly and his language is rich and descriptive, but as I said, I went through most of these pages wondering if the author himself had any idea how he was going to end it, for the plot jumps around so terribly.

    Also, I don't want to say much on the ending as to not spoil it for anyone, but I thought it horribly unfitting and unsatisfying. I didn't think it made the right point about this world Huxley was attempting to show us whatsoever.

    So with all that in mind, my view on this book is conflicted and boils down to two different categories. A Brave New World, as a book, is a pleasant read, but largely flawed in my opinion. On the other hand, I feel that the ideas expressed in this novel are infinitely more important than those given to us by 99% of all other works of fiction. I cannot say this with full confidence, for this is the only book of his I've read so far, but I can see Aldous Huxley more as a philosopher than a simple writer. But that just leaves me with a question I don't know how to answer- are the ideas in a book more important than how well it's written and how enjoyable it is to read?


    What does everyone else think? What's important? The ideas, or the actual writing?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanteAlexander View Post
    What does everyone else think? What's important? The ideas, or the actual writing?
    To me, it's best, of course, when both are great. But if one is great, it can make-up for weaknesses in the writing, such as you say is the case with Brave New World. And, of course, the reverse is true. I think truly great pieces of literature excell in both. The best example of this that comes to mind is Moby Dick.

  3. #3
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    Bernard is the main character of the book, but its true that Huxley lost his focus during the book, but not because of the Savage, more because a shift on Huxley own aristocratic and elitists concerns.

    I wonder, what is the point you claim Huxley was working, and how the ending is not satisfactory, considering that was a accurate prediction of the ivory tower of academic and intelectual field, not able to satisfy the consumist class and neither the governament.

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    I very much agree with the OP, I thought the plot was constructed awfully, and I hated pretty much every single character (only exception being the highest ranking guy, the president or whatever he's called). But curiously enough that all didn't really matter, because in the case of BNW it really is the idea that counts. Well, obviously the book woulda been much better with a better plot, but even with the messy plot it is a fascinating read. And maybe there's a point in me hating the characters, they're 'different' from us so maybe that should actually count in Huxley's favor.

    I don't agree with the the ending though, I thought the ending was all right if not good. I don't really remember the details anymore though.

  5. #5
    The ideas in the book are fascinating, but some of the conclusions are questionable. It has been awhile since I've read the book, however, so my memory is kind of fuzzy. But if I recall correctly, don't most of the main characters get to go to islands where they get to pursue their own interests? In that case it would seem like the society is pretty just. I really could not see all that was wrong with the world Huxley posits. The idea of not truly being an individual may be horrifying to us, unless you consider that a myriad of things, from upbringing to genetics to cultural biases to misinformation to media manipulation to education to regional upbringing, already determine who we are and what we are on a basis that is outside our own control or choice. To an extent, free will or individuality is an illusion. I think in the novel it is the government(again, memory is vague) that selects peoples genes. But I think the question then must be asked: why is it better for our genes to be randomly selected by nature than it is for them to be purposely selected by an intelligent entity so that we may be happy and defect free? Why is randomness superior to planning? In either case we ourselves do not choose who we are to be.

    Huxley seems to indicate that a world where everyone is happy may be bad if we don't have our individuality. But the reason that coercion, conformity, and government manipulation is so horrible is because of the misery it causes, not because of the loss of freedom. The reason you value your own free will so highly is that respecting freedoms is the only way you can ensure that someone else does not impose their will or idea of happiness on you. The reason why it is important to think for yourself is so that you do not become a tool of someone else, so that you are not easily manipulated or exploited.

    There are many instances where this is the case. Feudalism used to be justified because the church said that it was God's will. How is a peasant supposed to know any better? If it is divine will than you go along with it, even if it means you are starving and giving up all the fruits of your labor to parasites. Today, cosmetic companies and fashion industries deliberately use images and advertising to destroy the self-image of women to get them to buy more cosmetic products. This is why it is important to be "free" or to have "free will." This is why it is important that no one entity get full control or decides what we think or want, because that usually leads to misery. But it must be noted that the freedom or individuality in itself is not an ends, but merely a means to preventing exploitation that causes most of our misery and suffering. Huxley seems to think otherwise. In his view it seems that even if everyone were happy it would be wrong to have centralized control.

    There are some points, however, where I agree with Huxley. It could be argued that in his Brave New World the people don't experience true happiness, true fulfillment, and a depth of feeling that is only possible with true striving as well as deeper thinking and art. They may all be living in pleasure, but it is not true happiness. They may all feel good, but it is not fulfillment or spiritual bliss. It is all sensation; it is all physical, as if there is nothing more to man. The world he posits is a shallow and inhumane existence with no sense of greater purpose or meaning.

    This begs the question of happiness: what is it? Is it merely the absence of pain and displeasure? Is it sensory pleasure, like the delight you get from eating candy or sex? What about accomplishment? An athlete that has just won a world championship at that moment is probably the happiest person in the world, even if his body is weary or hurt. Conversely, no one feels more miserable than someone who has just lost a child, even if they feel no physical pain(although physical pain may arise from the emotional pain). I think Huxley wants us to think about these things, about what it means to be human, about whether we are machines and animals or something more spiritual.

    Again, I might be totally off here. I hardly remember anything that actually happened in the novel, and I don't even remember the characters actual names. These are just the impressions I remembered having while reading the novel.
    Last edited by spellbanisher; 04-01-2011 at 03:43 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanteAlexander View Post
    First and foremost, I feel that I need to mention that I loved this book: it is a great literary achievement and the ideas contained within it are nothing short of brilliant. However, the reason I feel that I must mention this up front is because I must now comment more critically. This book started out slow, and very slow at that. The first few chapters in which Huxley introduces to us this imaginary society drag on with little more than scientific explanations and no plot whatsoever, making me wonder whether the author was simply too eager to explain his ideas, or rather if he had these ideas in mind but no story to follow them in his immediate imaginings. And, just like the beginning of the novel, the entirety of the storyline is a complete mess.

    A few chapters in, Huxley seems to realize that he can't write a work of fiction without any storyline, so he begins introducing characters. I have no complaints about this finally coming about, but I feel like he throws them into the mix rather quickly and unthinkingly. They do not seem well planned out at all, and there are many points throughout the story where I wonder if the author has any idea how his novel is going to end, for he seems to get bored with his characters before he has made any real use out of them. For example, the character who is the focal point of the story, the Savage, is not even introduced until halfway through the book, and his story is thrown upon us after having already invested a hundred pages of our time in the character Bernard Marx. He writes it very well, I can't argue with that; the words flow smoothly and his language is rich and descriptive, but as I said, I went through most of these pages wondering if the author himself had any idea how he was going to end it, for the plot jumps around so terribly.

    Also, I don't want to say much on the ending as to not spoil it for anyone, but I thought it horribly unfitting and unsatisfying. I didn't think it made the right point about this world Huxley was attempting to show us whatsoever.
    So with all that in mind, my view on this book is conflicted and boils down to two different categories. A Brave New World, as a book, is a pleasant read, but largely flawed in my opinion. On the other hand, I feel that the ideas expressed in this novel are infinitely more important than those given to us by 99% of all other works of fiction. I cannot say this with full confidence, for this is the only book of his I've read so far, but I can see Aldous Huxley more as a philosopher than a simple writer. But that just leaves me with a question I don't know how to answer- are the ideas in a book more important than how well it's written and how enjoyable it is to read?


    What does everyone else think? What's important? The ideas, or the actual writing?
    I found BNW perhaps too extremist, in that it suggested an eventual programming of all people, but excellent in that it chronicled Man's assured rejection of a perfect society that destroys individualism.

    The first few chapters, agreeably slow in speed, establish the context of the society. People are programmed to fuel social causes. There exists no free will. Intellect, sexual appetite, emotional control; that, and many of which that defines a person, is scientifically controlled. Remember, being written in 1931 and published in 32, Huxley, like Orwell, feared the spread of Communism, thinking that, if it spread, people would exist only as subordinates controlled by higher powers, in this case, government. The entity that creates people serves as a parallel to a centralist regime controlling its people.

    Huxley cannot introduce the Savage until the depths to which this society is controlled is properly founded. The Savage exists outside of the "perfect" society. He is Man, unpredictable. The late introduction gives Huxley time to establish the programmed happiness of the society and the Savage's eventual reaction to it. We cannot understand his later decisions without understanding the context of the environment he is entering.

    Huxley's ending embodies everything we need to know about a programmed world. The Savage's rejection of the programmed society suggests that individualism grants greater satisfaction than false happiness (although it isn't that simple). He would rather exist in a "flawed" society with undeniable authenticity than in an artificially functioning world. This too suggests the inevitable failure of a totalitarian regime. Man's personal freedom is valued most highly. Any system that compromises this ideal, whether for those outside of the system or involved in it (as is Marx), will create an eventual dissent that will someday weaken, and later abolish, the system.

    Hopefully my review in this light makes more clear Huxley's intentions.

  7. #7
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    Huxley changes his mind about eugenics during the book (he was pro-eugenics), but you people are missing something, the Savage is an outcast. Not a member of that society, so he never adapts to it, it is more a way for Huxley to say that addition of culture wont make anyone better. It is Helmholtz the individual who know that society but prefere to preserve his individuality (in form of intelectualism, like Huxley himself) outside that society. The open ending when each character has his options albeit all not truly satisfactory if we think of happiness is probally better than a Moral judgment. Control can be good. Individuality too. Conformity too. Rebellion too. Or bad.

  8. #8
    I highly recommend for anyone reading BNW to follow it up with his last ever book "Island" - a utopian vision of the world just before he died.

  9. #9
    He who doesn't like this book deserves a whipping.

  10. #10
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    The structure of Brave New World while often criticised never bothered me. I got to drawn into the society and ideas that the characters and plot played a back role to it.

  11. #11
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    I have to disagree with the whole 'a good idea can make up for mediocre writing' thing. If this was the case then I would argue that the writer should not spend however-many pages constructing a story around an idea when this mode of delivery may actually take something away from the point, make us bored and bury the idea in badly-made cushioning.

    With regards to BNW, my own response to it was annoyance. I agree that it seemed as if Huxley didn't really know where he was going with the story, but I think that was a result of his own lack of conviction when writing it. I saw the point of the novel as a 'hmm, maybe this could happen?' rather than 'this is a mirror of what is happening' and for that reason I lost interest - ANYTHING can maybe happen.

    I wonder whether Huxley meant this to be an oppressive read, because I agree that attachment to the characters was hard, especially with the shift in focus to the Savage half way through. But was this so that we were not given the opportunity to build any deep relationship with the characters, to prevent us from having any sort of pronounced feelings for them?

    I don't know, but I wouldn't read the book again. It was a lacklustre read and, well, if he meant it that way then well done and I hope that others enjoyed it, but to be maybe'd at without conviction is not really for me.
    Last edited by IAmNoBird; 07-17-2011 at 09:11 AM.

  12. #12
    The question for me wasn't "Idea vs. Plot/Writing."
    It was, "Is this the best medium for this book?" Movies and Television can get away with a story like BNW.

    In terms of the book, the whole thing seemed like a description of setting. He obviously had a world he wanted to paint, and after that, tried to shoehorn in a story.
    Stories should be told the other way around.
    BNW should have been his notes. When he thought of a plot and wrote it, he should have found ways subtly drop in the details from BNW.
    In the end, there just wasn't enough to draw me in. The whole thing felt like a class or Nonfiction book. In fact, the first 1/4 of the book was a teacher teaching students! This makes BNW a documentary, not a story.

    So, to tie that in to what I said before... I would like to see BNW as a fake documentary.

  13. #13
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    I've read this book several times and I think it says something that I can never remember the end... I have finished it- multiple times. But I got bored and my memory just doesn't care about the book.

    I thought the ideas were brilliant but the construction of the characters was utter crap. I know he was making a point about people being programmed, but there was a serious lack of any character, really. They were completely two dimensional.
    Naked except for a cigarette, you let your mind drift and forget your disbelief. Feel the chill down your back and the flutter of wings through dandelion fields, and forget the pull of gravity in a night without stars.

    I lack eloquence and commitment to my arguments. They are half baked, and I will begin passionately, and then abandon them.

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