Brave New World to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The term "dystopia" aptly applies to all three of these novels in that each story is set in a future where society is less attractive than it is now. All three books are prefaced with a cataclysmic event that results in a dramatic change in society to address and avoid the perceived problems of present-day. Although each author takes a different approach to the solution, their worlds have striking similarities. Their underlying message is the same: mankind will dehumanize humanity in the name of humanity.
In Huxley's Brave New World (B.N.W.), the cataclysmic event that rocks society is the "Nine Years War, the great Economic Collapse" (Huxley, 43). This is the historical turning point where "there was a choice between World Control and destruction" and the utopian society of B.N.W. is born, or rather, it is "hatched". In this world, reproduction is a matter of technology. The family unit and marriage relationships are abolished: "Everyone belongs to everyone else" (Huxley, 38). Sex is for pleasure only, and reproduction is mechanical. The population is grown in hatcheries, genetically manipulated and heavily conditioned, so that they will mature into perfectly content, contributing members of their specific social caste. The Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre explains, "Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!" (Huxley, 5). Happiness is stability according to the world's leaders. "Stability,' said the Controller, stability. No civilization without social stability. No social stability without individual stability'" (Huxley, 37).
Every precaution is made to maintain stability at every level. As the Controller explains in the hatchery, "No pains have been spared to make your lives emotionally easy to preserve you, so far as that is possible, from having emotions at all" (Huxley, 39). People are given "soma" as a generic pacifier. These are a tube of tablets that have "all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects" (Huxley, 48). All world religions are removed and replaced with Fordism - the reverence of mechanism. The Controller explains, "God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. [...] civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness" (Huxley, 214). The Controller justifies all actions based on the perceived happiness of the population.
The governing powers proclaim that "history is bunk" (Huxley, 30) and close all museums and hide all pre-war literature (Huxley, 45) in an attempt to have people live only in the moment, ignoring the past and the future. But all is not perfect in Brave New World. Helmholtz Watson, a member of the B.N.W. society, attempts to articulate his inner struggles, "Do you ever feel [...] as though you have something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out?" (Huxley, 62). Helmholtz goes on to say that he is stifled by the type of literature he writes and teaches and that he wants to write "piercingly", but how "can you say something about nothing?" (Huxley, 62-63).
Huxley uses two other central characters to articulate the flaws in this utopia. Bernard Marx experiences some very un-utopian feelings. He rejects the soma (Huxley, 54), he is individualistic (Huxley, 60), and he doesn't appreciate promiscuous sex (Huxley, 57). Eventually his feelings betray him to his superiors and he, and Helmholtz, are banished to islands where they will not disturb the happiness of civilization (Huxley, 206-209).
The third character which clearly sees B.N.W. as a dystopian civilization is John. He is a "savage" who was raised on a reservation which rejected the World Control system. He is completely counter-cultural and mystified by the society he finds in London....