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On the themes of Brave New World

By Cheese-cake24 Oct 07, 2013 1456 Words
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World addresses the theme of identity in a myriad of different many ways. Huxley addresses the issue of identity from the very beginning of the novel, opening with a description of how they create 96 identical humans through a process of splitting one fertilized egg called ‘Bokanovsky’s Process’. Proceeding to talk about the ‘creation’ of humans via an in vitro process involving manipulating them to like or dislike certain conditions depending on their predestined place of work, the first chapter dehumanises people from the very beginning. I believe it was Huxley’s intention to show the reduction in value of human life in his Dystopia as early on as it gives readers a sense of the lack of individuality and it allows the ideals shown later to be more readily accepted by an audience as we see them less as people.

One could effectively argue that there is identity in Brave New World; however that is not to say there is identity for the individual. Especially true of the lower castes, all children are matured in two years and given a shared upbringing using psychotherapy and ‘hypnopaedia’ to condition them to think in what are considered the ‘right’ way. “Not so much like drops of water, though water, it is true, can wear holes in the hardest granite; rather, drops of liquid sealing-wax, drops that adhere, incrust, incorporate themselves with what they fall on, till finally the rock is all one scarlet blob.” This quote perhaps best illustrates my point, that they do not erode the individual, but rather envelope, surround and drown the identity, until (on the topic of hypnopaedia) “’Till at least the child’s mind is these suggestions”

The (sort of) protagonist, Bernard Marx – his name an indisputably a reference to Karl Marx, the ‘Father or Communism’ – however is in the sect of society called ‘Alphas’ who are the only person grown from a fertilised egg, bred to be smart and are at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of Huxley’s imagined world. Alphas are still subject to hypnopaedia and conditioning, and as such for the most part a lack of individualism. Bernard is different though; there is suggestion of something going wrong with his production as an embryo that makes him stunted and ugly in a world where appearance is an indication of caste. As there is a single community identity which Bernard cannot fully share in due to physical and mental differences, he begins to feel an apartness which only exacerbates his unorthodox attitudes towards things such as the recreational drugs and sex which are considered acceptable. His first date with a woman named Lenina he refuses the drug soma which cheers you up stating that he’d "rather be myself. Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly." This quotation highlights that he recognises the ability of the drugs given by the World State to strip one of what little individuality is left to them. It is things like this that give him his identity in the early parts of the novel; his loneliness and his unorthodoxy which cycle into one another, perpetuating themselves.

As John has grown up in a world where nobility, honour and strength are king, coming into conflict with people who are promiscuous and easy sex encouraged becomes a large issue. We see this as when he falls in love with Lenina, he is constantly rebuffing her attempts to sleep with him as feels as though he needs to prove himself worthy – no doubt a need inherited from his partially Native American culture and reinforced by Shakespeare. “’Oh, you so perfect (she [Lenina] was leaning towards him with parted lips), ‘so perfect and so peerless are created’ (nearer and nearer) ‘of every creature’s best’. Still nearer. The Savage suddenly scrambled to his feet. ‘That’s why’ he said, speaking with an averted face ‘I wanted to do something first… I mean, to show you I was worthy of you” A quotation from The Tempest also brings many aspects of John together. His love for Shakespeare is prominent as what he is saying is an abridged version of a quotation from The Tempest. We also see his want for marriage in his denial to sleep with her, he later quotes The Tempest again by saying “If thou dost break her virgin-knot before all sanctimonious ceremonies may with full and holy rite…”. Adding to this hectic cocktail of identity is his love for Lenina, which he has to deny himself any indulgence of (it is later suggested that they had sex and John kills himself after ‘remembering everything’) which drives him further towards anger at her lack of understanding. It’s because of all of these different moralities and values that he has picked up from different influences (Linda, The Reservation, Shakespeare) and then tried to amalgamate that cause such a conflicted character to emerge. Along with his internal struggles he differs from all outsiders and bonds only to Hemholtz over this sense of not belonging, causing yet more difficulties with Bernard, who is jealous of his friends getting on better with one another than him. So we see, John’s identity is such a blend of others’ identity, he embodies the conflict of the novel and provides a device through which Huxley is able to show the total incompatibility of cultures that are worlds apart.

Personal Identity for the people of the World State is something non-existent, even for the Alpha Pluses who are treated with hypnopaedia in the same way as the lower castes. It seems inevitable then, that people generations apart share a single, community identity. Perhaps this is what is meant by the World Hatchery’s slogan ‘Community, Identity, Stability’. It is not the identity of the individual, but the mass identity that is conferred and shared; identity is literally central to the slogan, contained within the boundaries of Community and Stability. The slogan reflects the reality that community and stability provide the boundaries that dictate identity. Thus the motto exists upon two levels, the literal and the existential.

This matter of generations apart sharing a single identity is something that is shown within Brave New World. It is clear that Linda, John’s mother, and Lenina, his love interest, are essentially the same person with twenty years difference. They both conform to orthodoxy and even having been introduced to new cultures – Linda even saved by one – they still cannot escape the teachings of hypnopaedia and follow blindly the menial distractions that the World State offers as life. They are the perfect models of the human production line. There are also similarities in names, which Huxley chooses very deliberately, it is likely they are of the same caste (Beta), both worked with the bottled embryos and both are highly sexualised throughout the tale. Does this not mean then that John has essentially fallen in love with his mother, only twenty years younger? Unsurprisingly, Huxley hints towards this state of mind. Called the Oedipus Complex, it’s a theory postulated by psychologist Sigmund Freud and states that every infant boy has a subconscious want to kill their father and then sleep with their mother. John comes very close, in that he tries to kill Popé, fundamentally his father, and then falls in love with Lenina, already established the same as Linda. This theory is given credence by the fact that Freud is revered throughout the novel almost to the same extent that Ford is, due to his contributions to the psychoanalysis and his theories that sex is critical to human happiness.

Establishing identity is the key issue of John’s part in the story. He was never able to show himself a man in his native culture and being denied as he could never try to marry a girl and go to kill a mountain lion or otherwise show his devotion through suffering. The same could be said of being denied the opportunity to be whipped in the ceremony that is the first thing shown of the ‘Savages’; again, he is not able to suffer to define himself as a man. Again, he tries when Lenina throws herself at him to find an opportunity to suffer to show his devotion and is once more denied. Animal imagery is constantly applied to John, and it’s possible that John’s self-flagellation is him trying to state that he is a man, valuing his soul above his body as no animal is capable of doing. The realisation that he surrendered to his most animalistic and base instinct is very possibly the reason for his suicide, the ultimate in self-inflicted suffering and therefor making his last act a proclamation of his identity.

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