Book Summary–found from Britannica
“The novel examines a futuristic society, called the World State, that revolves around science and efficiency. In this society, emotions and individuality are conditioned out of children at a young age, and there are no lasting relationships because “everyone belongs to everyone else” (Lohnes)
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, intelligence is a luxury available to a selected few. Huxley describes an alleged Utopia called the World State, where many of its citizens have been conditioned to a lack of brainpower by birth; those who are fortunate enough to be conditioned knowledgeable are still confined to follow the commands of the State obsequiously. Helmholtz Watson, a knowledgeable lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering, is among the rare exceptions. Unable to set aside his inquisitive nature, Helmholtz struggles to comply with the standards and values of the State.
Helmholtz regards everything around him with an inquiring eye. He suspects that the State expects very little of its citizens, as he often feels the presence of “extra power” (Huxley 59) in himself that has not been used up. His intelligence has made him realize the shallowness of research projects that the State encourages him to conduct, as he believes “being pierced by an article” (60) with as little substance as “a Community Sing, or the latest improvement in scent organs” (60) is completely pointless. In addition, he does not see the appeal in girls who “cl[i]ng around him imploringly” (60) because of his “Alpha-Plus” (57) physique. Unlike those around him, he is able to see beyond the “lustrous smile[s]” (57) and cares very little for scratching the surface. Clearly, he craves for a sense of fulfillment, which is a quality shared by Clarisse McClellan from Fahrenheit 451.
Having grown up in a dystopian society, where books are burned, and knowledge is detested, Clarisse rises like a virtue from the ashes of despair. She despises fact-learning – the only form of education her government offers and is unafraid to raise concerns about the underlying side-effects of the totalitarian regime, such as the absence of love and contentment, and the constant outbreaks of violence. Propelled by insatiable curiosity, Clarisse and Helmholtz are both characters who seek meaning and purpose for existing definitions.
Conscious of his “difference from people who surround him” (58), Helmholtz often feels like an outsider. This is a plausible cause of his befriending Bernard Marx, who feels “the sense of apartness” (57) due to a physical defect. Considering their friendship is based on shared loneliness, the World State has failed spectacularly in building the allegedly perfect community. By eliminating diversity, the World State has only isolated those who do not reside within the confinements of uniformity. Citizens become insecure about every meticulous detail of their own peculiarity, whether it is standing “eight centimetres short of the standard Alpha height” (55), having “mental excess” (57), or going out with someone multiple times. In its vain effort to establish stability, the World State entails fear among its citizens, creating a world powered by distress that is far from ideal.
Why do the Controllers of the World State continue running the country this way, if there are obvious flaws in the system?
Almost every dystopian society has a dictator who enjoys having total control. The lack of intelligence among citizens only helps him/her in enforcing his/her authority, as he/she is their only source of knowledge. The ruler is fully aware of his/her people’s intelligence – and he/she only takes advantage of it.
Lohnes, Kate. “Brave New World.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/Brave-New-World.
HUXLEY, ALDOUS. BRAVE NEW WORLD. VINTAGE CLASSICS, 2020.