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, Huxley describes a totalitarian regime called the World State, where all human beings are born at a government-controlled conditioning centre, and all lives have been predestined to adopt a certain status, physique, and occupation. Under such circumstances, those who fall below the standards of what they are supposed to be are forced to endure constant humiliations inflicted by more fortunate peers. Bernard Marx, an individual who often feels self-conscious about his substandard appearances, is among those who have fallen victim to the twisted ideals of the World State.
While at the Reservation, Bernard learns that John – a boy who has grown up in the Reservation – is the son of the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning. Knowing the commotion it will cause should he publicize this astonishing piece of gossip, Bernard takes John back home and exposes his identity in front of a crowd. When John is closely examined by scientists like a rat in an experiment, all the while being greeted with “howls” (Huxley 131) of “irrepressibl[e] laughter” (131), Bernard watches from afar as he immerses in the joy of being the newly appointed “Chief Bottler, the Director of Predestination…”(136) and various other titles for bringing in a sample from an uncivilized society. Fully aware of the pain in being the subject of petty humiliations, Bernard turns a blind eye to John’s misery and happily joins the crowd in calling him “the Savage” (150). Bernard’s reluctance to express his sympathy for the powerless is in stark contrast to Astrid Leong’s personality. Unlike other Singaporean socialites illustrated in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians, Astrid is unafraid to speak her mind.
As a teenager with more or less of a rebellious nature, I have always admired Astrid’s strength. However, I am also old enough to take into account her prestigious social status. Born into an extremely wealthy family, there is no need for Astrid to dutifully reside within the boundaries of what is expected of her, as admiration has always been a given, rather than a luxury. Coming from an impoverished background, where ridicules are not at all foreign to him, it is reasonable for Bernard to not have the courage to abide by his own beliefs like Astrid.
Bernard Marx is one of the few people who can see the flaws in the system, as he is immediately drawn to the intimacy between the people living in the Reservation. He becomes fascinated by life outside the World State, where affection is allowed, and no one is conditioned to regard themselves as a dispensable tool that “belongs to everyone else” (104). Quick to realize the lack of fulfillment in his life, Bernard concludes there are things more meaningful “than taking soma” (119) in the world.
Sadly, despite seeing the faults in the World State, Bernard is still eager to obtain its respect. His obsession with being treated “as a person of outstanding importance” (135) has enabled him to target John – an outcast just like him – and turn him into the victim he once was. Bernard’s recently gained respect only goes to show how corrupt the morals of the World State are, for only the abandonment of sensitivity can fill in the void of a charming physique.
Will Bernard realize how pointless it is to be rewarded in a society such as this? Perhaps, given more opportunities to interact with his friend Helmholtz Watson, whose intellect will likely enlighten him, he will one day develop the courage to guard his own beliefs and stand up to those that are less honorable.
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.