The Apparatus of Brave New World: Jungian Literary Criticism
What makes up a positive and functional mindset? How should an individual behave, think, talk, or feel? Even more, what should they believe? The novel Brave New World bombards us with these unavoidable questions as we delve deeper into its context. The plot stands within a controversial spectrum of mindsets with regard to primitive and modernized living. Brave New World is influenced by Carl Jung and his theories of the psyche and of the archetypes, which are embedded throughout the plot. These theories govern the characters and through them give life to the assortment of philosophies introduced by Aldous Huxley.
Carl Jung adopted some of the concepts from Freud to create his own model of the psyche; “the persona, the shadow, the ego, the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, the anima/animus, and the self” (Gale 31). Jung determines that there is a persona, which takes the role of the “mask” we wear in public, and that often dictates our conformity to society’s expectations (McLeod, 1970). Hidden behind this mask is the conscious ego which is comprised of our thoughts and feelings (McLeod, 1970). There is also a shadow that Jung identifies; the good or bad aspects of an individual that are ignored/repressed by the ego due either to societal or parental disapproval (Gale, 27). There are many cases throughout the novel where these aspects of Jung’s psyche become evident. To a lesser extent, we see Bernard, Lenina and Hemholtz all having inner conflict, as presented by facets of the shadow shown to the audience. “‘What would it be like if I could, if I were free – not enslaved by my conditioning’” (Huxley 78). The persona in each of them struggles to maintain a sense of community, identity, and therefore stability as the societal slogan states. This is demonstrated in each character’s dilemma: Lenina and her tendency of monogamy (Huxley 36), Bernard and his loneliness stemming from physical shortcomings (Huxley 55), and Hemholtz and his feelings of repressed greatness (Huxley 59). The latter in each case represents the shrouded shadow in each individual. “‘Did you ever feel,’ he asked, ‘as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out?’” (Huxley 59). On occasion, each comes out from behind the mask, consequently risking the negative force that threatens potential destructive behaviours. Carl Jung, whilst revealing the shadow’s nature, writes “Even tendencies that might in some circumstances be able to exert a beneficial influence are transformed into demons when they are repressed” (Jung, 83). The potential demons only seem to become apparent from one particular shadow in Brave New World, and that is John the Savage. John’s destructive capabilities arise in three segments of the novel: when Lenina discards her clothes and embraces him (Huxley, 170), after John’s mother passes (Huxley, 187), and when Lenina and John meet at the lighthouse in the gaze of the public (Huxley, 228). In the case of Lenina’s attempt to seduce John (disregarding his desires to prove himself worthy of her), he physically and verbally assaults her under his shadow’s detrimental presence. “She was suddenly silent. Terror made her forget the pain. Opening her eyes, she had seen his face – no, not his face, a ferocious stranger’s, pale, distorted, twitching with some insane, inexplicable fury” (Huxley, 170). This “stranger’s face” reappears as John assaults Lenina with the wired whip. After whipping her once for betraying him in a sense, he focuses the whip on himself as punishment for his actions and his persistent sinful thoughts (Huxley, 228). The next day he is fully possessed by the deranged stranger which leads him to his suicide, hence the demon that the shadow may embody.
Every character, regardless of fiction or nonfiction, contains an anima/animus according to Jung (Hyde, 96). The anima is known as the inner (stereotypical) female (i.e. feminine traits) carried within a man, while the animus is the inner (stereotypical) male aspects (i.e. masculine traits) carried within a woman (Hyde, 94). The society created by Aldous Huxley contains gender roles/stereotypes, which provides the perfect opportunity to observe any strife within the prejudices of each gender. When observing Bernard, one can easily notice the anima in his psyche. The anima can be described as “vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature,” which Bernard presents in various events (Jung, 186). When Lenina and Bernard go on a date for the first time, he takes the time to voice his admiration of the sea vista, thereby feeling for nature (Huxley, 78). In another instance, Bernard shows receptiveness just by venturing into the primitive savage reservation to explore the unknown, even though it is populated with so-called “uncivilized beings” (Huxley, 86). It is in this reservation that John and Bernard first converse. During their interaction Bernard is baffled by the society and makes a request that John give an explanation to the type of life one lives in the primitive society, therefore showing a receptive nature (Huxley, 106). Another peculiar trait of the anima is as follows, “In its individual manifestation the character of a man’s anima is by rule shaped by his mother. If he feels that his mother had a negative influence on him, his anima will often express itself in irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, insecurity and touchiness” (Jung, 186). The second part of this quote describes “anima moods”, which pertain to the traits originating from the anima-mother figure, such as dullness, fear of accidents/impotence (Jung, 187). This can cause the individual to live an oppressive/sad life (also bringing the possibility of suicide into the equation i.e. the death demon) (Jung, 187). Bernard further embodies the anima through the acknowledgement of these facts. Although there are no mothers or fathers in London, the mother figure of the anima can be assumed to be the society itself. Because Bernard is tormented on a consistent basis by his peers, one can assume that the anima would be put into a negative state. This could also explain why Bernard is insecure and and often in depressed moods. It also explains why he is frightened of making mistakes. This is shown when he becomes nervous due to the threats about being sent to Iceland from the DHC (Huxley, 90), and when he is told he will be sent to an island by Mustapha Mond (Huxley, 199). On the other hand any man who overcomes his negative anima will enhance his masculinity (Jung, 186), which brings us to John. From birth he was alienated in the reserve due to his mother Linda. However, the novel also shows that she was a decent mother, and although she occasionally neglected him throughout his life, she still spent quality time with John. This is depicted by John reminiscing in the hospital room on the positive/negative aspects of Linda as a mother (Huxley, 177). John’s character shows confidence and strong ideals/values, making him an intriguing figure as well. This also highlights the obvious distinction between the two differing outcomes of the negative anima-mother: his and Bernard’s.
Along with Jung’s theory of the psyche in an individual, there also exists his theory of the archetypes, governed by symbols, signs and mythology dwelling within the collective unconscious (Gale, 34). The archetypes are said to be the innate intuition given from the lifespans of past ancestors, which are indulged mainly through dreams (Jung, 41). However, because dreams are rarely mentioned in Brave New World, one wonders how the archetypes and even the individual’s shadow get relief and allow themselves to be shown. This question can be answered by reading the previous section; they can become visible through the conscious acts of the individual (Gale, 35). In observing someone like Hemholtz, one can see that he would fit into the archetype of the Creator, the Explorer, and the Ruler (Bauman, 2016). He embodies these three in the following ways. His Explorer archetype shows excitement to meet new people like him when he is told he must leave London (Huxley, 201). The Creator within him constructs pieces of literature like the poem that has sentimental meaning (Huxley, 158). And lastly, his Ruler archetype makes Hemholtz gloomy due to the success Bernard has gained, as this threatens his want to be greater (Huxley, 136). Another example of the presence of archetypes can be exemplified through John, who shows many of the twelve basic archetypes throughout the novel: the Caregiver, the Explorer, the Hero, the Sage and the Rebel (Bauman, 2016). His character has journeyed to the mountains in the reserve to find his “animal” showing his Explorer archetype (Huxley, 119). He has endured self-harm through whippings and reenactments of painful incidents, such as the crucifixion of Jesus, indicating a Hero archetype (Huxley, 119). John’s Sage archetype isolates himself to the lighthouse for self-reflection and meditation (Huxley, 215). He also empties the soma tablets through the hospital window making “the men free”, but also causing conflict with the deltas simultaneously, representing the archetype of the Rebel (Huxley, 187). Finally, one could say his Caregiver died a martyr, dying in order to protect Lenina from himself (Huxley, 229). Although archetypes are most common in characters, it can take place in narrative circumstances. An example of this is the society of London, which holds the archetype of the Innocent; consisting of naivety, optimism, fearing divergence, and living as romantics/dreamers.
In conclusion, the theories of the archetypes and psyche created by Carl Jung have a major influence on Brave New World. This is justified through examples such as the appearance of John’s shadow when striking Lenina, and the archetypal image of Hemholtz as the Creator when writing his poem. The World State society created by Huxley serves as a formidable challenge to some of the theories of Jung, as there is scarce reference to dreams, a prevalent feature in his theories. The abnormal fact that mother and father figures are non-existent in Huxley’s society also proves to be a challenge to some of Jung’s theory concepts such as the anima/animus. An intriguing take on the consequences of both modern/primitive lifestyles by Carl Jung states this, “Whoever protects himself against what is new and strange and thereby regresses to the past, falls into the same neurotic condition as the man who identifies himself with the new and runs away from the past” (Jung, 98). The society of London got away from neurosis by resorting to an inefficient, child-like state of mind through technological advancement. On the other hand, the reservation society had to deal with the neurosis. This idea recognizes that suffering is a reality and inevitable. Looking backwards and forwards only amplifies it. However, looking up with acceptance as John did, usually determines a greater outcome, regardless of his demise.
Gale, C. L. (n.d.). Study guide for psychologists and their theories for students: Carl jung. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning.
Huxley, A. (2004). Brave new world. London: Vintage.
Hyde, M., McGuinness, M., & Pugh, O. (2015). Introducing Jung. London: Icon.
Jung, C. G., Dell, W. S., & Baynes, C. F. (2017). Modern man in search of a soul. Eastford, CT: Martino Fine Books.
Jung, C. (2013). Man and his symbols. Important Books.
McLeod, S. (1970, January 01). Saul McLeod. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-jung.htmlF. (2016, November 24). The 12 Common Archetypal Characters in Storytelling & How to Use Them. Retrieved from https://btleditorial.com/2016/12/05/common-archetypal-character/
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