The Unseen Barbarism Of A Restricted Society
Two opposite societies, one of luxury with severe conditioning and conformity, and another of liberty with savagery and sacrifice, coexist in a modern era. In the dystopian novel, Brave New World, author Aldous Huxley juxtaposes these two differing worlds through his character John who travels from his home in the Savage Reservation to the World State, where he soon jeopardizes the supposed sanctity of the society there. Although the World State appears to be the more civilized and desirable society, the Reservation instead protects the purest ideals of humanity through the virtue and passion of the savages who live there. In order to achieve true happiness and fulfillment in life, one must embrace these humanistic ideals encompassing the capacity for knowledge, genuineness, and individuality, granted that the capability to do so is permitted by the form of government and society that they reside in.
First, attaining knowledge is one of the key factors needed to achieve true happiness in society. For instance, John reminisces to Bernard about his life in the Reservation by explaining how “gaining in skill and power” gave him “an extraordinary pleasure” and “an intense, absorbing happiness” (134). Evidently, the work and labor that is put forth in order to master a certain skill and to learn a certain craft is immensely important to John. He blatantly admits that gaining various skills and knowledge as he learns more about aspects of life significantly adds to the true fulfillment and happiness he experiences in life. In another instance, Mustapha Mond admits while reviewing a scholarly paper that “the purpose of life [is] not the maintenance of well-being” as it is in the World State, but the “enlargement of knowledge” (Huxley 177). As one of the dystopia’s world controllers, Mond should be one of the most supportive advocates of the society of the World State. However, this is not entirely the case. Mond does not personally believe in the same ideals that he is supposed to enforce; instead he believes in the same basic ideals of the Reservation, which includes the pursuit of knowledge. He states himself that the true meaning and purpose of life is to seek knowledge and wisdom, not mindless conformity of the mass of society. The search and thirst for knowledge and wisdom in life is clearly a crucial component for the pursuit of true happiness and fulfilled value.
Next, genuineness is equally necessary for happiness, for without it, the same sense of happiness is unreal and therefore false. While Mustapha Mond speaks to the students at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre about the past society, he metaphorically references the past religion as “Heaven”, in which the people “used to drink enormous quantities of alcohol” (53). In this passage, Mond discusses the previous civilization with disdain because people were supposedly so unsatisfied with their lives and their faiths that they turned to excessive drinking in order to cope. However, the World State is the exact same scenario as the previous society, if not worse. The passage actually serves as a metaphor not only for Mond to explain the past world to the students in the actual novel, but also as a metaphor for Huxley to indicate to the readers that the utopia, the “heaven”, he created through his writing spawns the same dissatisfaction of the past, but instead of alcohol in excess, it is excessive drug usage with soma. Furthermore, Bernard and Lenina witness a strange ritual in which a young man is whipped by another tribesman at the Savage Reservation. Afterwards, John impressively admits to them that he would have rather been the sacrifice instead of the other young man in order to prove himself. Through real “astonishment”, Lenina “forgets the deprivation of soma” (117) she had been suffering moments before. It is the fact that she finally feels a real emotion, even one as virtually trivial as astonishment, that allows her to become temporarily independent of soma. In this moment, Lenina finds herself free from the emotional limitations of the drug and therefore feels truly happy for once instead of the meaningless, false sense of happiness that the drug conjures inside of her on a daily basis. Essentially, true happiness can only be accomplished by allowing oneself to feel genuine emotion inside as well as to express that emotion accordingly.
Finally, having a grasp of one’s sense of individuality is also vital in order to achieve true happiness in life. For example, when the Director is speaking to the students in the beginning of the novel, he describes “the secret of happiness and virtue” in the World State as “making people like their unescapable social destiny” (16). The sheer falsehood of the Director’s statement is beyond apparent, regardless of the definition of happiness being severely distorted in this dystopia. With happiness in virtue comes free will, for it is impossible to be truly happy and virtuous while one’s government specifically forces limitations onto one’s humanity and capability. If one’s virtue and happiness is predetermined and chosen by another, the sense of contentment felt is illegitimate in the face of true happiness found inside an individual. In another example, as John and Mustapha Mond converse and defend their different societies and upbringings in light of the others’, Mond asks John if he accepts the list of “inconveniences” along with his heretical view of the World State: discomfort, God, poetry, danger, freedom, goodness, and sin; yet in spite everything, John’s final response is simply “I claim them all” (240). Even though John knows that he will encounter hardship and struggle during his life, he still chooses this path of individuality and nonconformity without hesitation. This is because he realizes that enduring struggle without the aid of soma gives life infinitely more meaning and significance for him as it helps him transform into an even stronger individual. Obviously, true fulfillment and happiness in life are only possible if one accepts the self-awareness of being a true individual.
The two societies of the luxurious World State and the unhampered Savage Reservation are worlds apart, especially considering the different mindsets and philosophies of the people in both societies. As they collide in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley flawlessly illustrates the freedom of the Reservation and its stark contrast with the World State in which the over-controlling government completely censors the thoughts and emotions of their people. This dystopia sacrifices all of its potential freedom for the sake of mass stability and unnatural conformity, even though this tradeoff also strictly conditions everyone to forsaken their own free will and basic human rights. To confront the surprisingly accurate notion of the United States currently heading towards the image of Huxley’s World State dystopia, the American government must also reinforce and encourage the ideals of freedom and virtue in its society so that the nation doesn’t lose the humanity it holds dear to its people’s hearts. A true sense of happiness and fulfillment in life can only be accomplished by applying the rudimentary ideals of humanity present in the Savage Reservation such as the aspiration for knowledge, genuineness, and individuality.
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