Control, Individuality & Technology
Technology is the most essential part of today’s world. People turn to technology to do everyday tasks. Be it the individual waking up in the morning with an alarm clock, to brushing teeth with an electric toothbrush. Technology is part of the daily life, a necessity that improves quality of life. Advances such as automobiles and cellphones have made life easier, but an abuse of technology could have deadly consequences. Huxley’s explores the ramifications of technological advancements in his dystopian piece Brave New World. Governmental control over the procreation of individuals as well as the indoctrination of behaviors are explored in this society. This reliance on technology has had deleterious effects on society and has led to substance abuse mirroring the Opioid crisis. An authoritarian government has led to a loss of individuality, as characters such as John and Lenina question what it means to be free. In Brave New World, Huxley uses of literary elements such as historical context, figurative language as well as setting to show how a totalitarian government uses technology to suppress individuality.
In Huxley’s Brave New World, the World State has grouped individuals into a hierarchical system. The protagonist Bernard Marx is an Alpha individual who works in the factory where embryos are conditioned. Bernard begins to question how society is organized and refuses to conform. Helmholtz Watson is Bernard’s friend who shares similar views. Bernard and his love interest Lenina, embark on a trip to Savage Reservation where the World State has no control. Individuals in this society can mate, study religion and even age. Bernard discovers that John the Savage is related to his boss and decides to take him back home. John is appalled by life in London in which people are conditioned and forced to take drugs. John ends up revolting and tries to convince the individuals in the lower system of the caste to revolt. John is captured and ends up killing himself. Bernard and Helmholtz’s ideologies are discovered. Mustapha Mond, who is one of the ten world controllers banishes them to a place filled with other individuals who challenged society.
From the introduction, Huxley paints this picture of a highly developed society as the first scene depicts cloning. Technology is at the center of human life as the World State uses the Bokanovsky process to create individuals. This is a cloning process that ensures embryos are genetically similar. These embryos are then arranged into a caste consisting of 3 groups, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. Alpha and Beta individuals are not produced through cloning. Huxley chooses to highlight cloning as a blatant abuse of technology due to the events occurring at this time. Initially written in 1932, Huxley must’ve experienced the detriment that technology was bringing to society. Especially during WW1 in his home country of England. The production of weapons such as machine guns, tanks and gun synchronizers lead to mass casualties. This might’ve of been a possible reason as to why he explored the topic of technology and science behind cloning.
Additionally, these authoritarian leaders dictate where the cloned individuals will fall in regards to social class. The State exerts absolute power over individuals controlling their makeup and dispositions. They poison Gamma, Epsilon, Delta embryos with alcohol and deprive them of oxygen ensuring that they are less intelligent. An authoritarian government utilizes a special method to control its individuals. Hypnopedia conditioning which is a type of learning in which babies are taught information through their sleep and are able to retain information in their subconscious level. The Alphas and Betas are conditioned to like reading and have a thirst for knowledge. They will be the future leaders. Epsilons, Gammas, Deltas to dislike reading and abhor thinking. They are destined for a life of performing menial tasks such as cleaning and working in factories. A worker in the hypnopedia center works to condition Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons to hate books and flowers, he states “They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books…. They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives” (17). It’s clear beginning at birth that the individual is a pawn of a totalitarian state, every aspect of their life not under their control.
Furthermore, the World State’s reliance of soma is another important means of control by the government. Soma is a drug that is distributed by the World State that gives individuals a euphoric high. The state conditions individuals to need soma through hypnopedia.The State believes that happy individuals will help the society remain stable. Individuals do not feel stress, worry or any other emotions. Why should individuals disturb the peace, when everyone is happy? Mond almost reprimands Bernard when he finds out that he hasn’t been taking soma. This advancement is science has really dehumanized the individuals in this society. Humans cannot even feel basic emotions such as sadness. When Lenina sees a young man get whipped, she cries out “Too awful! That blood! Oh, I wish I had my soma” (Huxley 78). She is clearly not used to seeing people express pain and sadness. She does not know how to react and wishes she had soma. This authoritarian State has clearly indoctrinated individuals such as Lenina to a reliance of soma so that they do not deal with any other emotions. She experiences emotions that she does not understand and this frightens her.
Moreover, in another scene, Huxley employs irony as he talks about freedom. Bernard and Lenina discuss what it means to be free. Lenina states that she is free and goes on to say “I don’t know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays” (61). This is ironic because she relates being free with taking soma and feeling happy. She does not realize that she is conditioned to take soma and that her use of soma is a means of control by the state. She is not free but merely a prisoner of the State. This only shows that the World State really controls all aspects of individual life and that there are no individuals who are free in society.
Furthermore, authoritarian leaders control the masses by replacing religion. The World State has eradicated religion because technology has made God obsolete. After the discovery of technological advancements, leaders were able to inject youth to individuals. They performed blood transfusions as well as distribution of magnesium salts which help retain youth. Religion was only important due to people turning to it when they age, but in a society where people don’t age, religion is useless. Mond goes on to say ‘You can only be independent of God while you’ve got youth and prosperity…we’ve now got youth and prosperity right up to the end. What follows? Evidently, that we can be independent of God” (159). Mond indicates that the World State has completely replaced God with science and technology.
Religion was eradicated because it threatens stability. Bernard goes on to say “Old men in the bad old days retire & take to religion, spend their time reading, thinking-thinking …there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end” (38). The government asserts control over all individuals, it does not want its people to think. This is why soma is distributed by the State. It does not want individuals to think but just spend time under the euphoria of soma. In this society aging is of no use, but in Linett’s “No Country for Old Men”: Huxley’s Brave New World & the Value of Old Age, she offers a different view on aging. She argues that aging was eradicated due to the World State fearing change. In a society that is able to control the masses, change could break this stability that exists in society. She states that this is why individuals do not know about any history. The leaders preach “history is bunk” because they don’t want individuals to think about a time before now. Huxley goes to say “there is only now, the past is unnecessary” (49). They want individuals to believe that life is unchanging, as if day by day the same things have been happening for many years. Linett offers another reason as to why aging has been eliminated. She states that aging brings upon feelings of fear, anger, and even sadness. The stability that has been established in society is can be attributed to keeping the populace in a constant state of happiness. If people began aging they would start to develop these other feelings that threaten peace.
Huxley continues in his quest to establish Ford as a religious figure. Huxley employs historical context as Henry T Ford is the creator of the Ford car. He was a wildly successful business man in the early 1900’s. Individuals of the World State have been taught to worship Ford for his revolutionary invention of the Ford car as well as his perfection of mass production. Items such as soma, embryos, clothes were mass produced. Huxley employs symbolism as he mentions the religious leader. Ford becomes a symbol for God as individuals gather together to worship him. Instead of using B.C. (Before Christ) as a reference for time, the State uses A.F which means after Ford. This indicates the importance of Ford, he is clearly a religious figure. Individuals have no choice but to praise Ford. Citizens are forced to attend services in which they consume soma and praise Ford’s ideas. Soma is an important instrument that helps the World State ensure the control of the state’s individuals.
Moreover, Huxley again uses symbolism as he alludes to soma being a religious symbol. Mond talks about the importance of soma, he states “And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering… You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears—that’s what soma is” (209). Individuals in this society will turn to soma to cope with their emotions, before people would often turn to religion. This goes to show how much control the State has on the individuals. It has forced individuals to turn from religion to drugs. The abuse of soma can be compared to the abuse of opioids in the United States. There is a discord between how drugs have affected the World State society and the United States. Huxley depicts the World State functioning perfectly, although drug use is clearly apparent. Rather than having a positive effect on society, opioids have damaged our society. In Rummans’s article How Good Intentions Contributed to Bad Outcomes: The Opioid Crisis, she talks about the startling figures of the opioid crisis. In her articles, she states that one-third of US adults currently use prescription opioids. Drug overdoses by opioids have become the leading cause of death for Americans younger than 50 years (Rummans). Soma was used to repress other emotions such as fear, sadness, anger just like opioids and other drugs were used to suppress pain. Unlike in Huxley’s depiction of a functioning society, opioid abuse has caused significant damage.
Lastly, it is clear that the society depicted in Brave New world is under authoritarian control. Individuals are mass produced in test tubes and the State dictates what social class they will fall into. Individuals lack freedom as they are conditioned using hypnopedia teachings to like certain things. Soma is a drug that is heavily abused by individuals and is used as a tool to control the individuals of society. Although depicted to only having no ill effects, there exists parallels with the opioid crisis that is going on in the United States. The control by the World State over religion goes on to further the notion of the suppression of individuality. The State tries to indoctrinate its individuals to praise Ford. Bernard’s questioning the structure of society establishes him as an individual throughout the story.