Discuss Huxley's vision of a utilitarian society.
Huxley's utilitarian society seeks the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. Happiness is stability and emotional equilibrium in people's lives rather than things that we might associate with happiness, such as achievement, advancement, love, and beauty. Instead, the greatest happiness comes through scientific and social conditioning that makes each person content with who they are and what they do.
Why does Mustapha Mond insist that science must be constrained in the same way that art and religion are?
Society must restrict science because too much scientific progress can result in social instability. Science, for instance, can reduce the amount of labor necessary to keep lower castes busy and upper castes satisfied with their work. Thus, society must suppress the advent of certain ideas. Huxley comments on the scientific progress of the twentieth century, which caused a great amount of advancement but which also led to mechanisms of war.
What traits of humanity does John Savage represent in the novel?
John Savage represents humanity's base desire for beauty. His love of Shakespeare - the ultimate achievement in art and beauty, according to Huxley - represents his desire for aesthetic transcendence in the human soul. John shows the reader how beauty can come from tragedy and how turmoil and unhappiness are necessary conditions for great art.
Discuss Huxley's use of character development in the novel.
Like many novels that depict dystopian futures, Huxley's novel relies less on character development than it does on the personification of social and political thought in the names, attitudes, traits, and flaws of each character. For instance, Bernard Marx personifies the unrest and hubris of socialist thought. The reader should not understand each character for their personality so much as for the thoughts and ideas that they represent.
Is Huxley’s society able to suppress religious impulses completely?
The government cannot completely suppress religious impulses in society, but they were able to control such impulses. When Bernard participates in the Solidarity Service, the participants feel a kind of Fordian Holy Ghost in a ritualized ceremony that engenders belonging and solidarity amongst the citizens. Both John Savage and Mustapha Mond agree that humans have an innate impulse towards belief in a god, but Mond sees that impulse as useless and something that society must control in order to ensure stability.
In what ways does Huxley moralize sexuality in the novel?
Huxley uses irony to make a statement about the social use of sexuality in modern society. Monogamous sex, which was a chief moral value of Victorian society and the generations that followed, was ironically a mechanism that released great moral depravity in humanity. Sexual plurality, which Huxley’s readers would have considered a moral vice, is a chief component of social stability. Huxley's views on the subject are therefore mixed. He believes that the structures of monogamous sex incite lust and passion in those that cannot restrain themselves, but he also recognizes that a society of complete sexual freedom deprives people of the base desires that, in a way, make a person human.
Do you believe that Huxley's blindness influenced the way he viewed society? Why or why not?
Huxley's blindness, a condition he suffered from beginning in his childhood, did influence his views on science and art. Huxley claimed that his love of both science and literature helped him to realize the limitations of both. His blindness kept him from devoting his training to a kind of science that valued only the achievement of progress, an idea that he rejects in his novel. Progress can be as harmful to society as it is helpful. Because of his blindness, Huxley entered a career in journalism and literature that taught him to appreciate his own affliction. His pain and turmoil opened his mind to the beauty in art and the suffering that must accompany great achievement.
Why does John Savage kill himself at the end of the novel?
John takes his own life at the end of the novel because he has become a sacrifice for the continuation of society. John feels trapped between two ideals. On the one hand, he seeks to represent the base nature of humanity, a state of unhappiness and fear that nevertheless produces beauty. On the other hand, he desires to become a part of the ritualized mob of humanity, which he cannot do on the reservation. However, when he becomes a part of the ritual with the mob in the final chapter, he realizes that being such a sacrifice robs him of all individualism. Caught between these two extremes, he feels that he will never belong anywhere.
Do you believe that Mustapha Mond is the antagonist of the novel? Why or why not?
Mustapha Mond is not an antagonist in the traditional literary sense. He displays both good and bad characteristics. In one sense, his knowing desire for control and power over humanity makes him a sinister character, but in another sense, his motivation is to create the most happiness possible for people. He recognizes that humanity, when left to its own devices, is depraved. Therefore, his motivation is to benefit the whole society, even if that motivation leads to a world deficient of emotion and beauty.
In your opinion, is this brave new world a utopia or a dystopia?
Huxley's imagined world contains elements of both a utopia and a dystopia. As a utopia, the world has achieved a peace and harmony that was very much on the minds of Huxley's readers at the close of World War I and during the beginnings of fascist states in Italy and Germany. As a dystopia, however, Huxley shows how such a stable world deprives humanity of the beauty and love that creates identity, as shown in the characters of John Savage and Helmholtz Watson. In the end, Huxley's world is an achievement that requires too great a sacrifice.
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Brave New World by Aldous Huxley that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in Brave New World and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics for Brave New World below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Brave New World at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #1: Truth Versus Happiness in Brave New World
One of the persistent philosophical questions that preoccupy World State citizens in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is whether truth is more important than happiness. Mond, for example, argues that happiness is more important than truth. The World State itself clearly believes that the only truth that is permissible is the truth it proclaims and promotes, not individual truth, and not the supposedly soft truth of emotion. By casting the truth and happiness of this utopia (dystopia) into opposition, however, everyone in World State overlooks the more complex reality, which is that truth and happiness can co-exist, as can truth and sadness. Because they are not able to live with this possibility, however, they miss the opportunity to truly create a brave new world. For a longer essay on this topic, consider the ways in which the ideas of the happiness in Brave New World are associated with consumption and how this society is attempting to create a consumer utopia. In short, the theme of consumerism is intricately tied into the notion of happiness over truth. * Click here for a great article that explores this as one of the most important themes in Brave New World *Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: “Community, Identity, Stability" in Huxley's Brave New World
In the first line of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the reader learns the tri-partite pillars upon which World State is allegedly built: “Community, Identity, Stability." The processes by which these three qualities are achieved and maintained, however, seem completely paradoxical in Brave New World. For the contemporary reader, “community" is understood as a group of diverse people, while in World State, people are essentially manufactured to be sorted into one of five social castes. The modern reader of Brave New World understands “identity" to be highly individual, but again, the caste system prevents anything by conformity and uniformity, and it is through these that stability is achieved. Or is it? Although World State is highly controlled, one can argue that it is anything but stable. In a society in which individual rights are non-existent and people are not permitted to develop unique identities, there can be no stability at all. John’s suicide at the end of Brave New World confirms that World State is utterly chaotic, despite all of the efforts to maintain complete social control.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Complicity and Rebellion in Brave New World
One of the problematic elements of World State is that each person plays a role in propping up the state’s maladaptive values through their complicity with its rules and systems, and the more people conform, the fewer are likely to rebel. By analyzing specific characters in Brave New World, one can begin to see precisely how complicity functions in a domino effect. Although almost all of the major characters have some physical or personality trait that makes them unconventional, most of them do not emphasize or exercise their difference in a way that challenges the reigning order. In fact, in order to minimize their differences or divergent desires, most of the characters seek some form of avoidance or sublimation, namely, the drug soma. As a result, despite their own personal moments of dissatisfaction and despair, the citizens of World State serve to perpetuate the very conditions that cause them distress.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 The Limits and Power of Technology in Brave New World
True to other works in its genre, Brave New World is intensely interested in the powers and the limits of technology. In its specific treatment of psychotropic drugs and genetic engineering, Brave New World was, in retrospect, ominously prescient. Huxley criticized a world in which people had to medicate themselves to avoid their true emotions, and he also criticized a social system that essentially manufactured human beings to fit certain social needs and interests. The world that Huxley predicted has come true. In this essay, the similarities and differences between the world Huxley described and our own society will be examined, and the powers and limits of technology will be discussed.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Neologisms in Brave New World
One of the ways in which the authors of allegorical tales such as Brave New World create problematic future worlds and convey the difficulty of talking about those worlds is by devising a nomenclature that is specific to the futuristic environment. In Brave New World, the reader notices all sorts of neologisms, words that are comprised of familiar roots or references but which have been appropriated and given new meaning. Some examples of these words include “hypnopaedic," the “Podsnap’s Technique," and “soma." At the same time, authors take familiar words and challenge the reader to approach and interpret them differently by infusing them with new meaning. Together, the effect of these strategies is to create discomfort and even confusion in the reader, provoking him or her to question basic assumptions about the organization of society and the nature of our human relationships.
* Here is a link to a great freely-accessible essay discussing many of these aspects of Brave New World *
This list of important quotations will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“Over the main entrance…a shield [with] the World State’s motto: COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY." (3)
“For of course some general idea they [the medical students] must have, if they were to do their work intelligently—though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as everyone knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers…compose the backbone of society." (4)
“’Essentially,’ the DHC concluded, ‘bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding.’" (6)
“[O]ne of the students was fool enough to ask where the advantage lay. ‘My good boy!…. Can’t you see? Can’t you see?…Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!" (7)
“It was decided to abolish the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes…." (23)
“Their world didn’t allow them to take things easily, didn’t allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy." (41)
“I don’t know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays." (91)
“Alphas are so conditioned that they do not have to be infantile in their emotional behavior. But that is all the more reason for their making a special effort to conform. It is their duty to be infantile, even against their inclination. " (98)
“[V]alue dwells not in particular will…. It holds his estimate and dignity as well wherein ‘tis precious of itself as the prizer." (236)
“If you allowed yourselves to think of God, you wouldn’t allow yourselves to be degraded by pleasant vices. You’d have a reason for bearing things patiently, for doing things with courage…." (236)
Reference: Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Perennial, 1998. <