Published in 1932, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a dystopian vision set 600 years in the future in which technology has diminished the place of human feeling and human life. The novel envisions a world in which the stability of the state takes precedence over any and all human concerns. This is taken to such and extreme that love, passion, and even an appreciation of art are seen as vices.
In Huxley’s vision of the future sex promiscuity will be the norm over meaningful relationships. The family unit will disappear altogether, and religion will be replaced by vapid slogans and simple lessons learned while sleeping. Any conflict will be (and is) eased by the use of sleep inducing drugs.
The novel has been frequently compared to Orwell’s 1984. Even Orwell himself saw the similarities. Both Orwell and Huxley responded to the crises of advancing technology, increasingly powerful central governments, and the lack of real concern on the part of everyday people as signs that the world was turning toward a totalitarian nightmare in which humanity would be denied and crushed.
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In Orwell’s vision of the future, life has been subsumed by a violent and all-powerful totalitarian state. All life is monitored and any deviation form standards and norms is violently punished. Huxley’s vision is different in that the totalitarian system is one in which people willingly acquiesce. 1984 consists of a brutal central power while Brave New World depends on a population anesthetized to daily life and perfectly willing to give in to a central authority.
One may ask which vision of the future appears more prophetic as we read these novels years after they were written. How does the modern world of television and consumerism square up with Orwell’s and Huxley’s vision of the future? Does our modern world still allow for basic forms of humanity such as meaningful love and real familial relationships?
Both 1984 and Brave New World have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. The internet and our every decreasing sense of privacy has given new life to the dystopian visions both books would offer. It would seem that as we perceive our world getting smaller and smaller through the vast connectedness of modern life, our feelings of security and even a basic fear for our own humanity has returned to the fore of our minds in ways which were just a pressing in the early 20th Century when these novels were written. We may wish to see who was more prophetic as we compare Brave New World vs 1984.