Themes of Brave New World
The Totalitarian State
Much like 1984, Brave New World takes place under the complete control of totalitarian state. Whereas 1984 operates via complete surveillance and control of information, Brave New World operated through technological changes and manipulation of the human biology.
The World State maintains it complete control by maintaining a populace that is controlled through superficial pleasure and internal conditioning designed to render them compliant in a system that determines their place before they are even born. The danger is that any semblance to real human life has been erased in the service of stability and control.
The novel presents a world in which individual immediate pleasures are satisfied to the exclusion of all meaningful forms of life. Huxley saw the growth of consumer society as one that erodes real human life by replacing it with superficial and fleeting pleasures. Notice that in the World State it is a legitimate option to blot out one’s life with a drug. The vision of this novel is a condemnation of contemporary consumer society.
Happiness versus Truth
Throughout the novel there is a tension between individual desires and needs and the stability of the World State. Ultimately the stability is the only goal. Even Bernard and Helmholtz as members of the highest caste in the World State express dissatisfaction with their personal place in the world. They pay for this by being exiled. The rulers of the World State genetically engineer people to fit specific roles in the social order.
The human body has been altered to make the state function more smoothly. John as an outsider threatens this stability by presenting ideas such as love, passion, and community, ideas he learned from reading Shakespeare. These ideas are considered savage and dangerous. Any and all personal fulfillment is sacrificed to temporary desires which are fulfilled with meaningless sex and deadening drugs. Truth is maintained as a state fiction and happiness is derived from physical pleasure.