Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World”

Brave New World is a dystopian novel written by British author Aldous Huxley in 1931. The novel is set in 2540, in a futuristic world known as the “the World State” wherein advanced science and technologies are use to reproduce genetically modified babies that are conditioned to believe in certain moral values and are then raised in strict social castes. People are encouraged to have regular and casual sex and to take a drug called soma, which is designed to make them happy. In the novel, Bernard Max and Lenina Crowne, take a trip to a savage reservation in New Mexico outside the World State. They meet Linda, a woman separated from her group years ago who gave birth to a son named John and who raised him at the reservation. The four return to London, where John becomes famous for being a natural-born “savage.” After his Linda overdoses on soma and dies, John moves away in search of a solitary lifestyle, but eventually chooses to hang himself after being rediscovered by sightseers hoping to watch his bizarre behaviors. A key question that Brave New World raises is about the trade-off between happiness and freedom. Happiness is guaranteed through instant satisfactions for desires such as food, sex, drugs, and consumer items, but comes at the expense of freedom and truth. Members of the World State are not able to think for themselves, and the characters who do think for themselves are not happy. The novel asks its readers to question whether it is more important to be happy or to be free. 

Brave New World was rated #3 on the American Library Association’s 2010 list of most challenged books, but history of controversy extends back to its publication. The novel was first banned in Ireland in 2931 for anti-religion, anti-family, and blasphemous content. Australia quickly followed by censoring the book in the same year. In the United States, there were eight separate accounts of censorship in states including Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, California, Alabama, Texas, Indiana, and Delaware, all of which occurred in US public schools. Brave New World continues to challenged in public schools for obscenity and vulgarity, and being therefore inappropriate for children. A father of a student has argued that “the novel’s dystopian setting disallows students from understanding ethical citizenship and morality.”

About the Author

Aldous Huxley was an English writer and philosopher. He wrote nearly fifty books over his lifetime, including fiction and non-fiction, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times. He graduated from Balliol College at Oxford University with a degree in English literature, and spent his early career writing and editing for the literary magazine Oxford Poetry before becoming a professional writer. In 1932, Huxley published what is considered to be one of the most important novels in 20th century literature: Brave New World. He settled in Los Angeles in 1937 and passed away in 1963.  

Further Reading