1001 books to read before you die (Issue 12)

The title is a direct quote from Miranda’s speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Huxley uses many Shakespeare quotes from various plays throughout the second half of the text after the introduction of John Savage, a man born in a ‘savage reservation’ outside of ‘normal civilisation’. John is one of the only humans to have ever come into contact with the works of Shakespeare and uses his plays and his language to make sense of the world. John, himself, refers ironically to the new concept of civilisation as a ‘Brave new world’.

Further contextual references stem from the names of characters such as Mustapha Mond, Bernard Marx, Benito Hoover and Lenina Crowne (if these donÂ’t ring any bells, look them up on Wikipedia). HuxleyÂ’s political and historical context is instantly evident. He uses the year of the first Ford car made on a production line as the standard date for the new world; which is a superb, yet subtle, indicator of the connection with creating human life on a production line. Huxley is a genius of political allegory and of literary creativity. Brave New World is famous for its multiple stream of consciousness style that, although sometimes confusing, has an obvious purpose in the ultra-modern aesthetic of the text.

John Savage’s desperation and self-destruction having been introduced to the new world is beautifully written and sublimely tragic. His flawed relationships with his Mother, Lenina and Bernard all represent the flawed aspects of the supposedly perfect new world. His character is the only ‘reality’ that a reader can identify with, as the other characters are all born of a culture that is, as it is for John, impossible to understand. Surprisingly the only cinematic version of Brave New World was made in 1998, starring Leonard Nimoy and Peter Gallagher (of O.C fame) and is only very loosely based on the novel. Perhaps this lack of literary integrity comes from Huxley’s work being too brilliant a novel for anyone to successfully recreate the complex themes on screen.

Brave New World takes everything we hold dear, from love to Shakespeare and sacrifices it on the altar of utopia. The bizarre thing is that utopia so very frightening and disturbing for a world that exists without disease, old-age, poverty or war, something that we seem to constantly strive for. Which, of course, begs the question, why is it so disturbing? Why would social stability and an end to unhappiness make us so unhappy? John is the man with the answer; he demands his right to be miserable, disease ridden and unsatisfied, for without it we cannot truly know happiness. John Savage refuses to exist in a ‘brave new world that hath such people in it’.

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