Themes are overarching ideas and beliefs that the writers express in their texts including poetry, fiction, and plays. Themes in Brave New World, a dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley, are so diverse that even an ordinary reader can feel the excellence of wit and irony of Huxley. Some of the major themes of the novel have been discussed below.
Themes in Brave New World
Commodification means to commodify a society, or human beings are treated as commodities. Thomas is responsible for conditioning human beings in the Hatcheries and the Conditioning Center on the lines of assembly-line production of Henry Ford. Bernard Marx and Henry Foster show that conditioned human beings may go astray in their lives after having experience of other lands and other people. Similarly, Fanny Crowne and Linda are also examples of commodified human beings. Fanny conforms to the values of the World State, and stays while Linda loses herself in the Reservation, and ultimately commits suicide by taking excessive soma after returning. Commodification has been applied by the elite class to ensure political stability, non-creativity and structure as per the New World. This has been ensured through Bokanvosky’s Process of “One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality” in which sometimes many identical twins are being brought up in the hatchery.
The dystopian society and its aftereffects are one of the major themes of Brave New World. The World State has presented a community where new ideas and new social experiments have been put to the test to make fun of them. The D.H.C. is an example of the assembly-line production of Henry Ford test see how it benefits the society at large. Despite years of experiments and conditioning, people like Bernard Marx and Thomas keeps the common masses in the dark about their own behavior. The institutions such as the D.H.C. go through the application of the technology and conditioning of the human nature and mental processes. In fact, the World State has succeeded in human engineering and classification but failed in humanity and proper upbringing of balanced individuals. Soma is used for being “stable” for any problem.
The philosophy of utilitarianism as propagated by Jeremy Bentham and J. S. Mill believe in the greatest happiness of most people. The Hatchery and Conditioning Center is engaged in the production of human beings who could only be happy. However, John the Savage points out this flawed system because he also considers sorrow or unhappiness as a major aspect of a balanced life. Taking soma is an example of experiencing happiness and appreciating beauty as Bernard Marx and Lenina do over the English Channel. Lenina also depicts this theme by engaging in promiscuity to stay happy.
Misuse of Scientific Methods
The example of human engineering is found in the Hatchery and Conditioning Center where humans are being produced on a vast scale through volunteers. The director tells the visiting students that the volunteers are paid for their job. The same is the case of conditioning though it does not work on some such as Alpha males. Bernard Marx and Helmholtz are conditioned, but they think independently. That is why Marx is exiled for not conforming to the conditioning. The use of hypnopaedia to shape the consciousness of the children is another method applied in a wrong way. In fact, it is the misuse of scientific methods to make children conform to certain preconceived thinking.
Dehumanization / Transformation of Human Relations
Dehumanization or transformation of human relations shows that human engineering is successful in making human beings. It also shows that science has solved some issues in shaping behavior such as creating certain physical classes and races. However, it has not resolved the issue of human emotions. Lenina does not find peace of mind despite her promiscuity. Helmholtz Watson and Bernard Marx also do not confine themselves to their allotted roles. The use of soma for controlling human emotions is another technique of dehumanizing the people. Two major techniques are the Bokanvosky’s Process and Henry Ford’s assembly which create human beings and condition the children through hypnopaedia.
Rule of Consumerism / Consumer Society
Consumerism shows that human beings are primarily consumers. Although human beings as a product, are molded on the concepts of the World State citizens. A closer look suggests that assembly line production and conditioning is based on the economic values of the society. Exactly like consumers, the satisfaction of such human beings is the only happiness they need. Happiness is measured through prosperity and growth. However, when a person from another part of the world arrives such as John the Savage, he is surprised to see such a condition of human beings and their artificial way of gladdening human beings.
Human Impulse / Emotions
The society without emotions is the motto of the World State. The established global government believes that it is in the interest of society to create human beings with no emotions. The distribution of soma is intended to make people emotionless. That is why social institutions such as marriage and homes are abolished. Children are being reared in hatcheries, while drugs are being used to make people conditioned. The characters of Lenina, Linda and Henry Foster in the World State points to the fact that emotions play an important role. That is why Bernard Marx wishes to have control over his emotions. Linda gets the same chance when she gives birth to John at the Reservation.
Threat of Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering and the threat it poses to the human race is another theme of the novel. The mass breeding of children in the hatchery points to the controlled population intended to stabilize the society. When John the Savage meets Mustapha Mond and asks him about producing only Alpha Plus human beings, he responds that they are creating a stable society having an equilibrium of the wise and the fool. He mentions “Cyprus Experiment” of creating only Alpha Plus on some distant land to experiment with the idea. It means genetic engineering could be a reality soon and may cause disruption in the natural processes.
It is the keen eye of Huxley that he has seen the new form of totalitarian states in the future based on the use of technology. Although the D. H. C. clearly tells that the couples have taken part in the mass production on a voluntary basis, they have been paid bonuses for that. The children are being conditioned through electric shocks and soma. This seems a benevolent form of coercion which becomes harsh when a person is grown up. The other form of totalitarianism exists in the shape of controllers who think that freedom and individuality are anathemas for the stability of the society in the World State. According to Thomas “All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.” This clearly means that this state wants to end any kind of freedom.
Community versus Individual Freedom
Whoever rebels against the community and does not conform to its conventions is forced to leave. Even Bernard Marx is exiled for violation of conventions of the World State. In fact, the motto of “community, identity, and stability” applies to all individuals and curbs their freedom. At the same time, it gives them identity through their community. Mustapha Mond’s argument that religion and literature are given through controlled doses also means that the individual is not made aware of his freedom. If that happens, he must face banishment to some other place. In other words, the community is given priority over an individual.