Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)

Aldous Huxley was a well-educated, cultured English intellectual who valued high culture and regarded himself as a writer who produced works to be appreciated as high culture.  He wrote Brave New World (1932) to protest against modernism, whether it is in the form of the industrialised consumerist society or the Marxist-Leninist totalitarian state.  He did this by creating a modernist utopia set in the future that had dehumanised humanity in disturbing ways through its focus on the values of happiness and stability at the expense of other dimensions of life and social organisation.

The novel is famous for questioning the modernist notion of rejecting the old in favour of the new, and for questioning the idea that scientific progress and its corresponding technological advances are inevitably beneficial for humanity.  In this brave new world, humanity has been devalued by genetic engineering, cloning, and the abuse of behaviourist psychology and social conditioning.  In this futuristic world, humans suffer less but are less human as a consequence.  Huxley also seemed concerned that eugenics and cloning technologies would lead to the creation of people to fit social roles, such as those involving leadership or servitude, or to fit positions on the industrial production line.  Social and biological engineering would produce a rigidly stratified caste system.

In addition, he speculated that trends in consumerism and totalitarianism would dumb down the culture and compromise individualism.  Although people would enjoy the products of the industrial consumerist society, they would live an empty existence.  Huxley valued quality literature and high culture, and he found in modernism a disturbing disdain for what was old.  He also seemed to worry that the commercialisation of culture prioritised mass tastes and marginalised high culture.  Huxley used references to Shakespeare’s plays to signify quality literature and high culture that is intrinsically valuable and enriching.  Huxley argued that people need to engage with great art and literature by having access to the artefacts of the great heritage of Western civilisation.  Furthermore, Huxley also seemed to be concerned that the consumer society was filling people’s lives with simple pleasures and thereby denying individuals the profound emotional experiences, which include sad experiences, which inspire great art.  To Huxley, as a writer, these cultural trends may have been seen by him as particularly troubling.   

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2021 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Brave New World meaning, Brave New World themes, Brave New World analysis, Brave New World notes