Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Use of Technology to Control Society
Brave New World warns of the dangers of giving the state control over new and powerful technologies. One illustration of this theme is the rigid control of reproduction through technological and medical intervention, including the surgical removal of ovaries, the Bokanovsky Process, and hypnopaedic conditioning. Another is the creation of complicated entertainment machines that generate both harmless leisure and the high levels of consumption and production that are the basis of the World State’s stability. Soma is a third example of the kind of medical, biological, and psychological technologies that Brave New World criticizes most sharply.
It is important to recognize the distinction between science and technology. Whereas the State talks about progress and science, what it really means is the bettering of technology, not increased scientific exploration and experimentation. The state uses science as a means to build technology that can create a seamless, happy, superficial world through things such as the “feelies.” The state censors and limits science, however, since it sees the fundamental basis behind science, the search for truth, as threatening to the State’s control. The State’s focus on happiness and stability means that it uses the results of scientific research, inasmuch as they contribute to technologies of control, but does not support science itself.
The Consumer Society
It is important to understand that Brave New World is not simply a warning about what could happen to society if things go wrong, it is also a satire of the society in which Huxley existed, and which still exists today. While the attitudes and behaviors of World State citizens at first appear bizarre, cruel, or scandalous, many clues point to the conclusion that the World State is simply an extreme—but logically developed—version of our society’s economic values, in which individual happiness is defined as the ability to satisfy needs, and success as a society is equated with economic growth and prosperity.
The Incompatibility of Happiness and Truth
Brave New World is full of characters who do everything they can to avoid facing the truth about their own situations. The almost universal use of the drug soma is probably the most pervasive example of such willful self-delusion. Soma clouds the realities of the present and replaces them with happy hallucinations, and is thus a tool for promoting social stability. But even Shakespeare can be used to avoid facing the truth, as John demonstrates by his insistence on viewing Lenina through the lens of Shakespeare’s world, first as a Juliet and later as an “impudent strumpet.” According to Mustapha Mond, the World State prioritizes happiness at the expense of truth by design: he believes that people are better off with happiness than with truth.
What are these two abstract entities that Mond juxtaposes? It seems clear enough from Mond’s argument that happiness refers to the immediate gratification of every citizen’s desire for food, sex, drugs, nice clothes, and other consumer items. It is less clear what Mond means by truth, or specifically what truths he sees the World State society as covering up. From Mond’s discussion with John, it is possible to identify two main types of truth that the World State seeks to eliminate. First, as Mond’s own past indicates, the World State controls and muffles all efforts by citizens to gain any sort of scientific, or empirical truth. Second, the government attempts to destroy all kinds of “human” truths, such as love, friendship, and personal connection. These two types of truth are quite different from each other: objective truth involves coming to a definitive conclusion of fact, while a “human” truth can only be explored, not defined. Yet both kinds of truth are united in the passion that an individual might feel for them. As a young man, Mustapha Mond became enraptured with the delight of making discoveries, just as John loves the language and intensity of Shakespeare. The search for truth then, also seems to involve a great deal of individual effort, of striving and fighting against odds. The very will to search for truth is an individual desire that the communal society of Brave New World, based as it is on anonymity and lack of thought, cannot allow to exist. Truth and individuality thus become entwined in the novel’s thematic structure.
The Dangers of an All-Powerful State
Like George Orwell’s 1984, this novel depicts a dystopia in which an all-powerful state controls the behaviors and actions of its people in order to preserve its own stability and power. But a major difference between the two is that, whereas in 1984 control is maintained by constant government surveillance, secret police, and torture, power in Brave New World is maintained through technological interventions that start before birth and last until death, and that actually change what people want. The government of 1984 maintains power through force and intimidation. The government of Brave New World retains control by making its citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled that they don’t care about their personal freedom. In Brave New World the consequences of state control are a loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions—in short, a loss of humanity.
More main ideas from Brave New World
Brave New World Essay Questions
Here are some of the most typical yet exciting Brave New World essay questions that you can investigate in your paper:
- How does utilitarian society work?
- Why does the society need to limit not only the development of art and the cultural progress but also the scientific and technological progress as well, according to Mustapha Mond?
- What is John's function in the novel?
- How does a particular character develop in the novel (pick one)?
- What is the take on religion in Huxley's utilitarian society?
- How does Huxley theorize about sexuality in his novel?
- Do you agree that Huxley's views that he expressed in his novel were largely determined by his medical condition (blindness)?
- Where do John's suicidal thoughts root from and what motivation for suicide do they provide at the end of the novel?
- Is there an antagonist in the novel? Who could we call one?
- Can Huxley's Brave New World be truly called a dystopia?
Brave New World Theme Essay
The questions above are quite specific. Truly, a lot of serious works have been devoted to answering these questions. But, once again, as a student, you are allowed to cover one of them in a small five-paragraph essay. If your task is to write a bigger Brave New World essay, chances are you will have to write a Brave New World theme essay, i.e., to explore a particular theme and how it gets revealed in the novel. Here are some of the themes you can dwell upon when writing about Huxley's Brave New World:
- Commodification. An obsession with consumption makes people happy but poses an impossible obstacle to creativity and originality.
- Dystopia. How does the society seamlessly fall under one or the other kind of totalitarian control?
- Freedom. We can see how easily freedom can be re-defined into its complete opposite.
- Human impulse. We see that Huxley's utilitarian society does not control impulses. Is it wrong?
- Limits of science. How does the utilitarian government limit science to promote its central priority - the common happiness and why?
- Power of knowledge. In Huxley's novel, mankind seems to have gained absolute knowledge of everything, and it seems to have made them happy. What is the catch?
- Transformation of human relationships. The utilitarian society has rid itself of any human bond that we are used to today. How it affects them and what can we learn from it?
- Utilitarian happiness. How the notion of happiness transforms in the absence of unhappiness?
Brave New World Soma Essay
The absolute common happiness in Huxley's utilitarian society is achieved by providing the entirety of mankind with all the possible commodities. The elimination of any unhappiness is aided by the mass implementation of a particular drug called soma. Taking a closer look at this drug, its application and effects can provide for an exciting topic for an essay. If you choose to write a Brave New World soma essay, here is what you can do:
- Mark all the instances where the word 'soma' is used in the text of the novel
- Mark all the instances where the characters use this drug, ponder on their motivations to use it and its effects
- Mark the descriptions of soma's function in Huxley's utilitarian society
- Such a brief research will give you enough material to put together a solid essay.
Brave New World Analysis Essay
Another kind of essay that you can write about Aldous Huxley's novel is a Brave New World analysis essay. Here, you will analyze the novel as a whole, as opposed to putting the novel's particular detail or aspect in the center of your attention and abstracting from the rest. Such an essay will obviously be even more voluminous than a theme essay that we have discussed above - if you want to have it done properly.
When you analyze Huxley's entire novel in your essay, you will have to grasp at least several questions and themes that we have listed earlier: from the novel's background (including Huxley's blindness, as well as the events that inspired him to turn to the genre that would later be called dystopia) to the traits and functions of particular characters.
Brave New World Essay Prompts
When given a task of writing an essay, your instructor may offer you some prompts that you will have to address. If this is your case, then the job of a student gets much easier, because you no longer need to look for what exactly to write about. Either you know the material, or you don't. Either you can answer to the prompt, or you can't. Here are a few examples of Brave New World essay prompts:
- "Community, identity, stability." This is the slogan of BNW. Explain what each of these words means in the slogan. How true to life are they?
- Different opinions. The utilitarian society seems to provide happiness to all the society. Still, different characters seem to view such state of events differently. Give examples and compare them.
- Manufactured pleasure. How was it made possible to manufacture pleasure and at what cost?
- Mind meddling. Explain how the government controls the people's minds in the novel. What methods do they use? Do you know about any similar instances in real life?
- Ominous warning. Do you think that anything Huxley describes in his novel could happen in real life in the future? Maybe, it already has?
Brave New World Essay Outline
If your instructor is willing to facilitate your essay writing by giving you prompts to address, they might as well give you an outline for your essay. But regardless, if you have any doubts regarding how you should outline your essay, you should not hesitate to contact your instructor for assistance. A Brave New World essay outline may look as follows:
- Introduction. It should include the general background information - at least, the novel's title and the author's name, your thesis statement, and a transition sentence.
- The main body. Here, you answer the prompt.
- Evidence. You prove that your answer to the prompt is correct.
- Conclusion. You restate the prompt and state that you have answered it correctly.
Brave New World Essay Outlinebrave New World Essay Introduction
Finally, we would like to address an issue that many essay writers stumble upon - how to start off your Brave New World essay, i.e., how to write your Brave New World essay introduction. An introduction to an essay may be its smallest part, but it is of critical importance. If you want a good grade, you want to impress your reader. To do that, you should grasp their attention from the very first lines of your essay introduction and prepare them for what they are about to read. In case with a Brave New World essay, you are welcome to use the introduction to our humble article as a template to dwell upon.