- Aldous Huxley depicts a society which has been molded and conditioned for social stability. This goal has been taken to the extremes of breeding and conditioning humans into select social castes, jobs, likes, tastes, etc. A “savage” is brought into this society and is driven crazy by the extreme consumerism and pleasure seeking through sex and soma tablets.
- Liking what you got to do is the secret of happiness and virtue. “All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”
- “What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.” – quote around the power of conditioning. Conditioning babies of a certain caste to fear books and flowers
- “…when you’re not accustomed to history, most facts about the past do sound incredible.”
- “There was something called democracy. As though men were more than physico-chemically equal.”
- All people are conditioned to think of themselves as simply a cell in the larger social machine
- Lenina and Bernard go to New Mexico on holiday and see a “savage reservation” – where people live like humans used to, even giving birth themselves. Bernard convinces Mustapha to bring back 2 savages – one of whom was from the normal society but when she (Linda) was on her own vacation, she got lost and stayed with the savages
- Parenting in the “normal” society was unheard of and considered obscene
- People take something called soma which seems to be like a psychedelic. They take soma “vacations” which seem like hallucinogenic trips
- Bernard became a national hero because nobody had seen someone fat and aged like Linda and John wasn’t conditioned like everybody else
- John becomes disgusted with the consumerism and constant pleasure. He goes into the woods to a lighthouse and submits himself to self-flagellation in order to hold onto his values, mainly truth. He battles his emotions most directly with Lenina, who he is very attracted to. She comes to the lighthouse at one point and John tries to control himself but can’t. He sleeps with her and when he wakes up and realizes what he’s done, he kills himself.
What I got out of it
- I can see why this book received mix reviews when it was first released but also why it has become an instant classic. Huxley forecasts and pokes fun at extreme consumerism and pleasure seeking that is so prevalent in Western societies. John faces an uphill battle when all of society has been conditioned that this course of life is the best and only way to live. Fun read and on par with Orwell’s 1984 in terms of depicting a (perhaps) exaggerated and bleak future.