Huxley & G. Orwell
Two Novels, Two Bizarre Worlds: A Paper comparing the novels Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four
The classical novels Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell are often compared because of their similar dystopian character. Both novels present perverted worlds set in the future that is chaotic in the sense that people do not enjoy their freedom and individuality. Brave New World introduces a 'frightening vision of the future' and posits a society-norm-controlled world where people are conditioned since birth to hold the values that the World State idealizes thus, loss their individual identities and submit to the standards set by society in fear of becoming outcasts. According to Bessa (2007), Huxley suggests that people in the World State destroys each other. Nineteen Eighty-Four on the other hand, zeroes in on a repressive totalitarian era and discusses a society that is government-controlled, ruled by party headed by Big Brother. The government's invasive character is captured in the caption of the party's poster BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. Indeed, the two worlds described in the abovementioned novels depict oppression by states that seek to cling to power so they can incessantly manipulate their people. Although fictional in nature, the novels have introduced issues that leave more questions than answers, which the present world could think about and address. Perhaps, the first step is to answer this single question: Are the notions in Huxley's and Orwell's works manifest in our world today?
The two novels are satirical in nature criticizing issues in the contemporary society. LeBouef (2007) regards satire as a very powerful artistic form to critique specific human behavior. In his paper he wrote, "while they do provide some degree of social critique and are somewhat humorous, they are intended to provoke any sort of real social change, and they are too overt to qualify as satire in the modern sense" (p.2).
While the two novels raise similar ideas, like the abolition of the concept of family and absence of individual freedom, they have also different views on issues (e.g. sex), which will be discussed in the following section of this paper. Socio-cultural implications of the ideas presented in the novels will be tackled as well in this paper.
Issues raised and challenged
Power control and passivity
Both novels highlight the control of power in the societies described and how it is achieved. In Brave New World, the power is in the grip of the World State, which does not point to a governing individual or group but to a system or the society itself. The application of technology in human reproduction and sleep learning strategy were combined to change the society in a way that is harmonious to the idealism of the state. Children are decanted and developed in hatcheries and are thought of values that the state wants them to believe in. They are conditioned to behave as one in a particular caste and not to want for more. The populace in the World State enjoys life and hangover-free "vacations" as they have a regular intake of a hallucinogen called Soma.
Meanwhile, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government holds the power over the populace of Oceania. A ruling party led by Big Brother coerces people through Thought Police to follow its regulations and erring citizens are considered criminals who are first subjected to surveillance and if proven to be disobedient, will be tortured in the Ministry of Love. According to Orwell, "A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected." (Orwell, 1949); this clearly defines an insidious and invasive state.
Put simply, "In 1984 the lust for power is satisfied by inflicting pain; in Brave New World, by inflicting a hardly less humiliating pleasure" (Huxley, 2004. p259).
Nineteen Eighty-Four exemplifies totalitarianism and its fangs. Peter Grieder (2007) in his paper entitled "In Defense of Totalitarianism Theory as a Tool of Historical Scholarship" says that "Totalitarianism may therefore be summarised as the concerted but disguised attempt by a state to exercise total control over, coerce, integrate, manipulate, mobilize and seduce its population in the name of an ideology, regardless of the extent to which this was actually achieved in practice." Put another way, totalitarianism means total control.
Totalitarian system has gained a lot of criticism. Critics describe the deception behind it and how it shapes or destructs societies. For Roviello (2007), "The totalitarian lie is a kind of perversion, to the extent that it forces individuals to participate actively, on the front line, indeed with enthusiasm, in the mendacious destruction of the very requirements of their existence, including when their own lives are at stake." But for Huxley, "A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude."
Orwell (1949) added in his novel, as he describes how totalitarian system works, that totalitarianism entails to "the possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects." This holds true to Huxley's World State as well, wherein all people behave in uniformity as an effect of conditioning and reinforcement of the States' willpower.
As mentioned, control of power in the two worlds was achieved through conditioning and brainwashing. The two novels have challenged this idea of power thirst as states, apparently, have no clear vision of what it really intend for the populace other than perpetual manipulation. In the words of Mario Varrichio (1999),
Both Huxley and Orwell strongly denounce visual conditioning and the political use made of it: in fact, in the dystopic worlds described by the two authors images and screens constitute fundamental means of exercising mental and physical dominance over people. Also, their condemnation implicitly extends to the distorting power of media in non-fictional reality and to their frightening future potential."
Moreover, Huxley argues that conditioning eliminates competitiveness as member of castes are raised to do the jobs particularly intended for them and they remain contented with their prescribed social status.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, control also comes in the form of banning of books as well as falsifying records in order to spread a biased propaganda and to silence resistance among the people. The protagonist Winston Smith was the one tasked to falsify records and political literature but later on resigns and wages a rebellion instead. Perhaps because he never really understood the purpose of doing such as written in Nineteen Eighty-Four, "The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious. He took up his pen again and wrote: I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY." (Orwell, 1949).
Discrimination in our present world is reflected in the novels. People in the World State and Oceania are divided into social classes. In the World State, the castes are Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. Every caste is divided into Plus and Minus groups. A child's caste is determined as early as its embryo development in a process called Bokanovsky. The Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre said to a pool of students that "Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!," since it predisposes the class of every children born. Discrimination manifests early. It is explained by Mr. Foster, an Epsilon worker at the hatchery, who said that "the lower the caste,"... "the shorter the oxygen." The first organ affected was the brain. After that the skeleton. At seventy per cent of normal oxygen you got dwarfs." Shortening the period of embryo development affects the development of human intelligence but Epsilons "don't need human intelligence" anyway, added Mr. Foster.
Social stratification is clearly defined in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Social classes in Oceania are can be positioned like a pyramid wherein Big Brother is at the top, members of the Inner Party comes in second which constitute only of about 2% of the population. In the middle are the members of the Outer Party and at the bottom of the pyramid are the Proles or the proletariat sector. Party membership is not hereditary though but earned by individuals if they qualify an examination at age 16. However, "Proletarians, in practice, are not allowed to graduate into the Party. The most gifted among them, who might possibly become nuclei of discontent, are simply marked down by the Thought Police and eliminated," says Orwell.
Membership in the Party made no sense at all for an individual member. As Orwell discussed, "When once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not feel, what You did or…