Today, Americans are constantly saturated with commercials and slogans that tell the consumer what to buy, how to act, and how to look. They are also surrounded by the ideals that society has set for them. In the novel Brave New World, author Aldous Huxley uses his own characters and catchy slogans to show how influential advertising is in creating a uniform society with minimal creativity and an ingrained love of consumerism. This theme reflects the mindset American society today. The characters that are seen as being easily influenced by advertising, like Lenina and Henry, tend to not have much of an opinion and do not express unique creativity.
Brave New World introduces a number of characters that have grown up in a pre-packaged in a society that doesn’t allow for free thought and action. Each of these characters is literally made in a lab to be physically and mentally desirable in fulfilling certain duties. They are then conditioned with slogans that control their desires and ways of thinking. For example, Henry recites words to Lenina that “they had heard… repeated a hundred and fifty time every night for twelve years” to reinforce to themselves that “everyone is happy now”(Huxley 75). These people had been told so often that everyone was happy that it was second nature for them to believe it. This conditioning permeated every aspect of their lives to the point that they had a desirable response for nearly every possible situation. At a glance, this type of thinking might seem ridiculous and that it could only happen in a made up world, but, upon reflection, one can see that there are repeated standards that shape people in the U.S. too.
Integrated ideals for society are also found in America. While these ideals may not be repeated every night while people sleep, people still hear them constantly so that they find themselves believing that these ideals should outline the way that they think and act. Sir Ken Robinson created a TedTalk that addressed this issue of ideals, specifically when addressing what young people should want to do as an occupation when they are older. They are told that they shouldn’t focus on some things like dance and music because “they would never get a job doing that” (Robinson). Ideally children will grow up to become a lawyer, doctor, or at least an electrician if they can’t spend years in higher education. Children are restricted with what they should pursue based on what they have continually been told and what classes have been prioritized in school. While not everyone can be a dancer, not everyone should aspire for a traditional job, simply because they are conditioned into thinking that is what they should do.
Americans are also conditioned to rely on medications to the point where they may over-medicate. In his TedTalk, Sir Ken Robinson continues on his talk about education and job aspirations when he tells the story of Gillian Lynne, a now famous chorographer. As a child she was restless so her mom took her to a doctor and the doctor told the mother that she was a dancer and that she should be sent to dance school. Then he made a comical, but very true point, about how this ADHD behavior that “nowadays someone might have just given her some medication and told her to calm down” (Robinson). This is the sad truth of the American mindset and is what leads to the desire to escape from life. Medications can suppress the creative thoughts and actions of a person so that the person can more properly fit into society. While medication does have its advantages, it can be over done to the point where people look to this medication so they don’t have to face reality. This also applies to the addiction of other drugs so that people can escape from society. There is a want to suppress and escape.
Huxley addresses the problem of over-medication and drug abuse by showing how it affects the way that his characters see the world. People in his world take soma when they want to escape. Lenina does this on the reservation because she “felt entitled, after this day of queerness and horror, to a complete and absolute holiday” (Huxley 142). When Lenina wanted to forget about a day that wasn’t really terrible, it simply brought her out of her comfort zone. In order to suppress emotions instead of living in the moment she desired to escape. It is something that Americans do now and is slowly climbing to the extreme level that Huxley depicted.
Along with the issue of medication, Huxley also addresses the issue of advertising and consumerism. Slogans were a major influence on the people in Brave New World and they would often recite them when justifying their actions. For example, while conversing with another girl about clothing, Lenina recited the slogan, “Ending is better than mending” (Huxley 50). This slogan is then reinforced when the girl mentioned how she loved Lenina’s bandolier and how her own 3-month-old bandolier was “an absolute disgrace” (Huxley 51). These girls, along with everyone else, are conditioned to want to be consumers. Not only this though, but the characters are told what they should want to buy based on their class. They have learned to buy new products whenever their old ones become outdated or damaged.
America has also become a society that is constantly surrounded by advertising and slogans that convince people to regularly buy new products. America’s economy has become based on planned obsolescence, which is when new products constantly become outdated and replaced by newer models. Commercials and advertisements promote this kind of economy and are subtly found almost everywhere from the highway to cellphones. For example, new cellphone models are released while old models wear out quickly and stop receiving support from the company. People have stopped becoming angry with this though and are happy to keep buying the newest versions. It causes people to buy new products they don’t for the sake of having something new. People even look down on others when they aren’t up to date, just like Lenina with her friend.
Thus, by using characters and catchy slogans, in his novel Brave New World, Huxley shows how influential advertising is in creating a uniform society with minimal creativity and an ingrained love of consumerism that is also seen in American society. Characters that are easily influenced by these catchy slogans and other advertising don’t have their own opinion. Their creativity is stifled and most decisions they make are unknowingly made by someone else.
In my last post about Brave New World by Aldous Huxley I reviewed chapters 1-6. Since then the story has really begun to pick up and I need to write a reflection on all these new developments.
When I left off in the story, characters Lenina and Bernard had just landed in a Reservation in Mexico. After this, the story twists in a way that I was not expecting at all. After finding out that Lenina and Bernard were the main characters I was expecting the story to be them falling in love and the troubles they face in their efforts. Instead we are introduced to two more important characters named John and Linda who completely throw a wrench into the expected story development. Huxley throws the story in a new direction and provides a thought shifting plot twist that allows the reader to become more immersed in the story.
The premise of a futurist world in a story is nothing new to us modern readers in the age where Utopian and Dystopian novels have become a norm. However, this book being much older, is one of the firsts of it’s kind. It would be very easy for Huxley to simply be happy with this original world and to write a flimsy or sappy story to go with it. Instead he really takes hold of the story and drives it to a height worthy of this new world. While I haven’t yet finished the story, so far, it is unlike any book that I have ever read. The kind of detail and imagery that Huxley uses in his writing makes the world come to life for the reader. The storyline itself also lends itself to the story. Because of the way and the timing that different characters are introduced, Huxley is able to focus on developing just a few pieces of the world and characters at a time. This style of writing allows for the full examination of each character before introducing many other ones so that it is obvious when there is change in this character. And while Huxley describes the world very well, the most insight the reader receives about the world is through the characters. For example in this section, the reader can see just how deeply engraved certain habits and ways of thinking are engrained into the minds of many of the characters, especially when looking at Linda, but also when Lenina interacts with John. John provides a different view in the story that strongly contradicts those of those around him. This throws many norms out of wack, which is when you see the most change in characters, for better or for worse.
This entire section of reading contained a lot of change for characters and for the plot, and there is much more anticipated changes in the future as the way of life in this smoothly running new world faces new challenges that they never thought they would have to face. Now that I am over 3/4 done with this book I look forward to seeing more revealed about this new world while also watching it deviate from it’s intended path and finally how the whole story comes to a head in the last few pages.
SciFi books have always interested me, but I had never heard of Aldous Huxley or his book Brave New World. A friend suggested it to me recently and since then many other people I know have read it and enjoyed it, so I figured it was just about time that I saw what was so unique about this book’s utopian future. Currently I am in chapter 6 of this book.
The introduction that Aldous Huxley has created in Brave New World is different from any other introduction that I’ve read before. There is a 3rd person point of view that while the entire world is slowly described, but never is there a first person point of view that states an opinion. The only information the reader finds out is what is slowly described to them while on a tour of the facility. It’s as if you are actually one of the students on the tour. After a few chapters I was able to figure out that the plot centers around the idea that Henry Ford set up a new type of system where the world is run more like a giant factory where humans are made in a lab and everyone is forced to be happy. For the first few chapters of the book, I had no idea who the main characters were. In fact, one of them wasn’t even introduced until 3 chapters into the book, and even then it was only in passing.
Now it seems clear that Lenina and Bernard are the main characters, but the first few chapters of the book only focused on setting up the Utopian world. Once it was clearer who were going to be the focus characters of the book, Aldous Huxley does something else with his writing that I’ve never seen before, which was swapping between scenes while only using a short paragraph or a sentence to describe what was going on in each scene. It created a sense of urgency in the reading, a sense of overlapping where everything in that world was connected and happening in a designated way. It helps the reader to create a sense of how this world runs in an orderly and controlled fashion, but there was also a change coming when looking at Bernard and Lenina’s thoughts and choices that were against the norm. Without explicitly saying it, Huxley was able to show the sort of change that was coming to this closely controlled world.