Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a novel that, by and large, can draw the ire of many a moral critic. There is a strong preponderance of science in the work but this indeed is not the only element that some moralists may find upsetting; much-exercised sexual freedom, pervasive drug use, dissolution of the family in the World State, and a manipulation of religion toward the relevance of accommodating society are among the aspects of the novel that would irritate many a moral critic.
Primarily, Brave New World, a glimpse at a future reality where “all men are physico- chemically equal,” is based on a premise in which science plays a vast role not only in day-to-day life, but in life itself (74). “Bokanovsky’s Process,” a “principle of mass production […] Applied to biology,” is essentially a means of churning out engineered citizens who will live in work in a predetermined society (7). In effect, all of the World State citizenry has been born necessarily not through God’s will but by that of the Controllers. Furthermore, the “many batches of identical twins” created through Bokanovsky’s Process not only are biologically engineered, but they then are subjected to a highly refined, technical process of psychological and sociological conditioning that looks much less like concept of traditional schooling and resembles something more akin to the programming of robots. Finally, upon death, these citizens are cremated primarily to fulfill the economical purpose of “phosphorous recovery,” a notion which compels an observer to believe the World State views humans as little more efficient cogs in a large social, scientific wheel (73).
As if it were not enough that science plays a tremendous, core role in the lives of World State citizens (an idea at which most moral critics would shudder), the typical citizen in this brave new world is encouraged to, from the earliest of ages, to enjoy sexual freedom. After all, as these people are taught, “every one belongs to every one else,”–a pronounced concept which easily lends to widespread promiscuity (43). Perhaps as morally troubling as the society’s grand expression of sexual liberty is the citizens’ rampant use of drugs. In an effort to remain happy, pain-free, and unfettered from misery and depression, citizens routinely use “soma” to get through daily life. This drug however, is utilized not just for avoiding the doldrums of life but for helping to induce the death of Linda, a former resident of the World State who, after spending years in the “Savage Reservation,” returns with her son and repulses the World State people with her deteriorated physical condition. Insomuch, the employment of drugs in the society is not only utilized to ward off emotional and psychological burdens, but in fact soma could be seen as an effective means of euthanasia–something many moralists have great difficulty in accepting.
An issue which many readers (especially those who have adopted a moral perspective) may find particularly unsettling is the fact that World State citizens do not “know what a home is” and have no concept of “what living with one’s family” means (36). Furthermore, the term “mother” is considered an “obscenity” and even the term “father” carries a similar (though lesser) connotation of repugnance (151). To make matters even worse for the moralist, the concept of monogamous marriage is foreign to citizens of the World State. In addition to an absence of the family, moral critics would also be quite disquieted with the fact that Christianity, God and the concept of divine religion as known to man today is ancient and not practiced in the brave new world of the future. In fact, Christian rituals are observed only by the residents of the savage reservation, a place which is supposed to suggest an under-developed, backward, unclean realm of human nature. In effect, the Bible and a score of other sacred, religious documents, books, and literary reflections on religion are hidden away in the Controller’s safe, where the “whole collection of pornographic old books” is housed (231). Instead, the industrial wizard Henry Ford is the God-like, central idol of World State citizens and religion (if one would be so inclined to suggest World State citizens indeed practice any) is centered around singing “Solidarity Hymns” and living according to Fordian philosophy (81). Indeed, the very thought of revering Henry Ford (a mortal human without any divine connection to the Lord, God, nor any other noted higher power) as a “Greater Being” could be seen by a moral critic as a most grievous blasphemy to the sacred nature of religion (83). Moreover, the typical moral critic would abhor the sacrilegious thought of the Bible and other religious texts as being locked away in a safe on the grounds of the materials being “pornographic old books.”
In conclusion, it is appropriate to theorize that the archetypal moral critic would have much to rant about in Brave New World. The grand use of science in constructing, engineering, and dictating the course of human life; pervasive sexual freedom; rampant drug dependency; absence of families, homes, and marriage; and the banishment of divine religion in the favor of worshiping a mortal, ungodly human all warrant being deemed as paramount complaints that the average moral critic may have against the book. Indeed, the relevant literary classic Brave New World has countless fans and enjoys a large following among myriad segments of society. However, for the most part, one can safely surmise that among moral critics, Brave New World may be a bitter pill to swallow. That is, a bitter pill which, for some moralists, may resemble something much closer to an ominous reality than frivolous fiction.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1932. New York: Perennial, 1998.