Imagine a world without mothers and fathers, a place where babies are cultivated in hatchery centers and people live in a society centered on sensual fulfillment through sex and drugs. This is the world portrayed in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, Brave New World. In this world, the government controls every stage of human development. Each individual is selected and predestined by the State according to the needs of society; conditioning from the time of fertilization through the maturity ensures, in most cases, that each individual completely accepts and conforms to every aspect of life in the World State.
Five different castes exist in Brave New World. From Alphas to Epsilons, each class of individuals are different in stature, attire, intelligence, and their contribution to society; Alphas are given the most advantage while the lower-caste members are treated like animals. Even during embryonic development, chemical and mechanical stimulations are applied to enhance or hinder the growth of the fetus. After birth, general and class-specific conditioning, through a process called hypnopaedia, teaches individuals to think, feel and act according to the will of the government.
In this world, adherence to societal values is not only expected, but also enforced through conditioning and mass propaganda. Phrases such as “everyone belongs to everyone else” and “a gramme is better than a damn” are automatic responses. Moreover, the drug “soma” is used to further eradicate any feelings of unrest. These mechanical responses constitute the mind and desire of every citizen within the society. In 1998, NBC aired a new TV version of Brave New World. Although both versions are similar in its attempt to address the advancement of science as it affects individuals, they are strikingly dissimilar in many ways.
While Huxley’s Brave New World depicts nurture as the ultimate victor, able to suppress all instinctive desires, the movie version proffers a force driving the inhabitants of Brave New World to go against their conditioning. This contrast is especially evident in the different presentation of sex instincts, in the altered portrayal of Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne, and in the conflicting endings of the story. The movie acknowledges that this force which counters the conditioning is the instinctive desires encoded in the genes.
Since instincts are “desires and behaviors that are programmed into our genes,” sex instincts would be the sexual desires and behaviors that are intrinsic in the genes. In the Brave New World scenario, the State tries to separate sexual instincts and instincts to have one’s own child. However, these two instincts are probably very closely linked. According to Professor Silver, “all acts of intercourse are aimed at reproduction. ” Afterall, the genes that induce its carriers to a stronger sex drive will be more likely passed on to the next generation, because in “ancient times,” sex led to babies.
Therefore, it seems quite “unnatural” to separate sex from having babies. On the one hand, the State advocates sexual relations between people with slogans like: “Promiscuity is a citizen’s duty. ” On the other hand, babymaking is controlled solely by the State; cultural conditioning suppresses people’s reproductive instincts to have one’s own child. In Brave New World, people go against their reproductive instincts through the use of contraception; sexual intercourse is no longer intended for reproduction. In a society where people are born in “bottles”, there is no longer a need to maximize reproductive output.
One can always make more babies to populate the State. It is evident in both the book and the movie that promiscuity is not only encouraged, but that it is “a citizen’s duty”(movie). It is the norm for men and women to have sexual relations with multiple partners. So what is the purpose of sex if it no longer leads to babies? Perhaps multiple reasons exist for the role of sex in Brave New World. Even though the State tries to separate sex from reproductive instincts, genes still play a role in the behavior of people. Sexual intercourse is an instinctive expression of those genes that are still intrinsic in individuals.
The concepts of marriage, parents, and family are nonexistent when it is simply easier and more efficient to control population by “making” people in hatchery centers. What happens to the instinctive desire to have one’s own child? There is no such thing as one’s own child in Brave New World, because the society has in a way evolved into a more efficient way of populating the world. However, the instincts are still there, because the genes are still there. With contraceptives, people in Brave New World are able to satisfy their instinctive desires to have sex and at the same time live by the societal requirements.
Another purpose of sex in Brave New World is to support social stability. Individuals are to serve the State as their master. They must not enter into close relationships because this would distract their allegiance the State. Sexual intercourse with multiple partners would endorse the societal ideal that “everyone belongs to everyone else. ” The State encourages promiscuity in its citizens. In the book, the State exposes children to “ordinary erotic play,” and further bombards them with hypnopaedic messages in order to condition them for a life of promiscuity.
In the movie, licentiousness is similarly advocated through similar propaganda. Furthermore, it is obvious in the movie that consumerism satisfies the cravings of people, that “Work, Earn, Buy” provides happiness for the people. Correspondingly, in Huxley’s world, happiness is achieved by consuming sensual feelings and soma. Happiness through sensual desires is definitely a theme in both versions of Brave New World. Therefore, the individuals use sex as if it were no more than a consumer good.
The sexual freedom eliminates the tension, which may otherwise result when sexual desires are denied. Without the tension and anxiety in its citizens, the stability of the State is ensured. Huxley’s Brave New World presents Bernard Marx as an individualist that stands out among people that are expected to conform to the viewpoint of the state. In the novel, Bernard is different from other alpha members of his caste. He is short and slight when he should be tall and strong; he is depressed when others are happy. Bernard is the anomaly amongst people that all conform to societal values.
He wants to be happy in some other way, in a way different than how other people derive their happiness; Bernard desires to be happy in his own way. At times he refuses to take soma and is unwilling to be just a cell in the social body. Even though the societal concept is that the social body persist though the component cells may change,” Bernard is “conscious of his individual significance and importance. His unorthodox behavior seems to stem from his not being accepted. It is evident that when he becomes a celebrity, he has no problem conforming to society; he is only unhappy when he is an outcast.
In contrast, the movie version of Bernard Marx is as much a conformist as the other members of civilization. In addition, he does not possess any of the physical defects that haunt the Bernard in the book. In face, the Bernard in the movie exhibits the characteristics of Helmoltz Watson in the novel, who is “normal”, and in some ways better than other Alphas. This Bernard is aware of his differences as well. However, while the book-Bernard can excuse his misery to his own self pity engendered by not fitting into his class, the movie-Bernard cannot accurately justify his dissatisfaction with the world.
With a “perfect” Bernard as the person who feels that there is something wrong with the world, the movie illuminates the “problems” of his civilization. In a culturally conditioned world that is deprived of love and passion, and prohibits natural births, Bernard feels that relationship between people can be more than just promiscuous and dispassionate. There is this drive inherent in him to seek a relationship that is merely based on sex. Even though he cannot identify the reason of its existence, it is this drive that ultimately leads him and his lover to escape from civilization.
This drive is the instinctive desire of humans to produce one’s own children. While the State conditions individuals to use contraceptives in all sex acts at all times, the human reproductive instinct cannot be that easily repressed. The fact that the movie ends with Bernard holding his own baby and walking on the white sandy beach of the “savage world” suggests that his reproductive instincts have overcome the conditioning that is forced upon him. This is a positive note to illustrate that there is still hope in a society that is dominated by government control and conditioning.
Close analysis on another character can further uncover the struggle between instinct and conditioning in Brave New World. Huxley presents Lenina Crowne as young, pretty, popular sex partner. Even though she is conditioned like everyone else to be promiscuous, she admits that sometimes she is not too keen on promiscuity. Evidence of her disobedience to the State motto that “everyone belongs to everyone else” can also be drawn from her long (four months! ) and focussed relationship with one man. Her preference to monogamy suggests the possibility of an inherent force working against her cultural conditioning.
Since there is no advantage for females to have more than one sex partner, it is reasonable to assume that genes for monogamy can be present in females. However, in the book she is mostly depicted as “meat” and a product of social conditioning. Like others, she escapes reality through the ingestion of soma and really does not have the intention or motivation to examine her feelings of disobedience. In addition, her automatic responses to situations with hypnopaedic platitudes suggest that she is just like other members of her society. In contrast, the movie sheds a more positive light on Lenina.
Instead of following the societal requirement to be dispassionate in relationships, she, like the Bernard in the movie, is aware of the lack of passion relationships. She struggles with the concept of love, and wonders how that is a component in a relationship. Moreover, her role as a teacher allows her to present her newfound ideas on love, despite the fact that her ideas “aren’t in the textbook. ” Ultimately, she intentionally gets pregnant by not taking the required contraceptives. This is definitely a victory for the power of instincts.
Lenina’s reproductive instinct to have her own child drives her do disobey her conditioning. She, together with Bernard, successfully illustrates the powerful desire to have children that is inherent in humans. The change in ending in the movie version illustrates that there is still hope in this seemingly desperate Brave New World. Huxley ends his story with Bernard’s exile to an island. This is a triumphant victory of community trouncing over individualistic sentiments, of social conditioning conquering reproductive instincts, and also of nurture over nature.
In contrast, the movie shows that Bernard and Lenina finally overcome their cultural conditioning. Instead of conforming to societal demand, the couple expressed personal love for one another. The movie calls to the attention that no amount of conditioning can overcome the human instinct to love, reproduce, and have one’s own child. And the genes provide these instincts. Therefore the movie illustrates an ultimate victory of nature over nurture. Brave New World illustrates an interesting phenomenon that is pertinent to our world today: it addresses the conflict between nature and nurture.
Not only are citizens classified according to their genetic information, they are also conditioned to perform tasks that correspond to their own heredity. The State has mastery over both the nature and the nurture factors that affect an individual. It controls nature in that it predestines the quantity and quality of embryos that gets “born” into civilization. This is a horrid illustration of the Totalitarian State monopolizing how many individuals with what characteristics enter the world. The needs of society precede the needs of humans to make their own babies.
Human reproductive instincts are compromised! This is partially due to the counterbalancing desire for self-fulfillment in humans. Since the State provides to satisfy all sensual pleasures of its citizens, this desire is appeased and therefore enables the suppression of reproductive instincts. Moreover, the State provides nurture, through conditioning, in such a way as to conform all individuals to the ideals of the State. This takes place from the time of fertilization to and throughout adulthood. It guarantees, in most cases, the citizens’ complete acceptance of every aspect of life.
For example, when babies destined for the working-class are exposed to books and flowers, they are also subjected to electric shocks coupled with loud and frightening noises; thus, paired stimuli are used to condition, or predetermine a responds, to an object or experience. As the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning puts it, “what man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder. ” The human species has finally learned to master what its instinct desires. Furthermore, through hypnopaedia, the mind of each individual is filled with “suggestions from the State.
These suggestions become the thought processes and mold the desires of each citizen. The Director claims that all conditioning aim at “making people like their unescapable destiny. ” Therefore, not only has man conquered nature by developing the ability to categorize the genes of individuals and to maximize the efficiency of the workforce, through conditioning, individuals are also taught to conform to societal values and to enjoy their status in society. “If you were an Epsilon, your conditioning would have made you no less thankful that you weren’t a Beta or an Alpha. Ultimately, one has to wonder whether humans are slaves to genes or slaves to conditioning.
In Brave New World, cultural conditioning seems to be the dominating factor in the behavior of individuals. The introduction of the Savage into civilization illuminates the slavery of the seemingly robotic Epsilon workers. In both the book and movie versions, the Savage assaults the Soma-distribution line. He sees that the masses of people are trapped, trapped by their conditioning. They are conditioned to take Soma when agitated, to behave in a certain way as to not disrupt the stability of society, and to conform to the ideals of the State.
The Savage asks, “but do you like being slaves? Don’t you want to be free and men? Don’t you even understand what manhood and freedom are? ” Unfortunately, his audience has no notion of freedom due to their conditioning. They are so deeply entrapped and conditioned to be content in life that freedom has no value and no meaning to them. While Huxley focuses on the sacrifice of individualism in favor of social stability, the movie version of Brave New World addresses the lack of love. This lack of love is not only evident between individuals, but it is also pervasive in the mass’ attitude toward art, philosophy, and even religion and science.
Anyhow, the result of both worlds is the same. Through conditioning or mass propaganda, people are taught to live in universal happiness. “Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t. ” And this happiness, achieved through ingestion of soma and conditioning, leads to social stability. And according to the Controller, in Brave New World, stability is the primal and ultimate need. Men are no longer slaves of genes but are instead conditioned to serve the stability of society.
Each person has his/her place, and “everyone works for everyone else. While Huxley presents his Brave New World as a hopeless environment lacking love and real happiness, the movie offers a glimpse of hope in its ending: it shows that a young boy voluntarily disconnects his conditioning process. This is done intentionally. “There is hope at the end of our story, ” Mr. Williams, one of the directors said. Throughout the movie, we get screenshots of this young boy frowning, as if he realizes that something is wrong with the world. Moreover, in the ending, his actions leave a provoking statement that suggests a victory over cultural conditioning.
It suggests the presence of a stronger force driving the inhabitants of Brave New World to go against their conditioning. This force constitutes the instincts, the “desires and behaviors that are programmed into our genes,” that is inherent in human beings. Therefore the movie presents a comeback by nature to overcome nurture. The story of Brave New World presents a scary scenario of government control, regulations on reproduction, and a resulting lack of love in society. The battle between nurture and nature takes place.
The State represents the nurturing factors that influence the behavior of individuals; the genes that provide the individuals with instinctive behaviors represent nature. While Huxley’s Brave New World hails nurture as the ultimate winner, able to suppress all instinctive desires, the movie version proposes that instinctive desires can drive the inhabitants of Brave New World to go against their conditioning. The movie acknowledges the powerful instinctive desires that counter the conditioning of people. However, after examining both versions of Brave New World, one cannot help feeling entrapped by the society that one lives in.
Through a careful analysis of both the book and the movie version of Brave New World, it becomes evident that our world is not so different from Brave New World. Society conditioning induces individuals to strive for better careers, more money, and larger properties. Happiness is often derived from the fulfillment of sensual pleasures and the pursuit of a luxurious life. In Brave New World, we are shocked by the amount of influence that social conditioning exerts on individuals. However, who is to say that we are not under similar influences today in our very own world?