October 25, 2016
By Maddie Oliver and Dixie Rich
Not so brave after all…
Who: Aldous Huxley
What: Brave New World
When: 1932 in Ireland, 1964-present in the U.S.
Where: Ireland, American Public Schools
Why: obscenity, language, profanity, and sexuality
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a futuristic, dystopian society and was published in 1932 in London, England. The book itself takes place in London and the state of New Mexico. In the story, a totalitarian government controls society by using technology and science to condition (or brainwash) humans. It also grows humans inside bottles and prescribes drugs known as “soma” (Huxley 38). Johnathon Green and Nicholas J. Karolides explain that the basis of the novel is one that “disavows personal relationships, including intimate love and family, rejects concepts and practices of democracy, and abjures religion” to the point where people do not feel it is appropriate to the public, or specifically school systems (69). The novel challenges the typical social order by incorporating a “predetermined caste system designed to fulfill the economic and occupational functions and the population’s requirements of the society” (Green and Karolides 69). By creating this system, the people in the novel are unable to form a traditional family society where people provide love and support for one another. This society is solely based on the creation of people in test tubes, nurtured specifically to have a certain role. The novel also distorts Sigmund Freud’s “pleasure principle” by introducing sexual acts that counteract what people view as healthy. In Brave New World, procreation is outlawed and citizens abide by a social code known as “Every one belongs to every one else” (29). This practice affirms that “the purpose of sexuality is pleasure” (Green and Karolides 69) and that sexuality has no true meaning other than casual enjoyment.
Huxley creates two characters that serve as an opposition to the beliefs of the typical citizen in the novel. The first protagonist introduced is Bernard Marx, who is “a dominant Alpha, imperfect in physique and perhaps more intellectually alert because of some abnormality in his birthing process” (Green and Karolides 70). The second character, John Savage, was an “accidental procreation of an Alpha woman” and was forced to be raised on an “Indian reservation…yet educated through the Bible and Shakespeare” (Green and Karolides 70). Huxley creates these characters in an attempt to show how this altered reality can have an impact on one that is not native to the culture. Savage is eventually taken from the reservation and placed in the alternative universe with Marx. After he is exposed to the new “civilization,” Savage becomes “significantly alienated; morally attuned, desirous of real emotions…and eventually turns to suicide” (Green and Karolides 70). Huxley reveals his depiction of what society will turn into if it stays on the track it is on currently; a complete disaster.
Attached below is a film trailer that encapsulates the overall essence of the novel; the dehumanization of society, the distortion of reality, the public’s discomfort with love and affection, and its belief in censorship.
Figure 2: Brave New World Film Trailer
In an interview with Aldous Huxley, host Mike Wallace discusses the
contents of the novel. Wallace attempts to uncover Huxley’s motives and the origins of his controversial ideas. Confronting Huxley about his view on freedom, Wallace asks about a “force that is diminishing our freedoms.” Huxley responds with the following:
Well another force which I think is very strongly operative in this country is the force of what may be called of overorganization. Er…As technology becomes more and more complicated, it becomes necessary to have more and more elaborate organizations, more hierarchical organizations, and incidentally the advance of technology is being accompanied by an advance in the science of organization. It’s now possible to make organizations on a larger scale than it was ever possible before, and so that you have more and more people living their lives out as subordinates in these hierarchical systems controlled by bureaucracy, either the bureaucracies of big businesses or the bureaucracies of big government.
Huxley highlights that his alternate society in Brave New World may be a future outcome of these trends mentioned above. Huxley and Wallace also discuss the drug use taken place in the novel. Huxley also shares,
Well now, this is a very interesting subject. I mean, in this book that you mentioned, this book of mine, “Brave New World,” er…I postulated it a substance called ‘soma,’ which was a very versatile drug. It would make people feel happy in small doses, it would make them see visions in medium doses, and it would send them to sleep in large doses. Well, I don’t think such a drug exists now, nor do I think it will ever exist. But we do have drugs which will do some of these things, and I think it’s quite on the cards that we may have drugs which will profoundly change our mental states without doing us any harm. I mean, this is the…the pharmacological revolution which is taking place, that we have now powerful mind-changing drugs which physiologically speaking are almost costless. I mean they are not like opium or like coca…cocaine, which do change the state of mind but leave terrible results physiologically and morally.
Huxley is sure to mention that Soma is not an actual drug. This interview reflects on why this novel is censored; for it’s sexual references, drug use, and the overall aspect that the novel coincides with what is currently happening in society compared to his altered reality.
Largely due to the novel’s alterations to conceptions of human sexuality along with “‘too frequent sex passages, explicit sexual discussions’” (Qtd. Green and Karolides 70), child pornography, and orgies made this book a victim to censorship. “The censorship history of Brave New World is relatively continuous. It ranked 11th based on the six national and regional surveys, 1965–82, of Lee Burress. It ranks 52nd on the American Library Association’s ‘The Hundred Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000,’” (Green and Karolides 93). One objection to the novel is that it incites “fear that the ‘masses’ might gain encouragement from” Huxley’s dystopian ideas “to overthrow the…order of things,” (Jones 138). The first of many instances of the novel’s censorship occurred in Ireland in 1932, almost immediately after its publication. Ireland’s action to censor the book became a trend in other countries. Quickly following afterwards, in the same year, Australia followed the trend. After that, there were 10 separate accounts of censorship throughout the world. Eight of the twelve occurred in the United States in its public school system, including districts in Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, California, Alabama, Texas, Indiana, and Delaware, with this latter vanue being the most recent banning of the novel, taking place in 2014. These public schools believed the book was obscene and vulgar and inappropriate for children to read. Journalist, Leigh Giangreco, covered Delaware’s story, reporting that “The book has been part of the course’s curriculum for the past five years, without previous complaint from parents.” She continues explaining “‘This is not an education issue, this is a social, sexual issue. It has nothing to do with educating this child’” (Qtd. Giangreco). However, in opposition, a father of a student in attendance at a school in the Cape Henlopen School District stated his concern about the text (reported by Giangreco); “‘Why would we teach kids what is negative in society? Let’s teach them what is right, to become good citizens and improve the fabric of society.’” He believes that the novel’s dystopian setting disallows students from understanding ethical citizenship and morality.
According to Julian Petley’s Censorship: A Beginner’s Guide, the “freedom of expression in the US has been powerfully shielded by the First Amendment” (2383) yet local systems still have the power to exclude texts and information from educational settings. “Despite the lessons of the past, incidents of book-banning have continued to the present. Many of the most recent incidents occur at the local level, in public schools and libraries,” mentions Claire Mullally, a contributing writer of the First Amendment Center. Mullaly emphasizes that this idea is crucial in understanding how people still attempt to censor books illegally. Even attempts by the Supreme Court in 1982 have not stopped people from attempting to remove books like Brave New World from the public eye. For example, in Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico, the Supreme Court ruled that “Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” However, many people do not believe that removing books from schools and local libraries is in fact an act of censorship. Some parents and teachers believe that simply “challenging it” or “requesting its removal or sequestration so that students may not have freedom to access it” (Mullally) is in no way an act of suppression or censorship. Mullally claims that people try to secretly remove these books from schools in the hopes that no one will notice. “Sometimes a parent, community member or even a librarian fearing controversy will quietly remove the book from the shelf” which makes it nearly impossible to “document and quantify this form of ‘stealth censorship’,” Mullally informs.
Huxley’s Brave New World was an attempt in itself to warn society about the negative influences that it may have on future generations, such as a heightened focus on sex and drugs and less on the actual purpose of life. However, by negotiating topics such as sex, drugs, and procreation, this novel became a frequent target of censorship. These circumstances beg the same question that Huxley’s novel asks us to consider; how brave is our world, after all?
Key Words: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Censorship, Banned Books, Challenged Books, Sexuality, Drugs, Ireland, High Schools, Profanity, Science, Technology, USA, Dystopia, First Amendment, Fiction
Doyle, Robert P. “Banned And/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century.” Banned & Challenged Books. American Library Association, 23 May 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Giangreco, Leigh. “Cape School Board Debates ‘explicit’ Content in Curriculum.” Delawareonline. N.p., 04 Apr. 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Green, Jonathon, and Nicholas J. Karolide. The Encyclopedia of Censorship. New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005. Print.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Jones, Derek. Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001. Print.
MsMusicisamust. “Brave New World Movie Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, 03 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Mullally, Claire. “Banned Books.” First Amendment Center. N.p., 13 Sept. 2002. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Petley, Julian. Censorship: A Beginner’s Guide. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009. Print. (Kindle Locations 2448-2450). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.
Wallace, Mike. “An Interview with Mike Wallace.” Harry Ransom Center RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.