Written By Jake Garner
“Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.”
How does one disembark on, and succeed, in writing one of the most celebrated science-fiction novels ever written? Well, one merely has to have the expertise and knowhow of Mr Aldous Huxley. Wisdom in regards to the sciences, virtuosity in relation to the English language, and most importantly of all, a jolly good sense of jocularity. Huxley entertains all three. Perhaps in more ways than one, Huxley was fortunate in his extremely academic upbringing, something that most probably contributed to the genius found in his novels and other endeavours. The English writer was raised by a father who was an eminent biologist of his time, nicknamed by many as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’. Furthermore, Huxley’s mother was a schoolmistress. It is safe to say that education would have been of some interest and value within the Huxley household. In turn, Huxley attended Eton which provided him with an unadulterated comprehension of English literature and science. There is no doubt that he was born with an almost inherent aptitude for writing, but much of his intelligence and literary skill must be recognised as a product of his education.
Huxley’s early writing is dedicated to political satire, often making comment upon society in an almost comical way that exposes the man’s ability to express humour. As his age matured so did his writing. He started to scrutinise society in a way that became both philosophical and ethical. This change in attitude led to the execution of Brave New World. Along with the likes of Orwell, and at a later date, Bradbury, Huxley is often seen as the father of modern dystopia fiction. His portrayal of what can happen to a planned society that exists under the influence of a totalitarian state is scary, to say the least. Perhaps the queerest factor about Brave New World is that it acts as a prophecy for events to follow in the 20th Century. A year after its publication Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, six years later World War II kicked off. This was closely followed by the atomic bomb, and in turn the Cold War. Huxley’s Brave New World was a portent for mass paranoia and the unease of the state.
“Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun, Kiss the girls and make them One.”
Brave New World is set in a future where questioning your actions and purpose is quite simply not an option. This particular dystopian sphere is completely based on scientific principles that leave no room for the examination of all things natural. This is a planet where the term ‘mother’ is provocative and distasteful. Babies are artificially grown in laboratories, reducing the womb to a disgusting product of nature that is outdated. The class of citizen you will be is predetermined before your first breaths. Each child is already designated with a precise role in society. Monogamy is spat upon, after all, why be with one partner when you can have five? Sexual exploration with others is encouraged from an early age. Then, well, then there is soma. Soma plays an integral part in Brave New World, and it isn’t the tale’s protagonist either. It’s a drug. Yes, society actively promotes the use of drugs. If one wants to escape the turmoil of futuristic dystopian society, it’s simple, one can go on a holiday. Just take a few hits of soma.
The reader gets to accompany Bernard Marx, the novels focal character, as he begins to question the very fabrics of his reality. Why? Why everything indeed? Not only does he start to question the conditions and expectations of the world in which he lives, but also starts to interrogate himself. Brave New World, as well as an investigation into the ethical and moral issues of a freaky totalitarian state, is an exploration of the self, where we stand in our society, and what is expected or demanded of ourselves. Huxley is brilliant in surveying each. He combines a humanitarian respect for the sanctity of life with all that scientific and literary knowledge he has worked hard to achieve. As a result we get Brave New World, a thrilling fictional account of a society bent on everything being a product of modern science, whether you adhere to it or not. Luckily, it only takes one to break the mould.
“And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts.”